My family is preparing for a visit back to the U.S. this summer. I’ve been thinking about what to pack that will entertain my children on the long flight back. And what struck me is how different my children’s tastes are in toys and books since we moved here. For the most part, they are no longer interested in the Elmo videos and PBS Kids apps, or the books based on various Nick Jr. characters that long dominated their hearts when we lived in America. They’ve been replaced by countless equally-as-loved characters from British cartoons and literature.
Great Britain is no stranger to best selling authors. This is the country that produced Jane Austen and William Shakespeare, after all. But here are a few authors that may have escaped the limelight in the U.S. that my children (ages 2 and 5) adore.
Julia Donaldson: A friend introduced my family to the popular children’s book The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson before we moved here because she knew it was popular here. That friend was so right! Everywhere you look here, especially at child-friendly places, is The Gruffalo. It’s a charming book and my kids love it. Donaldson has also written a few other books my children really enjoy, like Room on the Broom and What the Ladybird Heard.
Judith Kerr: Not originally from Great Britian, Kerr’s family fled Germany during WWII. Her most popular titles are a series of books based on a cat called Mog and The Tiger Who Came to Tea. I think what I like best about these books is that there is no mistaking their British roots. When the tiger comes to tea, it’s not just for the drink, as most Americans would believe. Tea can also mean a meal served in the late afternoon or early evening, and that’s just what the tiger is after. And the mother and father in the Mog series are often heard saying, “Bother that cat!” Bother in this instance being a uniquely British saying… similar to the way “darn” would be used in America.
Lauren Child: My oldest son was introduced to a series of books based on characters named Charlie and Lola when he began school. We have eagerly embraced Charlie and Lola into our lives since then. Child’s writing is funny and down to earth, and Charlie and Lola are very fun characters. (They’ve also been turned into a hit children’s television show.) If you’ve got plans to bring your children across the pond for a stay in London anytime soon, the book Charlie and Lola: We Completely Must Go to London would be a great read.
Roger Hargreaves: I distinctly remember a stack of books at my children’s library growing up, small, square and white, each based on a different character: Mr. Happy, Little Miss Cheerful, Mr. Strong, Little Miss Sunshine, etc. Turns out, it is a series of books called Mr. Men by Hargreaves. And while the series dates back to the 1970s, it is back in a big way here across the pond, with a popular television show to boot. My oldest can’t get enough of these fun stories.
I look forward to my children getting a bit older, so that I can introduce them to some of my other favorite British children’s book authors, like J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series, or Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, among many others. Who are your favorite British children’s book authors?