As a young Parisienne, I would dream of floating across the Channel to London’s rooftops in the company of a sooty Bert and his Mary Poppins. Pan and Tinker Bell would whisk me over to Big Ben in the blink of a sleepy eye, and for breakfast, I would make marmalade sandwiches with Paddington Bear. These days, I am sure kids all over the world dream of London, probably in the company of Harry and his spellbinding witches and wizards. So, here’s a taster of some smashingly good children’s books set in London, to be read with a good marmalade sandwich and washed down with a tankard of cold Butterbeer, of course.
The Ruby in the Smoke
A Victorian whodunnit set in London’s murky underworld, our heroine is 16 year-old Sally Lockhart who goes searching for clues to her father’s death. The Dickensian-style story takes us on a journey down London’s shadowy alleyways, its seedy boarding-houses and smoky opium dens. Recommended Age: 12+ years
My name is Victoria, by Lucy Worsley
This right royal adventure is written by Lucy Worsley, TV presenter and chief curator at the Historic Royal Palaces. It tells the story of a young girl, Miss V Conroy, who is sent to Kensington Palace to act as a playmate for 11-year-old Princess Victoria. Little does she know she is being groomed by her father to spy on the future Queen. Recommended Age: 9+ years
— Lucy Worsley (@Lucy_Worsley) November 11, 2017
The London Eye Mystery, by Siobhan Dowd
Siblings Ted and Kat watch their cousin Salim board the London Eye, but when it lands half an hour later, he is nowhere to be found. The police have no luck in finding Salim, so Ted and Kat launch their own investigation into what happened to their cousin, following a list of clues all over the city. Recommended Age: 9-11 years
A Little Princess
One of my favourite of all the children’s novels set in London, this is a tale of the girl from riches to rags. The classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a must-read for all girls (of all ages). The book started its fictional life as a short story and then a play called A Little Un-fairy Princess. The princess in question sets sail from India with her wealthy father to one of London’s most prestigious boarding schools, only to become a destitute orphan. If you thought Cinderella’s step-sisters were a piece of work, they’re a actually a piece of cake next to Miss Minchin.
The Painted Dragon, by Katherine Woodfine
Edwardian London. A priceless painting, on loan to the Sinclair department store from His Majesty the King, is stolen. Sleuthing duo Sophie and Lil set out to uncover whodunit. This fast-paced historical novel is perfect for lovers of art. Keep any eye out for Woodfine’s newest spy thriller, Peril in Paris, coming out this August and set in another favourite capital city. Recommended Age: 9-12 years
Royal Rabbits of London by Santa and Simon Sebag Montefiore
In Royal Rabbits of London, Shylo Tawny-Tail is a country rabbit who stumbles across the diabolical ratzis and overhears their evil plan to photograph the Queen in her nightie. In this fantastical adventure, Shylo sets off to London to enlist the help of the Royal Rabbits of London who live in a warren under Buckingham Palace. Together, they must save the Queen from this dastardly plot. In the second instalment of these royally-appointed bunnies, the Ratzis are now plotting against the President of the United States during his visit to London. (Hmmm, I might have to side with the Ratzis on this latest one!) Recommended Age: 7+ years
The Queen’s Hat
A sudden gust of wind sets off a marvellous London adventure for the Queen, the Queen’s men and one very special hat. Follow a determined, daredevil queen through the zoo, over Tower Bridge and up Big Ben… just where will that hat land? Recommended Age: 3-6 years.
The Montgomery Murders
The first in the London Murder Mysteries series, it’s set in Victorian London with its gangs taking centre stage. A rich man is murdered, and one of the gang members, the cunning and fast-thinking Alfie, is asked to step in and help the police. Recommended Age: 9-11 years
Peppa Goes to London
Peppa finally makes it to London! Oink your way around London with the Queen who takes Peppa and her friends on a magical bus tour of London. Recommended Age: 3-5 years
But no one does it better
Are there any Dickens books not set in London? OK, there are some but as we all know, London was Dickens’s favourite backdrop, the greatest character of them all. A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities and Little Dorrit should all be on every child’s list. Sadly, it’s increasingly hard to get the young ones to engage with Dickens: schools seem to encourage contemporary reads instead of the old masters. And, I do confess to getting very vexed about this!
One for the Parents
It’s not set in London as such, but it’s a literary cookbook. It’s stuffed full of essential recipes such as Paddington’s Marmalade, Pooh Bear’s Hunny and Rosemary cakes, Soup and Muffins from A Little Princess, and Treacle Tart and Rosemary Ice Cream from Harry Potter. And best of all, it has the seed cake recipe from The Hobbit. Look out for seed cake in the next post coming out this week on Afternoon Tea at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Heaven…
This is an update of a post on London books for children that I wrote for Time Out in 2017. Feature image from The Queen’s Hat.
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