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Storytime Surprises: Sophie Kinsella’s Favorite Books to Read as a Family

by Sophie Kinsella

sophie-kinsellas-favorite-family-reads
Photo credit: John Swannell

Reading to my children is one of the greatest pleasures I know. As adults, we instinctively love to surprise a baby by peeking out from behind our hands. Well, what is a story if not a series of surprises? All five of my children spent much of their babyhoods sitting on my knee, turning pages, lifting flaps, and learning the greatest question of all time: What happens next?

Here are some of my family’s most beloved books for storytime.

  • Spot Series

    by Eric Hill

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    We loved the Spot books by Eric Hill for their clever cutouts and flaps. Even now, as a family, we love ingenious pop-up books such as Robert Sabuda’s fantastic The Night Before Christmas. For us, no Christmas Eve is complete without a member of the family reading this iconic poem aloud.

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  • The Gruffalo

    by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler

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    Children love rhyme and rhythm and adore hearing the same book over and over again. This can make your heart sink ... but there are wonderful books that I’ve recited hundreds of times and would happily do so again. The Gruffalo deserves its designation as a classic. I’ve declaimed, “Oh help! Oh no! It’s a Gruffalo!” about a thousand times, but I like to think I bring something different to the performance each time.

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  • The Book with No Pictures

    by B.J. Novak

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    My children are aged between 21 and six, so a lot of the books we read are classics which have been passed down through the family. But I must mention a relative newcomer: The Book with No Pictures by B. J. Novak. I defy anyone to read this book aloud to a child and not have fun. It’s witty and subversive and has become a family favorite.

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  • The Paper Dolls

    by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

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    Fiction is an opportunity to discuss issues like bullying, friendship, and so on in a neutral way. When we suffered a family bereavement recently, I was able to refer to The Paper Dolls, in which a little girl’s memory is a place where all sorts of things live — from paper dolls to beloved grandparents.

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  • Five Children and It

    by E. Nesbit

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    As the children get older, I find that reading to them becomes a combination of sharing the books that I love and discovering new books together. As a lover of the authors Enid Blyton and Edith Nesbit, I’ve loved reading aloud some of their classics, such as The Folk of the Faraway Tree and Five Children and It.

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  • Lionboy Trilogy

    by Zizou Corder

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    I also remember the huge joy I shared with my older children when we read the brilliant Lionboy trilogy by Zizou Corder. It is so exciting and imaginative, we couldn’t wait for each installment.

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  • Harry Potter Series

    by J. K. Rowling

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    Fiction brings my children closer, despite the disparity in their ages. The older children have so enjoyed watching the younger ones discover Harry Potter for the first time. It’s like entering a club where you learn new vocabulary, rules, and traditions. The children discuss the books among themselves, exchange ideas and compare favorite parts, and it’s wonderful to hear their enthusiasm. (Thank you, J. K. Rowling!)

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  • And Then There Were None

    by Agatha Christie

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    Reading aloud is not a pleasure I give up in a hurry. Even when children are able to read independently, I think there’s huge value and reward in reading to them. I’m currently reading And Then There Were None to my 12-year-old son. It’s a real treat for both of us. After every chapter, my son has a new theory as to who the culprit is, whilst I, sphinxlike, am giving nothing away!

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  • Fairy Mom and Me

    by Sophie Kinsella, illustrated by Marta Kissi

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    As well as reading aloud at bedtime, my family has a tradition of inventing stories. I was lucky enough to grow up with a mother who made up stories every night. Sometimes they turned into long-running serials, with characters I still remember today. I myself recently invented a character for my younger children: a little girl whose mother turns into a fairy but isn’t very good at magic. To their delight — and mine — it is now a proper published book called Fairy Mom and Me. I feel so lucky to have had that start in life, and to be giving the same sort of start to my children today.

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Sophie Kinsella is the author of the bestselling Shopaholic series, as well as the novels My Not So Perfect LifeCan You Keep a Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your NumberWedding NightSurprise Me, and the YA novel Finding Audrey. She lives in England. Visit her website at sophiekinsella.co.uk or find her on Instagram @sophiekinsellawriter and Twitter @KinsellaSophie.