This is a little difficult as it seems a long time since I was a child. And also I wasn’t sure whether to try and think of one book to cover the whole of my childhood or to think of different ones to cover different parts of childhood. In the end, I have chosen three different books, simply because if I had to, I’d be happy to read them now.
The first is Charlie and the Chocolate factory by Roald Dahl. Neither of the film adaptations for me really live up to the sheer inventiveness of this book. The ridiculousness of some of Wonka’s inventions is just amazing.
At the start of the book, you have the tension of whether Charlie will actually manage to get a ticket and the reader routes for him from the start. He has to rely on luck and kindness to get his ticket while the other winners can employ more underhand methods.
For me though, the best thing about this book is the sly morality that dispatches each of the other kids. Everyone can appreciate that they got what they deserved until only the deserving Charlie was left. Having since taught this book to pupils of different ages, it is good to know that it is still appreciated.
My second choice is Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Anne was another of those boisterous tomboyish girls who just wouldn’t fit in. She was determined and independent and always in trouble in one way or another. I thought she was fantastic. Not only that but she was intelligent and ambitious.
Of course, it was obvious that eventually she would forgive Gilbert for pulling her pigtails but the ups and downs of their relationship are well told and never predictable. I went on to read the whole series of books.
Finally, and in a similar vein, is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I loved Jo for similar reasons to Anne (see a theme developing here, by any chance. I was a tomboy and I would rather climb trees than play with dolls.) She was independent and easily my favourite of the four girls.
The story of Beth’s illness is incredibly touching and was probably the first time that a book made me cry. I felt bereft, as if she really was my friend. I read this book over and over as a child and I never got bored of it. Again, I read all the books in the series but Little Women was undoubtedly my favourite.