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Hayao Miyazaki's Top 50 Children's Books

A Japanese artist recommends 50 essential titles that every kid (and grown-up) ought to know.

“Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself,” the Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, once remarked. Wise counsel, Shaw puts the pleasure of reading above the duty, especially with children and their first approach to books. In a similar sense, the man who changed the course of traditional animation, Hayao Miyazaki, recounts that for children in postwar Japan books became shelters from the sinister reality of the country. This is further proof of the transformative (and healing) capacity of literature.

Miyazaki’s work has fascinated children and adults for decades. It’s even the subject of formal studies examining the work’s artistic value and complex philosophy. Miyazaki’s work is open to literature in an obvious, even extraordinary way. It’s no coincidence that the artist is a great connoisseur of the universe of children’s literature and the titles that every child should know and love, first, to later fall in love with all of literature.

In 2010, Miyazaki selected his fifty favorite children’s books, as a tribute to the legendary Japanese publishing house, Iwanami Shoten. The list, abundant with solitary and orphaned children, and where animals speak (as they do also in his animated films) will charm both little ones and adults. It’s also a reminder that some of the most beautiful books written will fascinate readers of any age. What’s more, the collection of titles provides a glimpse into the purest, most admirable minds of all; those of children.

The works selected by Hayao Miyazaki

  1. The Borrowers — Mary Norton
  2. The Little Prince — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  3. Children of Noisy Village — Astrid Lindgren
  4. When Marnie Was There — Joan G. Robinson
  5. Swallows and Amazons — Arthur Ransome
  6. The Flying Classroom — Erich Kästner
  7. There Were Five of Us — Karel Poláček
  8. What the Neighbours Did, and Other Stories — Ann Philippa Pearce
  9. Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates — Mary Mapes Dodge
  10. The Secret Garden — Frances Hodgson Burnett
  11. Eagle of The Ninth — Rosemary Sutcliff
  12. The Treasure of the Nibelungs — Gustav Schalk
  13. The Three Musketeers — Alexandre Dumas, père
  14. A Wizard of Earthsea — Ursula K. Le Guin
  15. Les Princes du Vent — Michel-Aime Baudouy
  16. The Flambards Series — K. M. Peyton
  17. Souvenirs entomologiques — Jean Henri Fabre
  18. The Long Winter — Laura Ingalls Wilder
  19. A Norwegian Farm — Marie Hamsun
  20. Heidi — Johanna Spyri
  21. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer — Mark Twain
  22. Little Lord Fauntleroy — Frances Hodgson Burnett
  23. Tistou of the Green Thumbs — Maurice Druon
  24. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes — Arthur Conan Doyle
  25. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler — E. L. Konigsburg
  26. The Otterbury Incident — Cecil Day-Lewis
  27. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — Lewis Carroll
  28. The Little Bookroom — Eleanor Farjeon
  29. The Forest is Alive or Twelve Months — Samuil Yakovlevich Marshak
  30. The Restaurant of Many Orders — Kenji Miyazawa
  31. Winnie-the-Pooh — A. A. Milne
  32. Nihon Ryōiki — Kyokai
  33. Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio — Pu Songling
  34. Nine Fairy Tales: And One More Thrown in For Good Measure — Karel Čapek
  35. The Man Who Has Planted Welsh Onions — Kim So-un
  36. Robinson Crusoe — Daniel Defoe
  37. The Hobbit — J. R. R. Tolkien
  38. Journey to the West — Wu Cheng’en
  39. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea — Jules Verne
  40. The Adventures of the Little Onion — Gianni Rodari
  41. Treasure Island — Robert Louis Stevenson
  42. The Ship that Flew — Hilda Winifred Lewis
  43. The Wind in the Willows — Kenneth Grahame
  44. The Little Humpbacked Horse — Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov (Ershoff)
  45. The Little White Horse — Elizabeth Goudge
  46. The Rose and the Ring — William Makepeace Thackeray
  47. The Radium Woman — Eleanor Doorly
  48. City Neighbor, The Story of Jane Addams — Clara Ingram Judson
  49. Ivan the Fool — Leo Tolstoy
  50. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle — Hugh Lofting

*Image: pixabay / Public Domain

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