The top 10 children's books of the 1990s
Published on: 23 April 2023
It was the decade of Sunny Delight, Oshkosh dungarees, the Spice Girls and five TV channels… but the 90s also gave us some of the children’s books that we’ve cherished right through to adulthood, and are beginning to share with younger generations again. Here are some of our favourites...
So Much by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury, 1994
Illustration: Helen Oxenbury
This gorgeously simple picture book is told from the point of view of a little baby who is loved by his whole family. Mummy and Baby are at home when the doorbell goes - and over the course of one busy day, his aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and finally Daddy all come to see him! Some of them want to squeeze him, some want to kiss him, some want to eat him up - but they all love him SO MUCH! Little ones love having this timeless story read aloud to them - and everybody will want to join in with the dancing at the end.
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister (translated by J. Alison James), 1992
Illustration: Marcus Pfister
A staple of many a primary school classroom, this sweet tale about a beautiful fish with sparkling scales is every bit as important as it is lovingly illustrated. The handsome rainbow fish learns to overcome his vanity to share his rainbow scales with all his friends, and 31 years on is still teaching little ones the value of kindness and sharing.
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson, 1992
Illustration: Patrick Benson
Do you remember waking up in the middle of the night as a child and wanting your mum or dad? This lovely comforting story is perfect for those nervous sleepers. Three little owl babies – Sarah, Percy, and Bill – are all snuggled up together in the tree where they live with their mummy, but wake up one night to find that she’s not there! They wonder where she could be – but of course, she always comes home to give them a big cuddle.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, 1999
Illustration: Axel Scheffler
Now an international bestseller with countless sequels, a TV series and even a stage play, Julia Donaldson’s classic about a mouse that outwits all kinds of big fearsome predators on his walk through the woods is irresistible to read aloud.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch, 1991
Illustration: Caroline Binch
Grace loves playing make-believe and performing for her family and friends, so when the school play is announced – Peter Pan – she’s determined to get the lead role. But other children in her class tell her she shouldn’t audition because she’s Black and a girl, and all the books and movies say that Peter Pan is a white boy. Grace chooses to follow her dreams anyway, and with the support of her Ma and Nana, knows she can do anything she puts her mind to. And as it turns out - Grace really is amazing!
For more confident readers
Skellig by David Almond, 1998
David Almond’s haunting story stays with readers for years after they’ve finished it. Ten year old Michael and his family have moved to a new house just as his baby sister is born early, and with a dangerous heart condition. Exploring his new home one day, Michael comes across a strange, emaciated creature in his shed, who seems to be part human and part owl. Does Michael’s mysterious new acquaintance hold the key to his little sister’s survival?
Goosebumps: Night of the Living Dummy by R. L. Stine, 1993
Illustrator: Tim Jacobus
It’s hard to pick a favourite from R.L. Stine’s staggering collection of 235 Goosebumps books, but the classic children's horror of the 90s has to be Night of the Living Dummy. Two friends find a creepy ventriloquist dummy abandoned in a dumpster and decide to play with him. But before long, the girls are turning against each other, the dummy begins saying horrible things... and it’s not certain who’s controlling who. A firm lesson to leave spooky dolls in the bin where they belong.
Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, 1999
If you read one of the incredibly embarrassing adventures of Georgia Nicolson and her Fab Gang, chances are you later found yourself collecting the full set, crying with laughter at Georgia’s monstrous moggy Angus, her burgeoning lust for Masimo the Italian Stallion, and the phrase ‘nunga-nungas’. Written by the hilarious Louise Rennison, who sadly passed away in 2016, these have paved the way for dozens of fictional teenage diaries since – but for the original and the best, you can’t beat the first book in the series.
Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt, 1995
Illustration: Nick Sharratt
How do you pick just one Jacqueline Wilson novel? Double Act has it all, in our opinion. Ruby and Garnet are identical twin sisters who are best friends, though they couldn’t be more different – Ruby is loud, tough, and determined, whilst Garnet is shy and quiet. But a new school, a new life, and new friends threaten their relationship. This is the book that made everyone wish they had a twin, whilst reminding us it was important to always be ourselves.
Pig-Heart Boy by Malorie Blackman, 1997
Cam is a teenage boy who dreams of a normal life, but he’s in desperate need of a heart transplant – and after two human donors don’t work out, he’s faced with the controversial option of having experimental surgery to transplant a pig’s heart into his body. Determined to see his next birthday, he agrees and is sworn to secrecy by the surgeon and his family. But when his secret gets out, he finds that his last hope for life has turned many people against him. A powerful story about loyalty, friendship, and looking inwards at our own biases.
Those are our favourites... but what are yours? Let us know which 90s books you love by tweeting us @BookTrust.
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