Top 10 Modern Classics to Read Before You’re 10

By Jessica Boyall

Last week Mary Sebag-Montefiore listed her Top 10 classics to read before you’re ten, and it was a fantastic line-up or all-time favourites, ranging from Peter Rabbit to Alice in Wonderland. It set us wondering which more recent books will stand the test of time. Do Harry Potter, Tracy Beaker and Matilda deserve to enter the hall of fame? So following in Mary’s footsteps we’ve chosen 10 books that tell thrilling stories of magical adventures and exciting tales of young heroes and heroines. 

The Gruffaloby Julia Donaldson

A quick-witted little mouse journeying through dark woodland encounters all sorts of creatures, including the infamous Gruffalo. Despite the Gruffalo’s scary reputation, the mouse soon finds that he isn’t such a monster after all! The tale encourages us to face our fears and realise that even the most petrifying of creatures might not be as terrible as first we thought. Now translated into over fifty languages and made into both a film and a play the Gruffalo is surely a modern classic! 

A Bear called Paddingtonby Michael Bond 

Michael Bond’s A Bear called Paddington may seem a little old to be in this list but given Paddington’s story was made into a film last Christmas it seems fair to include Paddington as a modern(ish) classics. Bond’s marmalade-loving, welly boot wearing Paddington Bear is always positive, polite and quietly confident. A classic role model for us all! 

Charlotte’s Webbby EB White 

Charlotte’s Webb is a tale of an unlikely friendship between a kindly pig, Wilbur and a resourceful spider, Charlotte. When Wilbur’s life is threatened the pair come up with an ingenious plan to save him! Charlotte’s Webb, full of emotional twists and turns, will leave even the most robust of readers a little tearful! Voted the greatest children’s’ book of all time in the BBC’s culture poll earlier this year, we think Charlotte’s Webb must get a look in as one of the top 10 modern classics to be read before you’re 10!

Matildaby Roald Dahl

It was a difficult job deciding which of Roald Dahl’s classics to include in this list. We finally arrived at Matilda because of the character Matilda herself! Unwilling to be brought down by her cruel headmistress and boring parents Matilda, using a little bit of magic and a lot of imagination, defies expectations by excelling in school and outwitting her enemies! She is the perfect classic heroine! 

Harry Potter and The Philosopher Stoneby JK Rowling 

A list of modern classics would surely be incomplete without touching upon J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series! Having engaged generations of young readers in her all-consuming fantastical world of wizardry J.K. Rowling’s sheer success secures Harry Potter’s place in the top 10 modern classics. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone seems the best start for under 10s exciting induction into Rowling’s epic series. But beware once you start reading you won’t be able to stop!

Journey to the River Seaby Eva Ibbotson

Orphaned Maia sets off to join her distant family in the Amazon, hopeful that her new life will be filled with exciting adventures. But when she arrives she is utterly disappointed by her cruel cousins and their spoilt children! Never one to be defeated, she befriends a fellow orphan with whom she explores the exotic world around her. Ibbotson’s story is beautifully descriptive and has a classic positive message: adversity need not stand in the way of happiness!

Tracey Beakerby Jacqueline Wilson 

So far our list has been packed with magic and adventure! Tracey’s situation is a bit more down to earth. Unable to vanquish her problems with spells or retreat to the other side of the world Tracey turns to her imagination to escape her problems, writing in her diary about the adventures she and her friends and family embark upon. Tracey is feisty, rebellious and hilarious - a fantastically modern heroine! 

Kensuke's kingdomby Michael Morpurgo 

This thrilling adventure tale follows 11-year-old Michael who, having been thrown from his parents’ boat, drifts ashore accompanied only by his dog Stella. In the midst of despair Michael discovers he is not alone on the island and the story explores the touching relationship that develops between Michael and Kensuke. Loads of Morpurgo’s novels could be on this list but we think there’s something extra-special about the magical Kensuke’s Kingdom.

Goodnight Mr Tomby Michelle Magorian 

Evacuee Willie Beech escapes the horrors of wartime London to find himself in the care of widower Mr Tom. Gradually he begins to enjoy his new country life under the care of widower Mister Tom. With its heart-wrenching twist it’s definitely not for younger readers but is a timeless novel about the woes of war. 

Inkheartby Cornelia Funke 

This is a book about the power of books! It tells the tale of Meggie and her father Mo who, by reading aloud, is magically able to transport characters from his favorite books into the real world! But Mo’s talent seems to have devastating side effects! Read it if you dare! 

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