Stig of the Dump, by Clive King
When Barney falls down a dump the last thing he expects is to meet a cave boy. Stig was an eco-warrior before the term was invented. Sprightly, comic, classic.
Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild
Adopted sisters Posy, Pauline and Petrova Fossil train as a dancer, an actor and an aeroplane pilot. A bally treat.
Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
The Witch of Waste puts Sophie under a spell. To break it, she must brave the castle of the Wizard Howl. Imaginative and terribly funny.
Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling
Learn how the leopard got his spots and the camel his hump. And remember "The Elephant's Child" - whose "satiable suriosity" turns his "bulgy nose" into a trunk?
The Borrowers, by Mary Norton
First published in 1953, this remains a deserved favourite. The Clock family live beneath a floorboard, making do with what "human beans" drop, until one day one of them allows herself to be seen…
Struwwelpeter, by Heinrich Hoffman
These pungent 1840 morality tales are not to be taken literally: in one, a boy gets his thumbs chopped off.
The Magic Faraway Tree, by Enid Blyton
Jo, Bessie and Fanny climb to the top of a magical tree, above which are endlessly circulating worlds: the Land of Birthdays, or, more unluckily, of Dame Slap.
Danny, the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl
Danny and his hard-up father bond over poaching pheasants from nasty Mr Hazell's land - before moral dues are paid.
George's Marvellous Medicine, by Roald Dahl
To cure his grumpy grandmother, George Kranky concocts a medicine from shaving foam, sheep dip, engine oil and brown paint. Granny grows huge. The ending is dark even for Dahl.
Underwater Adventure, by Willard Price
Willard Price invented zoologist brothers Hal and Roger Hunt to get children interested in nature. Underwater Adventure takes them into shark-infested seas. Some sharks are human.
Tintin in Tibet, by Hergé
After Tintin reads of a plane crash in the Himalayas, he dreams his friend Chang has survived. Uniquely, there are no villains - just a tender yeti and acres of snow.
The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales
Sourced from medieval German folktales by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 19th century, these sanguinary stories deal with abduction, cannibalism and worse.
Erik the Viking, by Terry Jones, illustrated by Michael Foreman
Erik tells his wife that he must go to "the land where the sun goes at night"; off he travels on an atmospheric adventure, terrifically illustrated.
When the Wind Blows, by Raymond Briggs
Jim and Hilda Bloggs's preparation for a nuclear attack remains enthralling. First comic, then moving.
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, by TS Eliot
This delightful collection of verse sees cat-loving Eliot capering about with his trousers rolled. A perfect introduction to the pleasures of poetry for children.
The Iron Man, by Ted Hughes
Since it appeared in 1968, the late Poet Laureate's children's book has become a classic. Benign iron bloke falls from sky, battles space-bat-angel-dragon, saves world. Bliss.
The Owl and the Pussycat, by Edward Lear
Edward Lear's bizarre story of inter-species elopement and gastronomic adventure still charms and diverts. Runcible.
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." But reading about Mole, Ratty, Toad and Badger runs it a close second.
The Worst Witch Collection, by Jill Murphy
Before Harry Potter there was Mildred Hubble, the worst witch at Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches. A tale of flying broomsticks, rivalries and magical pedagogy.
Peter Pan, by JM Barrie
JM Barrie's Neverland adventures were first performed as a play, and later turned into a novel. Clap your hands if you believe.
Mr Majeika, by Humphrey Carpenter
Mr Majeika, with his tuft of hair, is ever ready to cast spells on unruly pupils - most notably Hamish Bigmore, whose rudeness gets him changed into a frog. Charming and funny in equal measure.
The Water Babies, by Charles Kinglsey
Tom the sweep drowns after being chased from a rich household and falls into a sub-aquatic purgatory. But once he proves his worth he is allowed wonderful adventures.
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Seven-year-old Sara Crewe is sent back from India to Miss Minchin's Seminary for Young Ladies in England, to discover she has lost her fortune to a swindler and her father to disease. A stirring tale.
I'm The King of the Castle, by Susan Hill
A powerful and claustrophobic study of bullying, this has a real narrative grip and a frightening message. No reader remains untouched.
The Wave, by Morton Rhue
Teacher Ben Ross doesn't think his students understand what it was like to live in Nazi Germany, so he devises an experiment. A powerful story about the risks of conformism.
Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi is impulsive, irrepressible, red-haired and so strong you won't believe it. Her bizzare adventures delight children and confound health and safety.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
Charlie Bucket's adventures in Willy Wonka's factory - the chocolate rivers, the minia-tuarisation room, the Oompa Loompas - will live for ever.
Bambert's Book of Missing Stories, by Reinhardt Jung
Shy Bambert sends his half-written stories into the world attached to balloons for whoever finds them to finish. Stories come back from all over the world, and the final story is heartbreaking.
The Firework-maker's Daughter, by Philip Pullman
Lila's father doesn't want her to follow his career in fireworks so she must prove herself on an epic quest that takes in dragons and pirates.
Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce
As Tom lies in bed preparing for the most boring holiday of his life, the clock strikes 13. Racing downstairs he sees daylight and a beautiful garden where there should be darkness. Incredibly exciting.
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
A bored young boy pushes his toy car through a toy tollbooth, and finds himself in the kingdom of Wisdom. Genius wordplay, slapstick and a real sense of fun.
The Silver Sword, by Ian Serrallier
Just after the Second World War, a group of children navigate war-torn Europe armed with little more than a letter opener. Tense, demanding and adult.
Cue for Treason, by Geoffrey Trease
After Peter Brownrigg chucks a stone at his landlord, he has to flee to London. Here he meets Shakespeare and uncovers a plot to kill Queen Elizabeth. Tudor derring-do.
The Sword in the Stone, by TH White
The trials of Arthur have never been more amusingly described. Merlin is the archetype for all dotty wizards.
A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K LeGuin
LeGuin's fantasy lands are scrupulously realised, but it is emotional complexity that makes her books so engrossing. Here a young wizard has to come to terms with the destructive power of his magic.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling
The third book may be the best in JK Rowling's series. All the usual Potter tricks are here, but the highlight is the Dementors, the terrifying guards of Azkaban prison.
The Chronicles of Narnia Box Set, by CS Lewis
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe isn't the only Narnia story worth reading. The Silver Chair is a powerful allegory of mental slavery; and Voyage of the Dawn Treader sees a talking mouse paddle over the edge of the world.
His Dark Materials Box Set, by Philip Pullman
Pullman's riposte to CS Lewis is a trumpet-blast against dogma - but, above all else, a gripping adventure.
The BFG, by Roald Dahl
At the witching hour, a giant blows sweet dreams into children's bedrooms. When orphan Sophie sees him one night, he takes her to his cave. Beware whizzpoppers!
Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome
Childcare used to be a bit less hands on ("Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers won't drown") and one cannot read the adventures of these four children in a lost Eden without a lump in the throat.
Clarice Bean, Don't Look Now, by Lauren Child
At first glance one for the girls, but boys should read it too. Over the series Clarice has matured from an infant with a quirky vocabulary into a complex, engaging teenager.
The Railway Children, by E Nesbit
When their father is accused of treason, Bobbie, Peter, Phyllis and their mother move to the country. They pass the time watching trains go by and proving their father innocent, which is nice.
The Selfish Giant, by Oscar Wilde
Wilde's giant wants to keep children out of his garden so that he can have it to himself. But it stays shrouded in snow until one day, when the giant's hard heart is softened by one of the boys…
Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell
One of the greatest books ever narrated by a horse, with a fine message: be kind to animals, and they'll be kind to you.
Just William, by Richmal Crompton
The classic naughty schoolboy, William wages a gentle war of attrition against parental and teacherly authority.
Jennings Goes to School, by Anthony Buckeridge
Catapults, grazed knees, and mischief of the best sort. Hogwarts may have revived our appetite for boys-school stories, but Jennings was there first.
Comet in Moominland, by Tove Jansson
Moomin is a peculiar fellow, but through him and his equally peculiar friends the Finnish author Tove Jansson explores the big issues: friendship, alienation, fear, loss and meteors from outer space.
The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket
This magnificently black-hearted book introduced us to the Baudelaire children, orphaned in a fire and trying to keep one step ahead of the predatory Count Olaf, who is after their inherited fortune.
Stig of the Dump, by Clive King