Play Hard

Our favourite children’s books, old and new

With some of our own childhood favourites, young adult fiction and some newly released books, these picks will help keep the young ones in your home occupied during lockdown (for 20mins at least...)

Written by High Life North
Published 06.05.2020

By Christopher Kingston

Not Now, Bernard by David McKee 

A classic from 1980 and just as good now as it was then. After finding a monster in his back garden, Bernard tries to alert his mum and dad who are just too busy to care. The moral of this story is still relevant, reminding us to put down the technology and be present.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Cardle 

A personal favourite, The Very Hungry Caterpillar nibbles his way through page after page of holes, including one juicy apple, two pears and three plums, before becoming a beautiful butterfly.         

Where’s Spot by Eric Hill 

This is Spot’s first adventure – lift the flaps and see where spot is hiding with simple text and colourful pictures that will engage a whole new host of pre-readers. First published in 1980, this is another classic that’s not to be missed.

There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Pam Adams 

An illustrated version of the classic folk song in which the solution proves worse than the predicament when an old lady swallows a fly. Perfect for younger readers, you’ll find yourself humming the tune over and over again in your head for the rest of the day – we’re sorry in advance.

The Tiger who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr 

If your little ones enjoyed the recent animated adaptation that aired on Channel 4 over Christmas, then why not read them the original book about a very hungry tiger who comes to eat all the food that Sophie and her mum made for tea. with striking pictures this simple story never wears thin.  

The Snail and the Whale (15th Anniversary Edition) by Julia Donaldson 

Another animated adaptation which aired over Christmas, with Sally Hawkins voicing the snail and Rob Brydon voicing the whale. This magical book by Julia Donaldson is just as good, following the adventures of a snail who forms an unlikely friendship with a whale. As they go on a journey, the snail begins to feel so small in the vastness of the world. A must-read for Julia Donaldson fans

The Enormous Crocodile – Roald Dahl 

The Enormous Crocodile is a greedy brute who loves to guzzle up little girls and boys, but the other animals have a scheme to get the better of this foul fiend, once and for all. Roald Dahl wrote some of the all-time greatest books for children, with his trade-mark humour and fantastic writing. You could even give the audio books a listen, read by Steven Fry.   

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt has been turned into another Channel 4 animation. Join a family’s adventure as they go on a bear hunt, and find a surprise waiting for them in a cave on the other side of the dark forest. Beautifully written with stunning pictures, this a modern classic. 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Creating a new experience, The Invention of Hugo Cabret uses elements of picture books, graphic novels and film to tell the story. Hugo is an orphan and thief who lives in the walls of a Paris train station. But when he meets a girl and her grandfather things start to change for him. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this spellbinding mystery. It was also turned into a movie starring Ben Kingsley and directed by Martin Scorsese in his first film for children – well worth well worth seeing.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls is another modern classic, following Connor as he wakes up from a nightmare and hears a voice calling for him. The voice belongs to what looks to be a human tree and tells Connor three stories. This book is a raw exploration of grief and fear – we highly recommended picking up the edition with Jim Kay’s beautiful illustrations. Another that’s been turned into a fantastic movie, starring none other than Liam Neeson as the monster.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff 

Daisy is sent from New York to live in England with her four cousins and falls in love with Edmond. When war breaks out, she is forced to use skills she never knew she had to survive. Saoirse Ronan stars in the film adaptation that is well worth a watch.

Viper’s Daughter (Wolf Brother series) by Michelle Paver 

The seventh book in the Wolf Brother series, set in a stone age world of demons, following Torak and Renn who have been living in the forest with faithful pack-brother, Wolf. When Renn goes missing Torak and Wolf must go on an exhilarating adventure to find her and face a new evil one they have never encountered before. 

Nightshade (Alex Rider series) by Anthony Horowitz

Get ready for action, adrenaline and adventure in this explosive brand new Alex Rider mission by bestselling author, Anthony Horowitz. In this adrenaline-fueled adventure in the number one bestselling series, Alex Rider is sent by MI6 Special Operations to infiltrate a new and sinister organization known only as Nightshade. Alex is on his own, with the fate of thousands of people resting in his hands.


Robin Hood: Hacking, Heists and Flaming Arrows by Robert Muchamore 

You can’t go far without a quick brain and some rule-bending in a place like Locksley. After its vast car plant shuts down, the prosperous town has become a wasteland of empty homes, toxic land and families on the brink. It doesn’t help that the authorities are in the clutches of profit-obsessed Sheriff of Nottingham, in cahoots with underworld boss Guy Gisborne. A modern and updated version of the classic Robin Hood legend.


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