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Monday, April 2, 2012

What to read at bedtime?


Courtesy of  Lorna Bradbury

published in The Telegraph

Ask Lorna: what to read at bedtime?

Lorna Bradbury selects the best stories for a five-year-old

Detail from the cover of Elizabeth Laird’s Shahnameh (Frances Lincoln), illustrated by Shirin Adl
Detail from the cover of Elizabeth Laird’s Shahnameh (Frances Lincoln), illustrated by Shirin Adl 
Q I am keen on reading my five-year-old daughter some more in-depth, thoughtful bedtime stories. Any suggestions, please?
Jonathan, via Twitter
A You can go in one of two directions here. Your daughter is clearly ready to get stuck into some full-length books – either chapter books or perhaps better, at least to begin with, collections of unified stories.
I’ve read the AA Milne Winnie-the-Pooh stories (Egmont) successfully at bedtime to both my seven-year-old and my four-year-old – the holy grail, as far as I’m concerned, as it’s extremely difficult to find books that work well for two age groups at once.
There are other books that might work in this vein: Joyce Lankester Brisley’s Milly-Molly-Mandy stories are good – and nostalgic for so many parents. There’s a lovely large-format edition, The Big Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook (Kingfisher, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy), which includes two CDs.
Or what about a collection of Dick King-Smith’s stories about Sophie, a sassy four-year-old who wants to be a farmer (Sophie’s Snail, Walker, includes six of these), or Enid Blyton’s stories about Amelia Jane(Egmont)?
If you’d prefer to go for a chapter book, Enid Blyton’s Faraway Treebooks (Egmont) are good, or there’s a lovely abridged version of The Wind in the Willows by Inga Moore (Walker). My father read me the original version by Kenneth Grahame when I was a child, which I remember loving, but my children have found the language too much of a challenge; they do love Moore’s version.
Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmations (Egmont, illustrated by David Roberts) works well read aloud. Or what about Eva Ibbotson’s One Dog and his Boy (Scholastic), a heart-warming story on a similar theme published posthumously last year?
The other way to go would be to try some of the large-format illustrated books aimed at slightly older children. There are some excellent modern fairy tales around, such as Carol Ann Duffy’s The Princess’ Blankets(Templar, with paintings by Catherine Hyde), or David Lucas’s The Lying Carpet (Andersen), or Lauren Child’s stylish version of The Princess and the Pea (Puffin), with photographs of tiny cut-out dolls and pieces of furniture by Polly Borland. Or what about Elizabeth Laird’s condensed retelling of the Persian Book of Kings, Shahnameh (Frances Lincoln, illustrated by Shirin Adl)?
Finally, an oddity. In 1984 Chris Van Allsburg published an unusual book of black-and-white images with enigmatic captions – a great way of thinking up tales with a child. A new expanded edition of the book, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick (Andersen), includes a collection of possible stories to go with each of these images from authors such as Stephen King and Louis Sachar.
Please email your questions about children’s books to or send them to 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0DT. You can comment on this story or recommend your favourite books at and follow @lornabradbury on Twitter
Previous Ask Lorna columns:
Books for fussy eaters

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