Books

Top 5 most important children's books, selected by The School of Life

The best children's books inspire children's curiosity and emphasise the value of hearing the perspectives of others

children's books - Alice's adventures in wonderland tea party

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, one of the children's books selected. Image: John Tenniel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The School of Life, the institution founded by Alain de Botton in search of a better life, chooses its five most important children’s books.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

In the 19th century the idea of books written just for children was relatively new. Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole into a strange world captures children’s curiosity and reminds them that it’s OK if our own world can feel puzzling.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Bilbo Baggins’ adventures solidified the fantasy genre as a hallmark of childhood, introducing generations of readers to a world of hobbits, wizards and fantastical creatures. Bilbo’s quest shows the importance of courage and friendship in the face of obstacles.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

There are few books in the world as powerful as the diary of 13-year-old Anne Frank. Anne’s words have given children (and adults) an insight into a life many of us could never imagine, transporting us behind the revolving bookcase and into the secret annexe. 

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Rauf

The story of a boy who arrives at school one day unable to speak any English. It offers a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship, kindness and empathy.  

Young Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Taking the research from his adult non-fiction book Dark Emu, Pascoe’s children’s book emphasises the value of hearing other people’s perspectives and asks young readers to look at Aboriginal Australians in a new light.

Children's books

Big Ideas from Literature by The School of Life, illustrated by Anna Doherty, is out now (School of Life Press, £20).

You can buy most of these children’s books from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.


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