Top Texts for February 2021

Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency shares some of her favourite books.

The Boy in the Dress

by David Walliams and Illustrated by Quentin Beake

The Boy In The Dress, David Walliams’ first book for children is a favourite of mine. It tells the story of Dennis Sims, a 12-year old boy who lives with his father and brother. The story is all about how Dennis discovers a new hobby he loves in cross-dressing, and the reactions of his family and friends. It’s a wonderful story about tolerance and self-acceptance, and Quentin Blake’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the story.

The book really captures that wonderful childhood experience of not being able to close the pages and put the book down. I read it with my daughter when it first came out and have recently read it again and loved it even more with my seven-year-old son. It’s everything reading should be about, and I loved seeing the words come alive off the page in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s’ production – I was very lucky to be invited to the opening night in Stratford Upon Avon last year.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

by CS Lewis

CS Lewis’ classic story of four siblings―Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie―who are sent to a country house during the WWII bombings, and discover the magical land of Narnia when they step through a wardrobe door. The land is frozen in an eternal winter, and at the mercy of the evil White Witch – and so they unite with Aslan the Great Lion to fight the witch and bring hope back to Narnia.

This is a book I return to often. In this particularly challenging time, I think there is an enormous comfort to be taken from revisiting classics. When reading to young children, I think turning to old favourites can really help to pass on a love and enthusiasm for reading – if children can sense your enthusiasm for a story, I think they often respond very positively.

Where's Lenny?

by Ken Wilson-Max

This is a wonderful first picture book for children, written and illustrated by the award-winning Ken Wilson-Max, in which Lenny plays hide and seek with his dad.

The book is included in our official Winter Mini Challenge booklist. This year, we partnered with the wonderful publisher Knights Of for the challenge and worked with them on this list of recommendations. The theme of the Challenge this year is Everyone Is A Hero – and the list reflects this theme of inclusivity. Representation in children’s books is a hugely important factor in helping to foster a love of reading, and it’s never too early to start introducing children to books featuring a diverse range of characters. I have bought Where’s Lenny as a gift lots of times over recent months – it’s such a fantastic gift to share.

Karen Napier

About this month's reviewer

Karen Napier is the CEO of national charity The Reading Agency and also has non-executive roles on the Board of Kiln Theatre and Mousetrap Productions. She is currently completing her Master’s degree in Philanthropic Studies at Canterbury, University of Kent and her research subject is Philanthropy in Contemporary Musical Theatre. She is a mum to two children aged 15 and 9.