Top Ten Tuesday: Childhood Favourites

"Tope Ten Tuesday" in a white font mimicking handwriting on navy starry skies

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly mean, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun.

This week’s prompt was favourite childhood books and the first snag I found was how to define childhood. When do you stop being a child, and become an adult? Is there a clear point? I’ve decided to interpret this as favourite books while in primary school and younger (so until age 11). Certainly makes it easier to pin down. Having recently gotten back into MG, this is an interesting list to compile and see where my tastes have changed, if at all.


1. The Healing War Series, by Janice Hardy

the pain merchants.jpg

This was the easy first pick. I adored this series. Starting with THE PAIN MERCHANTS in the UK (THE SHIFTER in the US, where the covers were ugly), this series was my first major book obsession. This is the first time I hunted for a release date of the later books.

The trilogy is full of intrigue, adventure and betrayal. It’s complex and dark at times, never once talking down to its audience. These books, in short, are stunning, and you should read them if you can.

They’re no longer published in the UK (boo hiss) and I’m rather irate at myself for giving my copies away to friends (who live halfway across the world so no getting them back). This is what Amazon’s for, I suppose.

2. The Famous Five, by Enid Blyton

five on a treasure island.jpg

I was a huge Enid Blyton nerd. I read nearly all her books. The Famous Five, the Secret Seven, the Five Find-Outers, Malory Towers, St Claires, the Adventure series, the Secret Series, the Magic Faraway Tree. My dad I worked out that, at age ten, I had read more books by Enid Blyton (over eighty) than the total number of books he’d read in his adult life. This was also to be my first experience of books changing covers midway through the series as the many books had constantly changing series. Just stay the same!

My favourites were Five Find-Outers, and the Adventure and Secret Series. However, the Famous Five comes out on top and holds a special place in my heart. I loved the adventures and the mysteries, not to mention the many holidays we had in Devon, Dorset and Cornwall – the location of most adventures. We’d visit every location associated with them, listening to audio books in the car as we drove down.

The first ‘book’ I ever wrote was a Famous Five fanfic: Five find YET Another Shipwreck. My best friend and I played at being the Famous Five (among other characters), on our own adventures that were very similar to the books.

(I am really, really regretting lumping all these Enid Blyton series together as that pretty much sums up what I read as a child….)

3. THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY, by Siobhan Dowd

the london eye mystery.jpg

My best friend gets all the credit for this one. She introduced me to the book. A mystery set in London, around places we knew well, so of course we fell in love with it.

It was amazing, two children our age sneaking about London by themselves solving a mystery! We live near the London Eye, and visited it regularly before a) it become expensive and b) I developed a terror of heights. I loved seeing my home in the book, recognising the places (and correcting the mistakes, like the tower blocks being knocked down that were still in use!)

4. The Harry Potter Series, by J. K. Rowling

harry potter and the philosopher's stone

I read the complete series in Year 4, having been pestering my mum to let me read it for years. All the books were out, just, so I could read it in one go. Except for the fact that the local library had every copy of PRISONER OF AZKABAN out on loan when I got to that book. I waited six weeks for a copy to be returned (grrrr) to carry on. I love them now as much as I did then. Magic, mystery and adventure.

Another series my best friend and I played as, but this time we were Rose Weasley and Lily Potter, come to school and having our own adventures (once more eerily similar to Harry’s…). Our school robes, however, varied from old, black Oxford gowns (like in the first movie) when we were at my house to multicoloured saris at hers, due to dressing up box constraints.

5. The Lady Grace Mysteries, by Grace Cavendish

assassin

Set in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, her youngest Maid-of-Honour (the eponymous, entirely fictional Lady Grace Cavendish) has adventures as she protects queen and country. An alarming number of bodies pile up but if you were (and still are) a history nut, these were books you could not skip.

Told through Grace’s diaries, she and her best friends race across London from the Globe Theatre to London Bridge, skate on the River Thames, squabble with other nobles and bring down villains when the grown-ups can’t.

6. HIVE series, by Mark Walden

higher institute of villainous education.png

H.I.V.E. is school for villains, but one group of students doesn’t want to stay there, and they’re going to put their massive intellects, criminal talents and all their snarkish banter to getting out of there.

Of all the books we read, this is the one my best friend and I were most obsessed with in the last two years of primary school. I was Shelby and she Laura, much to the confusion of our classmates. We made our own BlackBoxes out of old tissue boxes, complete with interchangeable screens to have a conversation with HIVEmind.

Yes, my best friend comes up again. Back then, it was impossible for one of us to read and book and the other not to. We swapped books, pestered the other until they’d read it and then babbled as we walked to school (and were told we were slowing everyone down).

The amazing thing about this series is that, once we moved to secondary school (going to separate schools), my group of friends there was just as obsessed with this series and I red my way through the later installments with them. Nero and Raven forever.

I’m still waiting on the final book, Mark. It’s been more than a decade since I started reading, and five since you published the last installment. My childhood needs the resolution of book 9.

7. Alex Rider Series, by Anthony Horowitz

stormbreaker

The boy spy. An action packed series, full of witty dialogue (and some biting social commentary when you look back with adult eyes about the secret services of the world).

My favourite book of the series is SCORPIA, because it contains the series biggest bad, one who pops up throughout. It’s also the one with the most world-shaking revelation, and the best show down.

I only read up to book nine (the *real* end of the series), the book Horowitz said would be the final book. Everything after (maybe excluding RUSSIAN ROULETTE) is a money grab as far as I’m concerned (and my sister’s verdict is less than enthusiastic).

Fun fact, the movie’s school scenes were shot at my secondary school.

I did also read his other series (the Diamond Brothers is brilliant and a complete under-rated masterpiece of spoof crime fiction), but this just has an edge.

8. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

pawn of prophecy

Gifted to me by my sister’s godfather, this series was the first of many fantasy series I read, having gone through a very historical and mystery phase. Technically, it’s adult, but I’ve seen it sold as YA and MG. It’s Harry Potter level reading, but epic fantasy (and written in the 1980s.)

Sure, it’s old and not brilliant on female characters having a massive, important role, but I love it. A chosen one, a quest, a dark lord, wizards, a magic object to save the world, secret royalty; this book has it all.

9. The Secret Series, by Pseudonymous Bosch

the name of this book is secret

With creatively names titles like THE NAME OF THIS BOOK IS SECRET and THIS BOOK IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU, this series is one I started mainly for the titles. I was given book 2 or 3 as a birthday present (happened a lot. Family knew I liked books but knew nothing about children’s books so went with what was on special around christmas. Often it was later entries in series), and if I liked the look, I’d go hunting for previous books.

This series is bizarre. Truly. The adventures revolve around a different sense as the heroes try to stop the evil organisation. Very funny, with the oddest events just taken as normal, it’s a laugh from start to finish, packed with esoteric information. Like a Series of Unfortunate events, but without the constant misery and with magic rather than actors.

10. The Rainbow Magic Series, by Daisy Meadows

ruby the red fairy

Yes, it’s cringey, but I loved these when I was little. Fairies and best friends having adventures – what little girl wouldn’t love these books. My sister and I collected the first few series as they came out obsessively. I dressed up as Ruby the Red Fairy for World Book Day when I was five. Grandma made me a birthday cake with her on.

These are basic chapter books, written for little girls, and yes they’re very formulaic and now being taken to a ridiculous extreme. However, if books like this get children reading, then stop sneering at them. I’ll say this – the original covers were better. It’s a minor difference, but these new ones look more corporate. And the individual series are no longer seven books each. How are five years olds supposed to learn their seven times tables now? (Not even kidding here. I learnt my sevens way before my fives thanks to this. And my twenty-ones due to the buses outside my house).

There’s over 200 books now, written by this group of authors, but back then I read them as the first 8 or so series came out. The Rainbow Fairies (best set), the Weather Fairies, the Day of the Week Fairies, and so on. It never ends, as the fairies alwasy defeat Jack Frost and his goblins, but then let him go when he says sorry.

My family jokingly made up our own series – the war fairies, with characters like Tessa the Tank Fairy among the number. This cohort of seven would storm Jack Frost’s Ice Palace and decimate it, ending Jack Frost and the goblins (either by imprisonment or death) and put an end to his schemes (and thus books) forever. Strangely, Rainbow Magic never took this approach.


Haha, so that post got long very quickly. It’s been quite the trip down memory lane, and now I’m off to hunt down copies of the Healing War. What books did you love as a child?

3 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Childhood Favourites

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