Five Books to Read Before You Turn Eleven

For Big Issue Scotland, 7/9/2009

Not in any particular order:

  1. The Witches by Roald Dahl: Because every child should read at least one Roald Dahl book and this is one of his best. And after you do, you will look with suspicion at women with square-topped feet, itchy scalps and curved, claw-like fingernails. Roald Dahl wrote the kind of funny nastiness every child loves.
  2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: With so many fantasy books in the shops these days, it’s easy to forget the spellbinding and wildly imaginative adventure that introduced us to Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the wizard, the creepy Gollum and Smaug the dragon. It showed us how fantasy should be written. A rollicking good read.
  3. Charley’s War by Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun: A comic about the First World War that had a lasting effect on me. They are now collected in hardback books. With a mixture of gritty action, human drama, moral dilemmas and earthy humour, there was nothing else quite like it. And the artwork was fantastic. One of the best comics every produced.
  4. The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm by Norman Hunter: Actually, any Professor Branestawm book would do. The original mad inventor, Branestawm is a scatty genius whose inventions never fail to cause complete mayhem. He is often assisted in tackling his own creations by his friend, Colonel Dedshott and his housekeeper, Mrs Flittersnoop.
  5. The Iron Man by Ted Hughes: A simple, dark and haunting story about an unlikely friendship between a huge mysterious robot and a little boy. The iron giant causes chaos by eating metal and machinery wherever it finds it. But is it a monster or a guardian? A story that stays in your head long after you’ve finished reading.