My favourite children’s books set in the North

Published on: 21 March 2018 Author: Ross Welford

Author Ross Welford was born in Tyneside and uses the setting for his popular children's books. But what other books out there celebrate the best of northern England? 

'Top books set in the North, for children!' I said breezily, imagining that mine (all set on the north-east coast around Tynemouth) were part of a rich tradition.

And then I looked, and there are… Well, not that many after all.

So, here are some of my favourite books for children set in the north of England. (I have included Yorkshire, but as a Tynesider myself, I consider Yorkshire to be down south, really.)

Best books in the North

1. The Season Ticket by Jonathan Tulloch

My favourite Geordie book is the adventure of teenage Gerry and his astoundingly thick sidekick, Sewell, as they try to gather the cash for a season ticket to their beloved Newcastle United. It was made into a film called Purely Belter which wasn’t bad, but the book’s better. Set in pre-regeneration 1990s Gateshead, the book follows a noble literary tradition of insisting that it’s Grim Oop North, but has a load of Geordie charm and wit as well.

2. Skellig and My Name Is Mina by David Almond

Beautiful and strange, these stories take place somewhere that is recognisably northern, mainly from the way the characters speak. They both scooped armfuls of awards, propelling Newcastle-born Almond into the ranks of Important Authors.

Read our book review of Skellig

Read our book review of My Name is Mina

3. A Kingdom By The Sea by Robert Westall

A touching story of a boy and a dog on the run during World War Two. Northumberland and the north-east coast play a big part in Westall’s books (see also The Machine Gunners and others), but this is my favourite.

4. The Nipper by Catherine Cookson

A sort of Poldark-meets-Black Beauty, set in a north-eastern mining town (natch), this is one of ten Cookson children’s books that are mainly out of print now. It wouldn’t be Catherine Cookson if it weren’t Grim Oop North, but compared with most of her books for adults, it’s dialled down quite a bit.

5. The Railway Children by E Nesbitt.

I have never thought that The Railway Children felt especially “northern”, perhaps because most of the cast of the classic 1970 film have plummy accents. (They are, of course, London children, who move to Yorkshire where the adventures take place.) The pre-World War one political overtones of the book are mostly lost now. Grimness is non-existent, replaced with gorgeous scenery and human kindness.

Read our book review of The Railway Children

What's YOUR favourite children's book set in the North? What have we missed? Let us know @BookTrust on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Ross Welford is also on Twitter @rosswelford.

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