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Classic stories

Widely recognised as classic, typically still in print after 50 years


The Borrowers Afloat

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Pod, Homily and Arriety are forced to leave the house they share with their relatives because the humans who live there are going.

Classic, Family, Fantasy

The Borrowers

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Pod, Homily and Arriety Clock live under the floorboards of a house, borrowing from the humans to clothe, furnish and feed themselves.

Classic, Family, Fantasy

The Box of Delights

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Kay Harker comes home for the Christmas holidays and finds himself helping Cole Hawlings, a slightly unusual Punch and Judy showman, to keep his Box of Delights from falling into the hands of the Wolves, led by Abner Brown.

A magical and exhilarating scramble, full of innocent enjoyment, adventure and friendship.

Classic, Humorous, Magic

Carrie's War

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Carrie and Nick Willow are evacuated to Wales.

Classic, Friendship, Growing-Up, War

Charlotte Sometimes

Style: Average

Attitude: Positive

Charlotte goes to sleep in a boarding school and wakes up to find herself in the same place in 1918, and mistaken for Clare who has taken her place 40 years in the future.

Gentle time-shift story put across thoughtfully in terms of the relations between Emily and Charlotte and the acceptance by Charlotte and Clare of their situation, less disturbing than it might have been, since they are both new to boarding school life.

Classic, Magic, School

The Children of Green Knowe

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Tolly, a shy 8-year-old, goes to visit his great-grandmother at her house, Green Knowe, and discovers that there are other children playing there.

Classic, Magic

The Children of Húrin

Style: Good

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

The family of Húrin falls under the curse of Morgoth and while Turin wanders far and wide, earning a reputation as a fierce fighter, driven by circumstances and his own pride, his sister and mother leave Doriath alone to find him until they encounter the Dragon Glaurung.

A family driven by the curse of an immortal. Passionate loyalty and pride. Unwitting incest between brother and sister. Two suicides in despair.

Adventure, Classic, Fantasy

The Chimneys of Green Knowe

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Granny Oldknow is making patchwork quilts out of materials from the inhabitants of GK in the 19th century: blind Susan, Jacob her black servant, Sefton, Caxton, Maria, Captain Oldknow and the Grandmother.

Classic, Magic

The Chronicles of Narnia

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Eight children witness the history of the world of Narnia, from its creation out of inchoate blackness to the extinction of its stars and the return of darkness.

Simple adventure stories, with a clear Christian basis. Heroic valour and virtue among straightforward characters who must each face individual challenges, overcome their own shortcomings, and decide where they place their trust.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

The Chronicles of Prydain

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Taran, often through his own well-meaning thoughtless haste, but helped by chance, finds himself embroiled in the struggle to free the land of Prydain from the clutches of the evil Arawn.

Love, friendship and perseverance overcome the wiles and tricks of many enemies, each side striving to turn the ancient magic of their land to its own advantage.

Classic, Fantasy, Friendship, Growing-Up

An Enemy at Green Knowe

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Ping and Tolly are both staying at Green Knowe when the dislikeable Dr Melanie Powers comes, looking for books of magic left behind by the 16th-century Dr Vogel.

Classic, Magic

Fr Brown Stories

Style: Good

Attitude: Edifying

Father Brown is a Catholic priest who uses his intelligence and ingenuity to solve crime in this series of short stories.

Classic, Detective, Short

Greenmantle

Style: Classic

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Richard Hannay, after a period as a soldier on the front line, is called in by Sir Walter Bullivant to discover what secret card the Germans hold with which to inflame the Islamic peoples of the Middle East.

Wartime danger and heroism. While the broad brushstroke attitude towards war and other peoples is typical of the period of the book's publication, there is a surprising degree of respect both for the German enemy and for the Turkish religion and mindset.

Adventure, Boys, Classic, Historical, War

The Horse and His Boy

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Shasta, a Narnian living among Calormenes, escapes on Bree, a Narnian horse.

Criticised for its black-and-white portrayal of the Narnians and Calormenes. Straightforward adventure journey tale demonstrating overcoming prejudice and pride, pushing oneself to ones limits to help friends, and trusting even when you can't see the outcome.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

Huntingtower

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Dickson McCunn "an incurable romantic" sells his grocery shop and goes walking in the highlands.

Adventure, Boys, Classic, Historical

I am the King of the Castle

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Warings, which is an isolated & "entirely graceless" country house belonging to a widower, Mr Hooper, provides the main setting for "I'm the King of the Castle".

Classic

Jane Eyre

Style: Classic

Attitude: Edifying

Jane Eyre becomes governess to the ward of Mr Rochester, with whom she falls in love.

Classic, Girls, Historical, Romantic

The Last Battle

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Tirian is king of Narnia in a time of peace when a plot involving the Calormenes and a false Aslan threaten the country.

Night falls on Narnia. Good and bad in creatures are not as obvious to us as might be expected. The need to stand and fight for what you see is right. Different Gods. Life in glory after death.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

The Pevensie children find a mysterious winterbound land when they step through a wardrobe in a forgotten room of the house they're evacuated to.

First-written and most famous of the Narnia stories, whimsical, moving, human and ultimately Christian without that detracting from its readability.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

A Little Bush Maid

Style: Classic

Attitude: Edifying

Norah can’t wait for Jim to come home for the holidays, and when he does arrive, accompanied by Harry and Wally, every day is full of adventures.

A vivid depiction of the quintessentially Australian; values such as mateship, hard work and bush hospitality to beautiful illustrations of the outback, Australian character and humour. Heart-warming, humorous and highly enjoyable Australian classic!

Adventure, Classic, Friendship, Girls, Growing-Up

A Little Princess

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Sara Crewe is sent to school in London by her father before he returns to India.

Classic riches-to-rags-to-riches story of a virtuous child, abandoned to the mild cruelties of grasping spinsters. Virtue is rewarded, vice is shamed, and large and well-to-do families are cheerful and welcoming.

Classic, Friendship, Girls, Historical

Little Women

Style: Classic

Attitude: Edifying

Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March are girls growing into young ladies in the late 19th century.

Classic, Girls

Lorna Doone

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

The story tells of the adventures of John Ridd after his father is murdered by the Doones.

Classic, Romantic

The Magician's Nephew

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Polly and Digory are tricked into travelling by Uncle Andrew's magic rings to other worlds.

A highly-readable fantasy story relating to Christian beliefs, especially about creation. Faintly avuncular in style. Magical elements.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

Minnow on the Say

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Roger makes friends with Adam Codling, who lives in the Codlings' family house, once grand but now neglected, with his aunt Dinah and his grandfather.

Classic, Friendship

Moonfleet

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

John Trenchard, a 15-year-old, becomes involved with a gang of smugglers, flees with their leader and finds a valuable diamond.

Adventure, Classic, Historical

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Style: Classic

Attitude: Take Care → Positive

Widowed fieldmouse Mrs Frisby turns to the rats for help when her family's house is threatened, only to find them abnormally intelligent and with technology.

A gentle story, highlighting a mother's love for her children and the risks she'll take to help them. Normal animal behaviour combined with intelligent actions and, in the case of the laboratory-enhanced Rats, developed technology which they're giving up.

Animal, Classic, Thought-provoking

Mr Standfast

Style: Classic

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Fairly Positive

To trap a brilliant German agent, Richard Hannay has to pose as a pacifist, assisted by Mary Lamington, Blenkiron, Peter Pienaar and others.

Straightforward plot. Elements of endurance and loyalty. A subtle, if unredeemed, villain. Some demeaning references to native Africans. War as a job to be done.

Adventure, Boys, Classic, Historical, Romantic, War

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Style: Good

Attitude: Take Care

In 1900 Australia, a part of teenage girls from a College for Young Ladies goes on a trip to Hanging Rock.

Classic, Historical, Spooky

Pride and Prejudice

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

The five Bennett sisters: Jane, Elizabeth, Lydia, Kitty and Mary are at or near marrying age; their mother is keen to marry them off and rejoices when Mr Bingley, a personable young man, comes into the neighbourhood with his friend Mr Darcy and seems interested in her eldest daughter.

Classic, Girls, Romantic

Prince Caspian

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

The Pevensies return to Narnia to discover that 1,000 years have passed and that they are the stuff of legends, as are the talking animals of Narnia and Aslan himself.

Conventional adventure story with young heroes and natural forces overcoming adult humans who are clearly in the wrong.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

The Prisoner of Zenda

Style: Classic

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

Erstwhile King Rudolf of Ruritania is drugged and then kidnapped the day before his coronation; his guards Sapt and Fritz happen upon Rudolf Rassendyll, an Englishman abroad, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the king, due to the king's ancestor's having fathered a child somewhere in the Rassendyll ancestry.

Swashbuckling adventure with a dashing hero, a bearded villain and a lovely heroine.

Adventure, Boys, Classic, Historical, Romantic

The Secret Garden

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Mary Lennox, living in her uncle's lonely house on the Yorkshire Moors, finds the joy of living when she discovers the Secret Garden, locked away ten years before.

Classic, Growing-Up

The Silver Branch

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Rome's control over Britain is swaying, and two young Roman soldiers find themselves flung unexpectedly into the power politics of British leadership.

Politics & adventure in Roman Britain. Courage & loyalty to friends and family.

Adventure, Boys, Classic, Historical

The Silver Chair

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Eustace returns with Jill to Narnia where they must travel across little-explored areas of the land to find a prince lost for years.

A Quest tale, taking Eustace and Jill through hardships, trials of friendship and faith in their guide, and near-despair as they have to rescue a lost prince from his captor, a witch. Death as a return to life.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

The Silver Sword

Style: Good

Attitude: Edifying

The story centres round the Balicki family set against the bleak landscape of war-torn Warsaw and the wreck that is post war Germany.

Classic, Family, War

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

A funfair comes to a small town and a couple of boys, Jim & Will, discover some rather sinister attributes of the fairground owners and crew, notably a carousel which can make you older or younger.

Classic, Macabre

The Stones of Green Knowe

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

A mediaeval boy living at Green Knowe discovers that by going to the stones behind the house, he can meet the people who have lived and will live in the house.

Classic, Historical, Magic, Spooky

A Stranger at Green Knowe

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Ping, the young refugee who stayed with two friends at Green Knowe in "The River.

The opening section, describing Hanno's childhood in the jungle is descriptive and moving. While the book is clearly aimed at the younger reader, the issues involved are not to be dealt with lightly: the author describes the loneliness of the caged animal, tempering this with the friendship of the zookeeper. Ping is forced into stealing to keep the creature fed.

Classic, Magic

The Swallows and Amazons Series

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Three families of children enjoy themselves outdoors in general, and sailing in particular, over several holidays.

Classic set of gentle outdoor adventure stories, often with a sailing theme. Healthy combination of imagination and down-to-earth competence in outdoor pursuits. Nicely-rounded characters inhabiting an inter-war landscape where children are allowed a wide degree of freedom but where politeness and consideration are uppermost. The books' uncomplicated style coupled with their outdoor milieux is like fresh air to a modern reader.

Classic, Friendship, Growing-Up, Seafaring

The Swish of the Curtain

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Positive → Edifying

As the summer starts, the Halfords move to Fenchester and strike up a friendship with the Fayne & Darwin families, prompting the youngsters to pool their talents and put on a play for their friends and acquaintances.

An undemanding story of youthful ambition and success. Dated but still very readable. Family tensions between children's ambitions and parental plans. Warmhearted generosity and good humour both in public and in private.

Classic, Family, Historical

That Hideous Strength

Style: Outstanding

Attitude: Positive

The NICE, a scientific institute, has bought up Bragdon Wood, the land around a small university, and seems to have unlimited powers and support.

Arthurian, Classic, SciFi

They Came Like Swallows

Style: Classic

Attitude: Edifying

At the centre of 8 year old Bunny’s life is his mother who is the only member of the Morrison family who understands Bunny’s sensitive and thoughtful nature.

Insightful and tender look at motherhood, family and death during the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 in America. A beautiful and heartbreaking story recommended for sensitive readers 12 years and up.

Classic, Growing-Up

The Thirty-Nine Steps

Style: Classic

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Richard Hannay gives a man shelter for the night, only to find him dead in the morning.

Adventure, Boys, Classic, War

The Three Hostages

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

General Sir Richard Hannay, hero of "The 39 Steps" et al.

Adventure, Boys, Classic, Historical

Three Men in a Boat

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

George, Harris and J are three rather lazy young men around the turn of the century.

Classic, Humorous

To Kill A Mockingbird

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the deep south of America during the 1930s, a time at which racial prejudice was rife.

Racism and how this is fought by one man in the Deep South.

Classic, Growing-Up, Moral Issue

Tom's Midnight Garden

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Tom Long is in quarantine for measles, which his brother Peter has caught.

Classic, Magic

A Town Like Alice

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Jean Paget a young Englishwoman who speaks Malay is caught in Malaysia when the Japanese invade.

Classic, Romantic, War

A Traveller in Time

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Penelope visits her aunt and uncle in their farmhouse "Thackers".

A gentle story with the time-travel elements played down, rather as in Penelope Farmer's "Charlotte Sometimes". There is a homely feel about the farmhouse in both eras. Religion does enter into the story since the Tudor peoples are living in a time of religious change where political partisanship is bound up with religious beliefs. Interestingly, although Penelope would seem to be C of E if anything, Catholicism is portrayed positively without any fanatical overtones.

Classic, Historical, Time-Travel

Treasure Island

Style: Classic

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

A dead pirate’s chest throws up a map showing the way to treasure buried on a secret island.

“Buccaneers, and buried gold”. The original Boys’ Own Yarn combining youthful bravery, charismatic villainy and buried treasure. A slow start for the modern reader and never as racy as Alex Rider but very readable nonetheless once you’re immersed in its world

Adventure, Boys, Classic

Tuck Everlasting

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

The over-protected eleven-year-old Winnie Foster loses her patience and runs away into the woods next to her house where she meets seventeen-year-old Jesse Tuck drinking from a water spring.

A brief but deeply philosophical fantasy that explores the nature of life, change, death and immortality.

Classic, Fantasy, Historical, Thought-provoking

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Lucy & Edmund along with Eustace their spoilt and peevish cousin find themselves on board a Narnian ship with King Caspian, travelling to the outer reaches of Narnia, encountering new creatures and strange places.

A voyage-of-discovery story with interesting people and challenges. Each character has to undergo a trial to grow in themselves.

Animal, Classic, Fantasy, Growing-Up, Magic

Voyage to Venus (Perelandra)

Style: Outstanding

Attitude: Positive

Ransome is transported by the power of Malacandra, the oyarsa of Mars, to Venus (Perelandra) where intelligent life is beginning.

Classic, SciFi, Thought-provoking

What Katy Did

Style: Classic

Attitude: Positive

Katy Carr, a 12-year-old in turn-of-the-century America, has an accident through her own disobedience when she falls from a swing and injures her back.

Classic, Family, Girls

The Wool-Pack

Style: Good

Attitude: Edifying

Nicholas Fetterlock is the son of a Cotswolds wool merchant at the end of the 15th century when the wool had made such merchants and the country rich.

Classic, Family, Historical

The Worst Witch

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Mildred Hubble, in her first year at Miss Cackle's Academy, must overcome her tendency to mess things up and not disgrace the school when they put on a public broomstick display.

Classic, Magic

The Writing on the Hearth

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Stephen, whose father was bodyguard to his Lord of Suffolk, is under taken into the Lord's household when his stepfather remarries and his sister enters a convent.

Edifying and interesting historical read. Some ambiguous elements of witchcraft.

Classic, Family, Historical