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Oliver Nicholas jogs his memory and looks back with a chuckle at some classics that got him started and that he believes are still as good today for his kids as they were when he was little

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

A classic tale of magic realist proportions as Sophie opens the front door to find a tiger sitting on the step. A bizarre comedy ensues as the uninvited guest sits down for tea, drinking from the kitchen tap and polishing off all the food in the fridge. Sophie’s reaction, as if it was the most normal thing to ever happen is understated to say the least. Perfect for reading together out loud and for younger children to read to themselves over and over.

The Velveteen Rabbit by William Nicholson and Margery Williams

“When a child loves you for a long time... then you become Real,” the wise old Skin Horse explains to the Velveteen Rabbit in the little boy’s nursery. The rabbit is not the ‘best’ toy in the boy’s collection or the most interesting. The Skin Horse teaches the Rabbit that, it isn’t in the flashy paint and moving parts that true love grows. True love makes one real. “It doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.” This is one of my favourite stories of all time, and always makes me cry.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Lying awake during a summer break at his aunt’s house, Tom hears the clock in the hall strike every hour. Eleven... Twelve... Thirteen! During this special hour, Tom discovers a beautiful garden with other children in it. Pearce’s story telling is haunting and sends a shiver down your spine. You will never be able to hear the clock striking twelve again without the vague hope of being able to open the door and escape into a magical otherworld.

George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

George’s Marvellous Medicine is rude, it’s funny and it’s got bottoms in it. This is probably the reason that it was the only book I read from the age of 6 to 9! Dahl knows what makes children tick and giggle naughtily: made–up words, revolting old people and dastardly plans to get back at grown ups, especially grandmas. George’s terrible plan to give his grandma her just deserts is terrifyingly calculated and ingenious.

For a serious dose of Roald Dahl and a day out, visit the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre where you are given a Story Ideas Book to write your thoughts down, can dress up in Mr Twit beards, and learn about the man behind the books. The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, 81–83 Great Missenden, Bucks,, open 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday, closed Saturday and Monday – 01494 892192.

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