Cressida Cowell is perhaps best known for her book series, How to Train Your Dragon, which has become a staple and an all-time favourite in many households the world over. The series debuted in 2001 and expanded into a collection of 12 books, entertaining children with its humour, pathos and magical excitement.
Following its success and adaptation for film by Dreamworks, Cressida, who is also Waterstones Children's Laureate for 2019 to 2022, got her teeth stuck into a new book series, The Wizards of Once.
As part of our Back to School digital issue guest-edited by Giovanna Fletcher, we asked Cressida to create a reading list for children up to the age of 14. Find out what books she – and her children – absolutely adore. Happy reading!
READ: Giovanna Fletcher on mum guilt, meeting Kate Middleton and juggling work with raising her three sons
Cressida Cowell is the author of the hugely popular How to Train Your Dragon series
Cressida Cowell's top ten books for children and young teenagers:
1. The Lorax by Dr Seuss
My favourite picture book ever. Joyously anarchic, with an incredibly powerful message about looking after the environment, these words near the end make me cry however often I read them: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not."
2. Barbara Throws a Wobbler by Nadia Shireen
A delightfully illustrated and gorgeously funny book to help little ones deal with their emotions. I love the Bad Mood Guide at the end, and both toddlers and parents will have fun deciding whether they are most prone to 'the Seethe', or 'the Huff'. I think I'm liable to throw a 'Tizzy' myself.
3. The Lost Words by Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane
Stunning paintings and exquisite words that celebrate the magic of wild places, wild creatures, and wild childhoods.
4. Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian and illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik
For the child who loves the Tom Gates books by Liz Pichon, these are laugh-out-loud funny, with plenty of illustrations and a hero with a big imagination.
5. The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones
When I was eight, I read this book, and it made me realize how wonderful books could be, with wicked stepfathers, and chemicals that make you fly, and magic that feels true. A great book to read aloud even to the most wriggly of book-sceptics, all of my children loved this.
6. Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Many children struggle with reading fiction, so don't forget that non-fiction, graphic novels and cartoon books also 'count' as reading for the joy of it. Calvin and Hobbes is funny, imaginative, and uses great vocabulary.
7. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
It's impossible not to have an affection for books that your own child loved so much. My son adored these books, and immersive fantasy series like the world of Camp Half-Blood can really capture a child's imagination – not to mention, in this case, give them an impressive knowledge of Greek myths.
8. Holes by Louis Sachar
Stanley Yelnats is a young delinquent who is pointlessly digging holes at Camp Green Lake as punishment for a crime he did not commit. This is a tale of crime, redemption and how the past haunts the present, told with exquisite brevity, and with a satisfyingly clever and intricate plot. One of those books that I really wish I had written myself…
9. Where the River Runs Gold by Sita Brahmachari
A terrifying but beautiful story for older readers, about what might happen if we don't do something about climate change. A book that will make you thankful for the kindness of children.
10. One by Sarah Crossan
A wonderfully lyrical novel for teens about conjoined twins searching for their identities. Thought-provoking and engrossing, many reluctant readers will be drawn in by the touching plot and the sheer poetry of the telling of this tale.
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