For many of us that love reading, the seeds are sown in childhood through the books we read or have read to us. Children’s literature was the inspiration for this month’s Oxford World’s Classics reading list and below is just a selection of many classics of the genre that are out there. What were your favourites? Let us know in the comments.
Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up, is an exploration of eternal youth created by J. M. Barrie. This work deals with Peter as an infant who was, we learn, “part-bird”. After overhearing a discussion about his future, adult life, he escaped by flying out the window, and took refuge in Kensington Gardens. He meets a little girl who is lost called Maimie Mannering, a character who prefigures Wendy Darling in Barrie’s later ‘Peter and Wendy’.
The Secret Garden is surely one of the most famous and well-loved of children’s classics. It tells the romantic story of the regeneration of two sickly, spoiled children, Mary Lennox and her cousin Colin, through contact with nature. After she discovers the secret garden, Mary Lennox gradually becomes a healthy, unselfish girl who in turn redeems both Colin and his gloomy, Byronic father. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s inspiring story of salvation gently subverted the conventions of a century of romantic and gothic fiction for girls.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
On first glance, the ‘Alice’ books are delightful, innocent fantasies for children, but on further inspection they are also full of complex mathematical, linguistic, and philosophical jokes. Alice’s encounters with the White Rabbit, the Cheshire-Cat, the King and Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and many other extraordinary characters have made them masterpieces of nonsense, yet they also appeal to adults through the layers of satire, allusion, and symbolism about Victorian culture.
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