The best kids book that you need to read again as an adult

Carol Ferro Author Of The Strangeling's Tale
By Carol Ferro

Who am I?

I truly believe that the best children’s books are not actually for children, but that they contain deeper narratives for adults to find. I read a lot of children’s/YA fiction as a Children’s Storyteller, alongside traditional folk stories, and it’s amazing how much the most enduring folk themes have in common with the best children’s stories. Don’t walk away from the children’s fiction section just because you grew up, the best stories are still there, and I guarantee you missed loads when you read them the first time round.

I wrote...

The Strangeling's Tale

By Carol Ferro, Tegan Gilmore (illustrator),

Book cover of The Strangeling's Tale

What is my book about?

Seven unlikely adventurers meet in this magical tale: A mysterious tailor, hiding a dark secret. A King who seeks knowledge. A seal pup who guides fishermen home. A schoolgirl who undergoes a chilling transformation. A teacher who bears a terrible burden. A wild-hearted man, keeper of the story tree. Last of all, the Strangeling himself, a boy with a harrowing past and pure white eyes that told of horrors beyond his years.

The seven converge on the story tree, intent on destroying the power of a sphere. Though their tales are tangled and their fates entwined, they each seek different answers among the papered leaves of the tree. Will they find their heart’s desire in the shade of the mystical tree?

The books I picked & why

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The Velveteen Rabbit

By Margery Williams, Charles Santore (illustrator),

Book cover of The Velveteen Rabbit

Why this book?

I first read this book as a young child, and thought it was about a magic toy. I re-read it a few years ago (for work, as a storyteller I can call a lot of ridiculous activities “work!"), and realised it’s not about the toy, it’s about the boy, and about love, and about the power of imagination to make anything real. I love this book much more now I can see the whole story from an adult’s point of view. Don’t wait for an excuse to read it to a child, read it for yourself, but be prepared to get really emotionally involved in a way a child never would.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

By Douglas Adams,

Book cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Why this book?

I loved this book the first time round, when the Vogons were boring and unfair, and Zaphod was an exciting space pirate. As an adult, I found all the other characters and noticed other dimensions to the story that went over my childish head. Having done a Physics degree, I can now fully appreciate the complexity and absurdity of the science in the story, and having read the rest of the series I know the back story of the ill-fated bowl of petunias. I can now truly understand Marvin’s melancholy and how he could talk a supercomputer into oblivion. It’s a cracking read in its own right, don’t leave it to the kids!

The Neverending Story

By Michael Ende, Ralph Manheim (translator),

Book cover of The Neverending Story

Why this book?

I saw this book in an independent bookshop in London about 10 years ago, and having read my childhood copy to tatters I treated myself to a brand new copy. I’m so glad I did, as I missed loads just reading it for the story. My knowledge of story-building techniques has shown me hidden depths in the narrative, from the 26 chapters each starting with a different letter of the alphabet to the symbolism of the book cover logo (two snakes biting each other’s tails—infinity). Seeing Bastian learn how to let go of so much but keep hold of his sense of self was beautiful, and makes this book too special to put away as one grows up.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

By Alan Garner,

Book cover of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

Why this book?

When I first read this book I lived in London, so my mental landscape was fairly generic “countryside” from day trips. As an adult living in Greater Manchester I can now read this book in the place it was written, grounded in the actual landscape, and it’s so much better for it. This book has layers under layers, bits of local history, folklore, geology, and the imaginative world of children. I definitely got tons more out of this story from reading it as an adult with a deep knowledge of the folk tales and landscape that underpins it.

Northern Lights

By Philip Pullman,

Book cover of Northern Lights

Why this book?

I first read this book in my “voracious book devouring” phase when I was 9 or 10 years old, and having read it I put it away. My daughter got a copy a decade ago and I picked it up out of curiosity. I found a whole new love for Lyra and Roger, with my adult experience I could see how the removal of children’s daemons was not just barbaric but was a traumatic removal of their innocence. I could feel the deep care shown by the Gyptians and the fierce protection of the witches. It’s far too big a story for a child to fully absorb. I have re-read it a few times since and found something new each time.

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