How books help families to bond

Published on: 28 March 2023

Reading is a wonderful way to bring people together. The Land of Roar, Stink, and  Dead Good Detectives author Jenny McLachlan shares how her family bonded over reading some fantastic books – and recommends some smashers!

 Illustration: Kip AlizadehIllustration: Kip Alizadeh

Before I had children, I imagined that bedtimes would be idyllic: a cosy hour involving a bath, snuggling up for stories, followed by two girls trotting off to bed and throwing a casual, ‘Love you, Mum!’ over their shoulder.

Here is the reality as I remember it:

Bedtime would kick off with a complex game of: Get Them Both Upstairs. Usually this involved our daughters doing a lot of going floppy, clinging to our legs, hiding, and, my personal favourite, grabbing hold of the banisters as we tried to carry them upstairs for the ultimate in cruel punishments … a warm bath full of bubbles.

But no matter how fraught getting ready for bed was, the moment we started reading calm would be restored. Sometimes I would just read loudly over the top of a complaint and, as if by magic, they would fall quiet and succumb to the story. And that included my husband.

It’s brilliant ending the day with something you all agree on. We were all united in our love for the Moomins, Mr Gum, The Hundred-Mile-an-Hour Dog and King Flashypants. Funny books were our favourites especially when read by my husband who, I am now big enough to admit, can do better voices than me.

I love hearing that families have enjoyed visiting The Land of Roar together, or solving the riddle at the heart of Dead Good Detectives, and I can’t wait to hear what they think of my new series, Stink. Often when I’m writing a book I find myself smiling as I imagine how much children will enjoy a particular scene or moment – it’s quite alarming if I catch sight of myself doing this in the computer screen. Who is that lady? Oh, it’s me, laughing at my own joke. Stink is the first book I have written and illustrated, and when I drew the pictures I didn’t just smile. I grinned like a naughty wizard.

I hope the sight of Danny’s best friend being swallowed by a troll and a fairy wearing grape slippers and a pastrami cloak make bedtimes a laugh-out-loud occasion. I hope that Stink becomes a happy book for families.

Here are some of the McLachlans’ all-time favourite bedtime books, with a few recommended by other families, just in case our taste as a family is warped.

The Hero’s Guide series by Christopher Healy

As big Princess Bride fans, my husband and I were instantly drawn to this very funny fantasy romp. And if you like a challenge with voices, the four princes at the heart of this story will keep you on your toes.

The You, Me and Thing series by Karen McCombie

My favourite type of fantasy: one that is hilarious and feels deliciously real to readers. Two friends discover Thing living in the trees and FUNNY THINGS HAPPEN. Can I just take this opportunity to say that Karen McCombie has written some of best children’s books going and I think it should be mentioned more often. This series is a joy for families to read together.

The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips

Illustration: Isabelle FollathIllustration: Isabelle Follath

OK, clearly I love fantasy, but luckily my daughters do too. We also really enjoy children’s books that have a dark twist to them. By the way, my husband’s Beast voice is the best.

Rules for Vampires by Alex Foulkes

Another deliciously dark gothic story that has a wonderful heroine. We found this very exciting to read together.

The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery

Illustration: David DeanIllustration: David Dean

This is a beautiful, classic adventure for your whole family to lose themselves in. Plus it has a badger in a waistcoat. Nice.

Finally, our all-time favourite bedtime story – drum roll, please – Richmal Crompton’s Just William books. Any of them. All the time. Again and again.

Stink! by Jenny McLachlan is out now.

Topics: Family, Features


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