Reading is important at any age, but children's books are often intended to convey dark and complex issues in a simple and, hopefully, not too daunting manner. This can make them all the more precious to children and adults alike.
There are some beautiful stories out there that sometimes get passed over by the older generations because they are labeled as 'for children' so here we take a look at a few of those and try to rectify that situation.
1. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Shaun Tan is the very epitome of an overlooked writer because of the nature of his books. Actually an artist, he creates picture books which, in turn, often get put into children's sections of bookshops and libraries, but they are beautiful and stunning and deserve the recognition they so often fail to get.
The Arrival, for example, is the tale of a man who leaves his home and travels to the other side of the world alone and isolated until one day he is visited by a strange yet beautiful creature. In a touching and heartfelt way, it essentially tells the story of the migrant experience but within a fantastical landscape and world of weird and wonderful animals.
2. The Red Tree by Shaun Tan
Following up on what we've just said about The Arrival, The Red Tree is a portrait of depression and isolation in such a heartbreaking and tender tone it is with great joy when it offers up hope and warmth right at the very end.
The illustrations are perfect and visually touching and can be enjoyed by absolutely anyone.
3. Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss
Many of us will have come across one or two Dr. Seus books in our childhoods, but this one is especially important for personal development.
An uplifting rhyming story about becoming anything you wish to be, it will only take you about 10 minutes to read, but it is so beautiful, empowering and inspiring in its message it should not be dismissed just because it is aimed at the younger audience.
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Patrick Ness is an award-winning children's author, but he wasn't known by a wide audience until his story about a 12-year-old boy coming to terms with his mother's cancer hit the bestseller lists.
Titled, 'A Monster Calls', the quick-to-read story involves a Tree Moster who comes to life at night in the protagonist's back garden. It sounds silly and could at first come across as a story akin to a Brother's Grim tale, but in actuality, the story reads more like a children's Don Quixote, with the monster reciting three important tales that will ultimately change a grieving boy's outlook on life forever.
5. The Tiffany Aching Series by Terry Pratchett
Like much of Pratchett's work, this isn't necessarily children's literature, but it is marketed as such. Taking place in Pratchett's satirical Discworld, it takes aim at many of life's contradictions and absurdities, but at its very core, it is just a series of books about growing up and life in general.
It deals with relationships and disappointment and just getting by and, although the settings are fantastical, it is just about being content with an ordinary life.
6. Howl's Moving Castle
Whilst many will undoubtedly be aware of the stunning JapanesGhibliio Ghibli film that is based on this English novel, fewer will be aware of the book and that, in a way, is quite a good thing because they two do hugely differ.
Immensely detailed, it is a coming of age story about dealing with aging and loss of youth and yet still living life to the fullest, and all of us can learn from that.
7. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
A story about give and take and, in essence, relationships and what it takes to make people happy and make yourself happy, it shows how sometimes you have to give endless love and sometimes you have to protect yourself.
It is a vital life lesson and should be heeded at all stages of life.
8. The Harry Potter Books by J.K. Rowling
These books defined a generation and if, somehow, you missed out on reading abut the boy wizard (seriously, though...how?!) then you should get on it right now. Not only will you be opened up to a world of magic but you will become so much more aware of the iconography, pop-culture references and love for J.K. Rowling that everybody else in the world has.
It is what made the generation of 20-somethings of today into the readers they are now.
9. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
A story of high adventure, swashbuckling pirates on the high sea searching for hidden treasure. A beautifully crafted story with a child protagonist that approaches the world with wide-eyed wonder and a taste for adventure.
It is this sense of high danger and excitement that permeates throughout the novel and will keep even the most jaded of adults hooked.
10. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Full of gothic atmosphere and suspenseful, macabre settings, it is about a young girl who discovers her 'other' family via a different dimension, but it all starts to take a very dark twist.
It shows the importance of family as well as why we must face our fears.
11. Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne
Although they have now had the Disney treatment, the original Winnie the Pooh stories are surprisingly complex and are stories of friends overcoming challenges and helping each other out.
The simple joy of the friendship between Pooh and Piglet is heart-warming, and the musings of the famed bear are almost philosophical in thought.
12. The Phantom Tollbooth
A classic children's book about a young boy who gets a magical tollbooth and then drives through it into the Kingdom of Wisdom. It uses language as the very basis of the magic in the book and shows how important well-chosen words (or poorly chosen) can be.
It is also a timely reminder of finding the extraordinary in the very ordinary.
13. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Using time travel as a theme this book brings up independence, redemption, and friendship in a story about New York in the late 1970s that encompasses racism and how the world has changed.
Some of the themes are complex, and the manner in which they are presented are touching and very important.
14. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
A book about being unique and how that is a good thing. It teaches the importance of loving oneself and how that must first be achieved before you can ask for the love of others.
It is so brilliant in the way it goes about this that it can be read anytime and still bring joy.
15. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
An epic trilogy of fantasy novels, these target institutionalized religion and ask questions of belief systems that should have the reader questioning the way people think.
Although fantasy, they take ideas from physics, philosophy, and theology and create an intricate web.
16. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
A toy rabbit gains sentience and becomes aware of the world around him despite not being able to move. He then journeys out of a life of luxury into the mundane.
It explores the very concept of love in a unique way and is a fantastic piece of literature.
17. Waiting Is Not Easy by Mo Willems
A picture book on the frustrations of having to wait, we've all been there and will probably all be there again.
But it also shows that some of the greatest things from life can come about if you are prepared to wait, and that is something perhaps we all need to take in our stride every now and again.
18. The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
A boy becomes increasingly less visible until one day a new classmate notices him and suddenly his visibility starts to return.
About acceptance and inclusion, it reminds us that we can all feel invisible from time to time and it just takes one person to notice us.
19. Tuesday by David Weisner
Like Shaun Tan, Weisner makes picture books that can be for anyone but using just illustrations (pure, stunning artworks on each page) the story can change with each 'reading'.
That alone teaches us to use our imaginations and focus on the small details to really get the mind firing.
20. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Many may remember this classic children's story fondly or may have even seen the recent film adaptation, but take a look again, and you will find a beautifully spun tale (with equally gorgeous illustration) about human relationships as well as being an allegorical social critique of the ways we interact with each other.
As the Internet and other devices make us more distant whilst keeping us in constant contact, this book holds extra importance.