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The History of Children’s Books

Monday 26th March 2018

We all good a love book, don’t we? As a child, one of the best parts of our day was being read a book by our parents, filled with magical stories that took us to some fantastic worlds.

As we get older our taste in books get a little more sophisticated, but we still have a special place in our hearts for the classics.

To celebrate the launch of our Gruffalo event, we’ve decided to take a look back at some of the classic children’s books we read as kids and how they’ve changed over the years.

Do you remember any of these?

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The Gruffalo (1999)

Author/Illustrator: Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

As we’ve got our Gruffalo event happening on 31st March, we thought we would start off by talking about this hugely popular book.

The Gruffalo follows the story of a mouse making his way through the woods and narrowly avoiding danger by mentioning he is off to see a Gruffalo (a grizzly creature that the mouse thought to be a myth). Little does he know that on his journey, he will encounter the creature he once thought to be a lie.

Released in 1999, the book has seen a huge amount of success, spawning a sequel, The Gruffalo’s Child in 2004 and was even made into 2 animated films in 2009 and 2011. The Gruffalo still remains a staple in most children’s book collection and rightly so.

Curious George (1941)

Author/Illustrator: Margret Rey and H. A. Rey

Now let’s take it way back to the 40’s.

When you hear the name Curious George, the adorable brown monkey automatically pops into your head. The story revolves around the orphan monkey protagonist named George and the adventures he shares with the Man with the Yellow Hat.

Since it’s release, we’ve seen George expand across all platforms, spanning 6 more original stories, multiple TV shows and even 3 feature length films. As you can see, Curious George is a well-loved classic and is still appealing to kids all over.

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Miffy (1955)

Author/Illustrator: Dick Bruna

Moving forward a couple of years brings us to Miffy, a small female rabbit who’s adventures see her going to the Zoo, at the Playground and even in Lolly Land.

Like Curious George, the appeal for the cute white bunny hasn’t slowed down and we’ve seen more of her in the form of multiple TV shows, an animated film and an impressive amount of sequel books (too many to mention). Do you think you have read them all?

The Cat in the Hat (1957)

Author/Illustrator: Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel)

We could have chosen any of Dr. Seuss’ classics for this list, but we’ve gone with our favourite.

The Cat in the Hat follows the story of a red and white striped hat-wearing cat who after meeting Sally and her brother, ends up wrecking their house while their mother is away. The book follows a very distinct style, with lots of rhymes and became a very important book for children to read back in the day.

Because of its success, a feature film was produced in 2003 with Mike Myers in the lead role. We’re starting to notice a theme here…

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Where The Wild Things Are (1963)

Author/Illustrator: Maurice Sendak

If you didn’t read Where The Wild Things Are as a child, you were missing out.

This fantastic story revolves around a young box called Max who (dressed in his wolf costume) creates chaos in his house, to the point where he is sent to bed without supper. This is when he encounters a group of strange creatures named the “Wild Things”.

The book went on to become a very influential subject, not only spawning TV and film adaptations, but being listed as the influence behind multiple works of music and art. A well loved classic indeed, and it still holds up today.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969)

Author/Illustrator: Eric Carle

It wouldn’t be a list of classic children’s book without The Very Hungry Caterpillar, would it?

As you can imagine, this is a tale that centres on a caterpillar that is very hungry, and manages to eat his way through a lot of food. The book has a distinct art-style and the book was apparently inspired by a hole punch.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar went on to achieve a lot of success and won multiple awards, and is fondly remembered by generations of people.

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Meg and Mog (1972)

Author/Illustrator: Helen Nicoll and Jan Piénkowski

Moving into the 70s, we have the beloved Meg and Mog series.

Spanning over 23 books, the stories revolve around a witch called Meg who’s spells always seem to blow up in her face and her trusted sidekick Mog (a stripy cat).

Meg and Mog remains a favourite among people growing up in the 70s and was made into an animated series in the early 00s, as well as a stage production in the 80s. Not bad for a children’s book.

Funnybones (1980)

Author/Illustrator: Janet & Allan Ahlberg

If you didn’t read these books, then you will probably have at least seen the TV show.

Funnybones was a collection of tales based around a Big skeleton, a Little skeleton and a Dog skeleton and their adventures together. This comedy collection brought many laughs to households back in the 80s, with its simple charm.

In 1992, the popular books were made into a TV show and featured that iconic opening theme. You know the one. In a dark, dark town…

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Wordy Birdy (2018)

Author/Illustrator: Tammi Sauer and Dave Mottram

We finish this list off with a very recently published book in Wordy Birdy.

Wordy Birdy is a hilarious story about a very chatty bird that as you can guess, never shuts up and very rarely listens to anyone. Being such a talkative bird means she is very easily distracted, and her friends Squirrel, Raccoon and Rabbit have to save Wordy from getting herself into trouble.

This book is a fantastic read for young kids and is a great example of some quality modern children’s writing.


These are only a couple of the many brilliant books that we’ve all enjoyed over the years. We would be here for ages trying to list all of the great ones, so we’ve just written about a few of the highlights and a brief overview of the history.

Have we missed off your favourite? Let us know!


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