When you’re growing up, reading is how you learn about the world, and about the people in it. Just ask Matilda. But some children’s tales left more of a lasting impression on us than others. To celebrate International Children's Book Day, here's our pick of the most valuable life lessons we learnt from our favourite kids’ novels. Let the nostalgia commence…
The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein
Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
The wisest spider to ever spin her way across the pages of a children’s book, Charlotte rescues Wilbur from certain death by spinning messages about him in her webs. She tells Wilbur, ‘A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle.’ At the end of the book, Charlotte dies, but is immortalized through her children and their children after that, as Wilbur continues to recount the story of Charlotte’s brilliance and generosity. As well as bigging up friendship and loyalty, we took away one resounding message: Your life is given meaning by helping others. And that warm glow that goes with it is undoubtably one of the best feelings ever.
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
We can still remember weeping along in frustration as Mary Lennox’s cousin Colin struggles to ply himself out of his wheelchair after a lifetime of being told he was physically disabled. In fact, he was fine, and through dogged persistence and stern words Mary teaches her friend to walk, run and play like any other child. Never allow anybody to impose limitations on your abilities. Even if it’s your own parents.
Matilda, Roald Dahl
If we ever needed inspiration to swot up at school, this was it. Watching the bullied and belittled Matilda being worn down by her ignorant family before her superhuman wit and passion for reading eventually became her most vital weapon reminded us that knowledge really is power. And convinced us that reading that many books may leave us with the ability to levitate our teacher’s chalk. We also learnt that adults can sometimes be seriously, seriously silly.
Horton Hears A Who!, Dr. Seuss
This is the book that made us terrified to tread on an ant or flick a ladybird in case of injury. With the moral to always help those less powerful than yourself, Horton discovers the importance of protecting those who cannot protect themselves when he meets the microscopic critters of Whoville and is recruited as their grand protector. After the mayor appeals to Horton to watch over them, the endearing elephant adopts the wise mantra, ‘A person’s a person no matter how small.’ Insects included.
Winnie The Pooh, A. A. Milne
The Hundred Acre Wood gang taught us everything we knew about friendship. Between Christopher Robin and Pooh’s unbreakable bond, Piglet’s tea and honey deliveries to Pooh when he’s feeling low, Tigger’s multiple quirks being constantly celebrated by his peers and the fact that the group can always turn to Owl or Rabbit for advice, there are many nuggets of wisdom in the Winnie the Pooh stories, but what speaks loudest is the characters’ unfaltering support of each other. Christopher Robin’s famus line to Pooh is so lovely we could cry: ‘If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.’
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst
This book still comes in handy when you want to throw your laptop out of the window and silently weep in the stationary cupboard. It was just as handy when our favourite fountain pen burst in our school bags and our best friend blanked us in the lunch queue. Sometimes you will have days where nothing goes right. But tomorrow will be better. Thank you Alexander.