My Ideal Bookshelf

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My Ideal Bookshelf

Indrani Perera

I can’t believe that I have been writing articles for Otherways all this time without talking about books and reading. I’ve been a bookworm ever since I was a kid. I still try to read whenever I have a spare five minutes, and I love reading to Airlie (9) and Phoebe (5). Airlie is now old enough to read for herself and spends a lot of time on the couch or in front of the heater, nose stuck in a book. Just like me at that age! 

By far and away, my favourite genre to curl up with is children’s literature. Whether sitting on a comfy couch on a rainy day, or lounging in the shade at the park while the kids play, I love to sneak in a quick read. I love children’s literature so much that I have even created a blog, A Little Bookshelf, reviewing the best in children’s literature (as defined by me!). 

I have a weakness for beautifully illustrated hardcover books. I especially like children’s fantasy, aimed at 10-14 year olds. It’s the time before the stories get all deep and meaningful, covering important issues and weighty themes (I find all that teen angst far too excruciating to endure). I love stories with heart, that speak of the beauty and joy of life and show the reader different worlds and places. I don’t mind if the stories are sad but they must have soul and integrity. 

The really exciting thing is, as my girls grow I am able to start sharing my favourites with them. They chose their own books at the library and we read those every week. Each evening at bedtime, I read them a chapter from a special book that I have chosen. We don’t read it at any other time and only read a chapter. If there is any messing around at bedtime, no story. It has become a lovely little ritual that we all look forward to, and it is a good way to ensure that they are hearing some good stories! 

Good reads 

Here is a list of my current favourite authors (old and new). I have included quite a few series – there’s nothing better than falling in love with a character and discovering that there are more books to read about them! 

I’m a big fan of the classics as often they were about families or groups of children. They were aimed at boys and girls, rather than focusing on boys or girls, like so many of the books I see on the shelves at the local bookshop and library. 

If you’ve got some to share with me, head on over to my blog and let me know. I always love reading new stories and discovering new authors! 

Reading age 

I have put in suggested ages based on when my kids came to these stories, and when I felt they were old enough to hear the themes in each book. Sometimes I read the stories to them, and at other times they read the books themselves. Of course, your children may read them earlier or later depending on their maturity and reading level. My general rule of thumb is to read the story to your child when your child is the same age as the story’s protagonist. However, you can often read the classic stories with older protagonists to younger children as they can have a timeless and ageless feel. 

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright (6+) 

Elizabeth Enright is an American author from mid last century. I’m not sure if her books about the Melendy family are still in print but they are worth looking for at second hand book shops and in the library. Keep your eye out for the older editions – they have the author’s beautiful illustrations. 

Ms Enright writes beautifully about the ordinary, everyday adventures of the Melendy family. The Saturdays, the first book in the series, is about the Melendy children pooling together their weekly allowance so that one of them can have an adventure each week. The books are fascinating for their window into the past and a great way to talk about history with your kids, as they ask you things like, “Mum, what’s a furnace?”.

Hazel Green series by Odo Hirsch (7+) 

I first read this series of books about the indomitable Hazel Green when I was in my 30s and working for a publisher. The books are set in and around the Moody building where Hazel and her friends live. With shops on the ground floor, and lots of inhabitants, the Moody building feels like an amazing place to grow up. I love Hazel – she’s sassy, smart, resourceful and brave. An inspiring heroine for young girls. 

Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome (8+) 

It is my dream to one day own the whole set of hardcover Swallows and Amazons books with gorgeous dust covers. Arthur Ransome was an English author writing in the 1940s about a group of children and their sailing adventures. The children are resourceful and independent and their adventures are believable and enjoyable, unlike The Famous Five adventures by Enid Blyton. I devoured The Famous Five, but despaired at ever being able to catch a villain! 

These books are full of long words, and Ransome’s sentences can be clunky, but they are worth persevering with because the adventures are so fabulous. They are great to read aloud at bedtime. If you do, you’ll soon be madly Googling nautical terms just like me! 

The Kingdom of Silk books by Glenda Millard (8+) 

These whimsical books with their gorgeous illustrations by Stephen Michael King are about the remarkable Silk family and their lives. The books cover the death of a baby, adoption and illness in a loving and beautiful way. They are a lovely read for an older child, eager to learn about the world. These books are examples of the best kind – filled with heart and gentle wisdom. 

Curtain Up, The Bell Family,
Apple Bough by Noel Streatfield (9+) 

Another author from mid last century, this time from across the Atlantic. When I was growing up, Noel Streatfield was my favourite author. She wrote about children from poor families and their quests to become actors, dancers or artists. She had an eye for what mattered to children and a knack for sympathising with her characters. Readers of her books will definitely have favourite characters. 

Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen and Clariel by Garth Nix (14+) 

The above fantasy novels by Garth Nix are quite unlike any other fantasy novels I have read. Together they make up the Old Kingdom quartet, and are a fabulous mix of necromancy, magic and adventure. Each book contains strong female characters – something I am passionate about in literature. I want great heroines and role models for my daughters! 

Happy reading! 

Otherways 145

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1 Comment

  1. Brynna says:

    Dear Indrani,

    Our big girls, Leila (9) and Sophia (6) are both avid readers as well. It was lovely to see quite a few familiar titles in the list you suggested!

    Another series Leila very much enjoyed is the Dragon Keeper series by Australian author Carole Wilkinson. The stories are beautiful written with strong, well-rounded female and male characters. I’ve read the full series and am sincerely hoping there’s more still to come! My mum recently picked one up and is now hooked as well!

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