Barnes Bookshelf

We asked Barnes residents to tell us about their favourite childhood read.

  • Ade Edmondson
    Comedian, Actor, Writer, Musician, TV Presenter & Director

    I think I was about nine when I read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It was the first time I’d encountered wordplay. It’s full of brilliant puns and linguistic tricks, and a very funny, very short, and very cross policeman called Officer Shrift.

  • Andrew Wilson
    Photographer & Publisher

    One of my favourite children’s books you, and many people, may never have heard of is called The Little Grey Men by BB, the nom de plume of Denys Watkins-Pitchford. I have always had a love of nature and wide open spaces and this book is about the last gnomes left in Britain and their search down…

  • Rev’d Richard Sewell
    Barnes Team Rector

    I was sent away to boarding school at a young age so I had more time for reading that I really wished for. Thankfully, it taught me a love of reading which has stayed with me for my whole life. One of the first books which I enjoyed was the Jennings Series. The author, Anthony…

  • Clara Salaman
    Actor & Author

    As a child I was obsessed with the Tintin books. I devoured them all – I loved the plots and the dashing destinations although I found Tintin himself a bit priggish with his pulled up socks and his moral outrage.However Captain Haddock more than made up for him. I thought I was an unparalleled genius…

  • Lisa O’Kelly
    Literary Editor, The Observer

    I adored Enid Blyton as a child and devoured all her Famous Five and Secret Seven books when I was very young. Agatha Christie’s mysteries were a huge favourite in my early teens, too. But if I had to name the book I treasured most when I was growing up I would say Little Women…

  • Barbara Laban

    Funny enough, for someone growing up in Germany it is most common to name the Swedish Astrid Lindgren as your favourite children’s book author. I am no exception. Week after week I couldn’t wait to go to the library to take out another one of her books and follow the adventures of her incredibly independent…

  • Peter Bowles
    Actor & Author

    I learned to read very young when I was three at our little village school. I grew up in a home that didn’t have any books but when I went to my Grandfather’s I would read The Pilgrim’s Progress and Brer Rabbit and the Uncle Remus stories; the Tar-Baby is the one that I remember. My Grandfather…

  • Isla Blair

    Favourites were The Railway Children and The Secret Garden but the book I related to most was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I too, was born in India like it’s heroine Sarah, and I was sent away to boarding school when I was aged  six with long gaps when I didn’t see my…

  • Charley Boorman

    My favourite children’s author would be that famous Irish storyteller, Eoin Colfer. His Artemis Fowl books are just fantastic. I love all the magic that is wrapped up with that lovely Irish mystery and humour, with leprechauns and fairies as well as cool technology. You have to read them!

  • Claire Boyling
    Chair, Barnes Literary Society

    I loved reading: under the bed covers with a torch, inside the linen cupboard, on my grandmother’s rather large window ledge. Anywhere I could get a bit of peace and quiet in fact. Favourites included all the Secret Seven books, Moonfleet, the Narnia titles and a series of books about children having adventures in the…

  • Gyles Brandreth
    Writer & Broadcaster

    I was brought up in London and my first school was the French Lycée in South Kensington, so the first books I remember reading were the adventures of Barbar the Elephant and The Adventures of Tintin. I loved the illustrations as much as the words. I loved the works of Enid Blyton, too. Noddy was…

  • Caroline Clough

    My favourite children’s book without a shadow of a doubt is Jill’s Gymkhana by Ruby Ferguson. I have a very old copy which I got with my pocket money from a jumble sale as a little girl. After reading the book about Jill and her pony, Black Boy, I became so inspired that I saved up…

  • Irene Cockcroft
    Local Historian & Author

    Having been born in semi-rural Australia in war-time I was deprived of books. This did not affect the development of my natural love of books and language. My father taught me to read by reading aloud the Ginger Megs newspaper comic strip whilst I followed the printed ‘word bubbles’. The one book that lucky children got for…

  • Samuel Cullis
    Director, Barnes Film Academy

    I was introduced to the crime fiction author Elmore Leonard in my late teens at around the same time that I discovered Quentin Tarantino as a film director. Leonard’s huge influence on Tarantinois evident in all of his films. From the first page of Freaky Deaky the writer captivated me with the way that he described characters…

  • Anja de Jager

    My favourite childhood book is Crusade in Jeans which I first read when I was  eight or nine. It’s a very famous Dutch children’s book written by Thea Beckman about a modern-day boy who gets throw back in time and lands in the middle of the children’s crusade of 1212 when thousands of children travelled across Europe…

  • Sophie Farrah

    It has always been about magical worlds and epic adventures for me; Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were firm favourites when I was growing up. I also loved The Wardstone Chronicles by Joseph Delaney. I was 11 when the first Harry Potter book came out and I was hooked immediately! JK Rowling has created such…

  • Sarah Govett

    My favourite book as a teenager was The Crysalids by John Wyndham – dystopia before they were using the term. I read it aged 12, 14, 16 and 26. It’s a powerful and unsettling coming of age story set in a post-nuclear community where intolerance and religious conservatism reign. Difference, in the form of genetic…

  • David Harsent

    It’s almost true to say that my favourite book, as a child, was any book I could manage to lay hands on. I read all the time. My parents claimed that I read in my sleep.

  • Mary Hooper

    I was born and brought up in Barnes and several of my YA historical books are set here. My At the House of the Magician trilogy (Bloomsbury) begins in Mortlake at the home of Dr Dee. I’ve always loved reading historical and slightly spooky books, but my all-time favourite read would definitely be one of…

  • Melissa Jones

    For me, it’s Flambards by KM Peyton.  Girlhood, horses and the English countryside, first love and the birth of the aeroplane set on the brink of the First World War. The most beautiful writing and compelling story. Horses with names such as Sweetbriar and Woodpigeon are still with me.

  • David Mackintosh

    The best book I read and re-read as a child was Grimble by Clement Freud. It is very humorous plus it has a lot of recipes in it. I think it must have been the first of its kind. But my favourite part is the bit where Grimble starts delivering toast door to door. It’s…

  • Smriti Pasadam
    Halls, Author

    I read all the time as a child and had a different favourite book every week, but if I had to pick just one particularly special book then I’d sayThe Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. To this day I can remember being read that story and I love it as much as an adult as…

  • Sir Tim Rice
    Lyricist and Author

    My favourite childhood book was Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School, or any of the Bunter books by Frank Richards. The Billy Bunter books were wonderfully funny tales of a fat schoolboy and his pals. There was a marvellous cast of both teachers and pupils, and although the principal character had virtually no redeeming qualities, he…

  • Lisa Ross
    Centre Manager, OSO Community Arts Centre

    I grew up in Barnes and now I live here with my family. All of my four kids loved The Gruffalo, which was published when my first child was born in 1999. We loved how cunning the mouse was on his journey through the forest meeting various animals who all wanted to eat him. He would…

  • Fiona Smith Patron
    Barnes Literary Society

    As an avid reader from an early age I liked to re-read well loved books and a few well thumbed children’s stories remained in the loft when I cleared the family home. The best loved was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women which I knew almost by heart. Two others that are still on my bookshelf and…

  • Jim Smith

    My favourite book when I was a kid was Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine. I completely used up my mum’s stock of Oil of Ulay trying to replicate his potion! I also loved The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. The descriptions were so real to me, I can still hear the leaves of the trees…

  • Daisy Waugh
    Journalist & Author

    My favourite childhood book is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- it may even be my favourite adult book, too. I still read it when I am feeling ill or generally in need of a fillip. As a child I used to hate reading about nature – or the weather – and always skipped…

  • Marcia Williams

    When I was a child I loved being read aloud to as well as reading to myself. My mother would sometimes read to us at teatime, but best of all was being read to when you were cosy and under the covers at night. I remember weeping buckets over Black Beauty and Uncle Tom’s Cabin,…