Reading and listening to books has been an incredibly enriching experience for individuals of all ages throughout history. With such a range of engaging and powerful literature available for young readers, we asked NCW staff which books, old and new, would we give to a young reader in our lives…

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky 

Travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.

‘I picked this book up recently at the fantastic Wellcome Shop which is full of all things science – including an interesting range of cuddly toy body parts. In an age of tests and assessments this book reminds us that the most important thing to nurture is curiosity and kindness.’ – Alice Kent, Communications Director

The Garden Gang written and illustrated by Jayne Fisher

Jayne Fisher was the youngest person ever to write for Ladybird Books at aged 9, Jayne based her ‘Garden Gang’ stories around a bunch of fruit and vegetable characters that became hugely popular with younger readers in the 1970’s. Jayne also illustrated her own books using felt-tipped pens.  

‘It was the lovingly rendered hand drawn illustrations of vegetables who had their own stories to tell that made me think I might be able to write and make books myself, and it was never too early to start. I’ve sneaked a few of these in as presents to vegetable loving – and not so vegetable loving—children I know. They have a home grown appeal that makes them accessible and delightful to collect. The idea of a little girl sitting at home drawing all the vegetables and thinking up characters for them all, and then publishing book after book is a  beautiful story in itself!’ – Hannah Garrard, Programme Manager, Learning and Participation

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

A timeless picture book classic from the bestselling illustrator/author team Janet and Allan Ahlberg, creators of Peepo!. Each beautifully illustrated page encourages young children to interact with the picture to find the next fairy tale and nursery rhyme character.

‘I can still recite most of this book today!’ – Victoria Maitland, Programme Assistant

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Sephy and Callum have been friends since early childhood. But that’s as far as it can go. Until the first steps are taken towards more social equality and a limited number of Noughts are allowed into Cross schools… Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity by Noughts, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum – a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger…

‘As a child, I knew about racism and I knew it was categorically wrong but Noughts and Crosses opened my eyes to how it would actually feel to endure racial prejudice. I was so overwhelmed by the injustice, it led me to research civil rights movements that have shaped my political outlook today. I think the series is still so important for young readers – to think deeply about racism in society and to actively make a positive change. I’ll definitely be reading the latest installment, Nought Forever written especially for World Book Day!’ – Roisin Batty, Communications Assistant

The Slimy Book written and illustrated by Babette Cole

Sticky, sludgy, slippy slime – the sloppy, ploppy, creepy kind. The pages of this book are jam-packed with every imaginable sort of slime, from slimy pockets to slimy limbs and even ladies rubbing slime into their skin.

‘Irreverent, playful and utterly gross. The adult, professional, grown up in me says that I loved it so much because it plays into earthy and Rousseauistic ideas of childhood, but in reality grotesque silliness is just plain funny, even as an adult. Silliness is why we have our Dahl’s and Rosen’s for kiddos, and Monty Python for adults. The slimy book, mud pies and the ministry of silly walks, all still hilarious…’ – Freya Gallagher-Jones, Operations Assistant

Princess Arabella’s and the Giant Cake by Mylo Freeman

Once upon a time, there was a little princess called Arabella. She lived in a big palace with her father, the King, and her mother, the Queen. It was nearly Arabella’s birthday. But what do you give a little princess who already has everything?’Ruby-encrusted roller skates, a golden bicycle, a stuffed mouse, a cuddly mouse, a tea set, a doll’s pram carriage? No, Princess Arabella wants something different for her birthday: an elephant.But will she get what she wants…

‘Mylo Freeman’s books are the ones I’d give to young, inquisitive and mischievous readers. Princess Arabella starts school, has a younger sibling on the horizon, and still has the determination to try and bake the biggest cake in the world. An unstoppable young heroine makes these a must-read.’ – Flo Reynolds, Programme Officer

The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac, illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake, translated by Sarah Ardizzone

The novel grew from celebrated French writer Daniel Pennac’s experiences of teaching in “challenging” schools. Central to the book is his belief that readers have rights: to read what, how, where and when they want, and – if they choose – the right NOT to read.

‘Drawing on Pennac’s experiences as a child, a parent, and an inner-city teacher in Paris, it’s an uplifting, witty and heartfelt ode to reading. I recommend it to everyone who has made a life with books.’ – Peggy Hughes, Programme Director

The Where, the Why, and the How,: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science by Jenny Volvoski, Julia Rothman and Matt Lemothe et al.

Explore the wonders of science through the eyes of artists. A science book like no other, The Where, the Why, and the How turns loose 75 of today’s hottest artists onto life’s vast questions. From how we got here to where we are going, mysteries of the universe are explained in essays by real working scientist, which are then illustrated by artists given free rein to be as literal or as imaginative as they like.

‘As a child I was known for always asking, why? This is perfect for those children who want to know more, delve deep into the whacky world of science and have their minds blown. Where, the Why and the How, The: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science is on my list of books to buy for one of my friends’ youngest when she is a little older, she is an explorer already.’ – Meg Rumbelow-Hemsley, Development Manager