1. Janet and John/Rainbow Readers
I can barely remember a time when reading wasn’t incredibly important to me. One of the clearest memories I have of early primary school was taking a book home and devouring it in one sitting, and the next day having to convince my teacher I’d actually read every word. I can recall the thrill of gaining enough vocabulary to follow a story, and both these series both played a huge part in turning me into a reader, and eventually a writer too.
At the same time I was learning to read at school, I had lots of Ladybird books at home, and the gorgeous illustrations by M E Gagg are now part of my DNA. Actually, I might be a teeny bit obsessed with Ladybird books and be a bit of a …*cough* … secret collector. Here’s one of my favourites, The Party. I remember reading it over and over, and coveting those gorgeous matching shoes and dresses.
3. Peter Pan by J M Barrie
Luckily my father often read to me at bedtimes, and far and away my favourite was Peter Pan. To this day just thinking about the scene where Wendy is shot by the Lost Boys, or Tinkerbell revived by children’s belief in fairies is enough to make me go all weepy. I read this book to every one of my kids, and still loved it every time. But it has to be an edition with the magical Edward Ardizonne illustrations.
4. Winnie the Pooh by A A Milne
Obviously. Timeless reading for adults and kids alike. Another book where the Ernest Shepard illustrations are as important as the words - I still get a little clutch in my heart whenever I look at Piglet. However, as I get older, I seem to be modelling myself more and more on Eeyore. Oh well…
5. My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards
Perhaps my favourite collection of stories. Though written in the 1950s, these charming tales of a very naughty little girl never really age. I adore her sheer naughtiness – trying to cut off the cat’s tail, for instance, or biting Father Christmas’s hand.
6. Famous Five Series by Enid Blyton
Some of my best childhood Saturdays consisted of heading to the local bookshop, spending all my pocket money on the a Famous Five book, then holing myself in my room until I’d read it from cover to cover. All I wanted was to be George, and have a dog like Timmy. And have my own island. I’ve pretty much achieved that, except, sadly, the island bit.
7. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Even when I was young, it was obvious these books were weird. Then again, we were used to weird in the 1970s - as anyone who remembers Banana Splits and The Magic Roundabout will confirm. But I loved Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and once went to the trouble of learning the whole of Jabberwocky by heart, just for the hell of it. Ditto the Greek alphabet. We didn’t have much else to do back then.
8. I Spy series
Basically spotter’s guides for British children, these little books got me through many a boring car journey; indeed many a boring afternoon at home when none of my friends were around. I think I had half a dozen or so: On A Car Journey, Nature, On a Train, Birds, Wild Flowers. You could send off for a badge or something if you collected enough points, but there were always some insanely difficult things you were supposed to stumble across, like half a car.
9. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C S Lewis
The Narnia series needs no introduction – if you haven’t read them yet, what are you waiting for? Everything about these stories is enchanting, and they possess a power and resonance that never fades.
10. Jenny by Paul Gallico
This story about an eight-year-old boy who turns into a cat broke my heart, and I don’t even like cats much. I literally couldn’t put it down, and smuggled it into my chemistry lesson and read it under the desk, sobbing silently to myself while pretending to balance equations. Which probably accounts for my poor mark in my exams. Good thing I ended up a writer, really, not a chemist.
Emma Haughton worked as a journalist for national newspapers and magazines before settling down to write young adult fiction. Her first book, YA thriller NOW YOU SEE ME, was published by Usborne in May 2014. Her second, BETTER LEFT BURIED, comes out in May.