From Roald Dahl’s bestselling Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch, The Guardian’s Julia Eccleshare picks her top reads for 5-7 year-olds.
Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is one of fiction’s most tantalising locations and Charlie Bucket’s adventure a mouth-watering rollercoaster of a ride. Along with four other children, Charlie wins a golden ticket to be shown around. While Charlie blossoms on the trip, his four companions reach suitably sticky and disgusting ends as punishment for their revolting behaviour. Mr Willy Wonka dispenses prejudiced and violent justice, which children adore.
Brave Babe, born a runty little piglet, who is brought to the farm for fattening-up, cheats his destiny by learning new skills from his adoptive mother Fly, the sheepdog. Babe’s sheep-working skills are all his own and soon his unique technique of speaking respectfully to the sheep brings him fame as well as saving Farmer Hogget’s sheep from harm. Funny and touching.
The sometimes horrible but always fascinating way in which brothers treat one another lives on in this hilarious story of how Will’s older brother Marty spooks the daylights out of him with a terrible tale of the deadly pirate Captain Crow. The thought of what the bloodthirsty pirate might do sets off a chain reaction of disasters for Will but also a just and delightful comeuppance for Marty.
Cartoon illustrations, a chunky format and pants in the title make this an easy choice for new readers. Superhero Captain Underpants hurtles through adventures, seeing off all kinds of opposition from aliens and the rest. Loads of slapstick humour to enjoy in the pictures, as well as easy-to-read speech bubbles that support the longer storyline.
It’s hard enough to be hopeless in any school but, when it is spells that go wrong, the results can have unpredictable consequences. New girl Mildred Taylor doesn’t quite get the hang of some of the magical homework set at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. The resulting chaos is delightful and hugely satisfying.
Everyone knows that the dish ran away with the spoon but, in this bittersweet rags-to-riches picture-book story, now we know what happened next. The couple sail to New York. Here they make big money as glamorous stage stars but then lose it all and set out on a less glamorous life as criminals. Sophisticated and glorious illustrations make this a visual treat.
Squashed flat when a billboard falls on top of him, Stanley lives a new and deliciously dotty life, being posted off on holiday – so much cheaper than a plane ticket – and being flown as a kite.
Mr Gum is unremittingly nasty. He hates children, animals and even fun. But there is something he loves: money! So, when he finds someone with lots and lots of cash, he is determined to get his hands on it. Mr Gum’s anarchic and outrageous behaviour has much to recommend him.
Like all children, Ug questions everything. And with good reason. Briggs’s Stone Age is solidly stony. Ug wants a soft ball to play with, cooked meat not raw. Above all, Ug longs for soft trousers. (His stone ones are hugely amusing.) A brilliant book about asking why.
From its terrifying opening in which a strange creature crashes down a cliff, then scrabbles to put itself back together from the body parts that are strewn all over the beach, this mythic story is rich in unforgettable images. Underlying them, Hughes raises all kinds of questions about how people respond to anything new.
The stories of the Moomins have a timeless charm. Fantasy and reality fuse delightfully; the strong family feeling of the Moomins and the charming details of their domestic life sit comfortably alongside the magic that surrounds them. Here, Moomintroll and his friends have a wonderful set of adventures with a magical hat when they wake up from their long winter sleep.