Top 10 must-read children’s books … but no-one’s potty about Potter

Not such a wizard read ... Harry Potter

Not such a wizard read … Harry Potter

THE BBC news website last week published a list of the top 10 must-read books for young kids … and Harry Potter is nowhere to be seen.

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl and first published in 1964, topped the teachers’ chart of books “all children should read before leaving primary school”.


Dahl’s Matilda, published in 1988, also makes the list, at number four. However, J K Rowling fans were dismayed that none of the seven Harry Potter books are featured in the chart. It’s as if Dark wizard Lord Voldemort has wiped the young upstart off the radar.

Two traditional classics – Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and The Chronicles Of Narnia by CS Lewis – are also in the top 10. As a young lad, I loved CS Lewis’s fantasy novels, especially The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.

My mum couldn’t understand why I was always clambering into the wardrobe in the spare room in the middle of the afternoon, desperately trying to visit Narnia.


The BBC story triggered several hundred comments, with some folk asking why kids’ books by Jacqueline Wilson and Enid Blyton had not made the list. “What about Treasure Island, Black Beauty, Heidi, Tom Sawyer and Moby Dick?” one of them asked.


“Why isn’t Biggles on the list?” moaned one anonymous commentator, who in real-life is probably Wing-Commander Algernon ‘Ginger’ Lancaster-Bomber (retired).

Well, yes, and what about my other childhood, boys-own favourites: Billy Bunter and Jennings? Especially Bunter.

As Wikipedia puts it so succinctly: “Bunter’s defining characteristic is his greediness and dramatically overweight appearance. His character is, in many respects, a highly obnoxious anti-hero. As well as his gluttony, he is also obtuse, lazy, racist, inquisitive, deceitful, slothful, self-important and conceited.”

As a kid, I howled with laughter at Bunter’s antics in the books by Frank Richards. Years later I was doing the same thing over the Pulitzer-prize winning novel, A Confederacy Of Dunces, by tragic American writer John Kennedy Toole. His fat and flatulent anti-hero Ignatius J. Reilly is surely Billy Bunter reincarnated in the 1980s.


Flatulent fatties … Ignatius J. Reilly and Billy Bunter

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So what are your favourite books from your childhood? Dark stories by Dahl, or jolly-good-old-romp stuff like Swallows And Amazons? Please reveal all by clicking on ‘leave a comment’ at the end of the blog.

Here’s the top 10 list from the news story, which were chosen 500 teachers for the National Association for the Teaching of English and the Times Education Supplement magazine.

Top 10 children’s books to read before leaving primary school

1) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
2) Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
3) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
4) Matilda by Roald Dahl
5) The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
6) The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis
7) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
8) We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
9) Dogger by Shirley Hughes
10) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak


TES editor Ann Mroz said many of the books chosen by teachers, are “not full of joy and mirth but are instead dark and full of horror – tales of ferocious monsters, abuse, abandonment and even death”.

She added: “They’re not what you’d think the average primary child would want to read. But these books serve an important purpose, giving children a safe place where they can take control of troubling subjects, where evil can be glimpsed and then shut within their pages.”

Scary stuff.

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2 responses to “Top 10 must-read children’s books … but no-one’s potty about Potter

  1. This is a great post and a good laugh, bringing back memories of old favourites like Billy Bunter. It makes you want to read all these books again.
    It’s not surprising the Potter books weren’t on the list. With all the publicity, merchandising and films about them, they have lost a lot of their mystery.
    My favourite books were Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series, and any books with misbehaving terriers.
    Marjory McGinn, author of Things Can Only Get Feta


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