The best books about sweet children with terrifying powers

The Books I Picked & Why


By Stephen King

Book cover of Firestarter

Why this book?

Andy and his sweet daughter Charlie are on the run from a cynical and unaccountable agency, the Shop. As students, Andy and Vicky took part in an unethical government experiment that gave them psychic powers – when Charlie is born, she turns out to have an even greater power, creating fire with her mind. The Shop tries to snatch them, and Vicky is killed. What makes the story shine is how adorable Charlie is and the lengths to which Andy goes to protect her. He has taught her to shun her power, and yet in life and death situations, she has no other choice to save her dad. The book ends with Charlie making a smart decision on how to make things right. A powerful influence on my writing.

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The Girl With All the Gifts

By M.R. Carey

Book cover of The Girl With All the Gifts

Why this book?

Melanie lives in an underground bunker, where all the children are brought to the schoolroom chained by armed guards. She is full of life, curiosity, and empathy, adoring inspirational teacher Helen Justineau. Turns out, society has been destroyed by an infection that turns humans into frenzied ‘hungries’ – Melanie and the children are a new smarter variant of hungries, and scientist Caroline Caldwell will stop at nothing to find a cure. When the base is overrun, Melanie’s brains and fighting skills become key to the small group of human survivors. This gripping and empathic post-apocalypse story has us cheering for a heroine who can go into a flesh-eating frenzy. Brilliant characterisation, a horrifying villain, and stark ethical dilemmas are topped by a stunning, unforgettable finale. 

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The Golden Apples of the Sun

By Ray D. Bradbury

Book cover of The Golden Apples of the Sun

Why this book?

This is a brilliant collection of imaginative stories – diverse in genre and subject charming, nostalgic, and poetic. In" The April Witch," Cecy is a romantic, naïve girl kept from the world by her magical family. She can slip into any living thing and experience flight as a bird or swimming like a fish. This becomes terrible when she follows her feelings. She takes over Ann and gets her to flirt with older Tom who Cecy fancies, makes Ann dance with him, and then Ann must pressurise Tom to promise to call on Cecy. Ann is frightened and humiliated, but she does get to draw the line sometimes. Is this a horror story, can we really excuse this through Cecy’s naivety? Bradbury is dark behind the sweet.

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By Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake

Book cover of Matilda

Why this book?

A children’s book, film, and musical. Matilda is born to abusive, neglectful, crooked parents, who deprive her of fun, particularly books. School brings wider horizons, and telekinetic powers, but the school is terrorised by the ghastly Miss Trunchbull, who abuses children, and oppresses the delightful form teacher, Miss Honey. With Dahl you know payback is coming, and here book and film diverge. In the film, Matilda goes all Carrie on Trunchbull, using her telekinesis to throw her around. In the book it is more subtle – Matilda uses telekinesis to write a message revealing Trunchbull’s secrets, as if from beyond the grave. Guilty conscience alone gets the monster off the scene. Some of Matilda’s jokes are cruel, but no list on this topic could be complete without her.

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Good Omens

By Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman

Book cover of Good Omens

Why this book?

Good Omens is the ancient struggle between Good and Evil, written for delightful comic effect. Evil plans to rear a diabolic child as the Antichrist but loses him… As Adam, he is reared in a country village by an ordinary couple, being the optimistic and opinionated leader of a small gang with dogs. Amiable, often in mild trouble, he’s clearly modeled on Richmal Compton’s William, except he’s also evil incarnate. As Apocalypse looms, Adam starts to rework the world with his satanic power, starting daft but soon terrifying. In the end, his love for his friends and common sense win out. Very funny and thought-provoking, not least in looking at what we actually do, not which ethical team Good or Evil we claim to be supporting.

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