Quick Poll: Which children’s book author had/has the most influence over your imagination?

by |September 9, 2011

I would have to say that Roald Dahl had the greatest influence over my imagination as a kid. I don’t know whether I was already kinda screwy before I read Dahl but I certainly was after. Dahl’s unique (odd) view of the world had a great impact on me, as it has had on millions of other kids. The Twits, George’s Marvellous Medicine, Matilda were a shock to my conservative little soul and I loved it.

Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven books were also favourites of mine. They taught me how to be sneaky. Tip: wear rubber soled shoes. A lesson I have adhered to ever since. Nice one Ms Blyton!

But, enough of that rot, I want to discover which children’s book author had the most influence over your imagination.

I have taken the liberty of choosing ten of the most influential authors, just to get the party started…

You may vote below…
(or leave me a more detailed answer
in the comments section below)

Enid Blyton

MY VIEW: I remember having a picture book version of The Magic Faraway Tree. When I was in my mid-twenties I found a copy and opened it. A shiver went down my spine. I recalled that Moon-Face had frightened the life out of me. Lasting effect on my imagination? An irrational fear of Bert Newton.

The Magic Faraway Tree: Come on an amazing adventure to the Enchanted Wood where you can climb the Faraway Tree and meet Moon-Face, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy.There’s always a new land at the top of the Faraway Tree. Will it be the Land of Spells, the Land of Treats, or the Land of Do-As-You-Please? There’ll be adventures waiting, whatever happens!This work features funny, magical adventures that will delight children again and again.

J.K. Rowling

MY VIEW: I am too old for Harry Potter to have made a lasting impression on my imagination. When I tried to read Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone as an adult, it hurt. However, the joy Harry has brought to millions of children who would most probably not have become readers without him, delights me.

Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone:  Harry Potter is an ordinary boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs at his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s house, which he thinks is normal for someone like him who’s parents have been killed in a ‘car crash’. He is bullied by them and his fat, spoilt cousin Dudley, and lives a very unremarkable life with only the odd hiccup (like his hair growing back overnight!) to cause him much to think about. That is until an owl turns up with a letter addressed to Harry and all hell breaks loose! He is literally rescued by a world where nothing is as it seems and magic lessons are the order of the day.

Read and find out how Harry discovers his true heritage at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, the reason behind his parents mysterious death, who is out to kill him, and how he uncovers the most amazing secret of all time, the fabled Philosopher’s Stone! All this and muggles too. Now, what are they?

Beatrix Potter

MY VIEW: I’m fairly sure I would have been read The Tale of Peter Rabbit but have no memory of it. The only lasting effect it had on my imagination, I believe, is a dislike of rabbit stew.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit, published in 1902, was her first book, expanded from an illustrated letter she had sent to a young friend who was ill.

One hundred years later the classic tale of naughty Peter Rabbit’s escape from Mr. McGregor’s garden still brings to children all over the world the pleasure that it gave to its very first reader.

R.L. Stine

MY VIEW: I remember the Goosebumps series because they were popular with kids when I was in my early twenties. If I ever had to mind kids I would be asked to read Night of the Living Dummy, or Say Cheese or Die, or The Cuckoo Clock of Doom! at bedtime. I wondered how the little buggers could get to sleep so easily after such horrible stories. It didn’t seem to bother them, but then they didn’t have to sit up late all alone in a strange house waiting for the parents to come home having just read a horror story. Damn you, Mr Stine! You made a grown man pee his pants!

Night of the Living Dummy:  When twins Lindy and Kris find a ventriloquist’s dummy in a Dumpster, Lindy decides to ‘rescue’ it, and she names it Slappy.

But Kris is green with envy. It’s not fair. Why does Lindy get to have all the fun and all the attention?

Kris decides to get a dummy of her own. She’ll show Lindy.

Then weird things begin to happen. Nasty things. Evil things.

It can’t be the dummy causing all the trouble. Can it?

May Gibbs

MY VIEW: I never really warmed to Snugglepot and Cuddlepie as a child. I don’t think it was because of their nudie rudie habits. Anyhoo, one day I opened an old copy of the book and found a picture of the Banksia Men. Nasty little creatures. Once seen never forgotten. Shudder.

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie:  Quintessentially Australian, these delightful tales have never been out of print; indeed the fantasy world of May Gibbs has been a source of continual fascination for generations of children. May’s is a world filled with fears and excitement and adventures both extraordinary and everyday. A world peopled with small creatures, where the real mixes tantalizingly with the imaginary and provides a window to the magic we all believe exists in the bush.

Roald Dahl

MY VIEW: I must admit to being a little confused by my parents glee when they saw me reading George’s Marvellous Medicine. I didn’t read much, to be sure, so me reading anything was a moment worthy of celebration. But had they read Roald Dahl themselves? I didn’t think so. If they had they probably would have stopped me. Roald Dahl was telling me to do things my parents would most certainly prohibit.

George’s Marvellous Medicine: Young George mixes a medicine to make his nasty grandmother more likeable, and once she drinks it she grows to immense proportions. George’s father wants the formula to breed a race of super-size livestock, but George can’t duplicate the recipe. His fourth try is a potion that shrinks the drinker to nothing – and greedy Grandma drinks it with expected results!

Dr Seuss

MY VIEW: Dr Seuss books are so engaging and strange that I still have difficulty closing one once opened. The illustrations make the word ‘unique’ seem insufficient. It feels to me that Dr Seuss has managed to discover a way of communicating with a part of our psyche that is so primal that it becomes impossible to rationalise our response effectively. He is fascinating and frightening, funny and bizarre. I will never know what life is like without early exposure to Dr Seuss but I feel certain it would be much duller.

GREEN EGGS AND HAM: When Sam-I-am persits in pestering a grumpy grouch to eat a plate of green eggs and ham, perseverance wins the day, teaching us all that we cannot know what we like until we have tried it!

With his unique combination of hilarious stories, zany pictures and riotous rhymes, Dr. Seuss has been delighting young children and helping them learn to read for over fifty years. Creator of the wonderfully anarchic Cat in the Hat, and ranked among the world’s top ten favourite children’s authors, Seuss is firmly established as a global best-seller, with nearly half a billion books sold worldwide.

Maurice Sendak

MY VIEW: After reading Where The Wild Things Are every time I was really, really naughty I thought of Max. I too wanted to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I hated the idea of being punished for doing stuff that was fun. I don’t think the moral of the story ever reached me at all, now that I come to think about it. The rebellion was the fun bit. Damn the consequences.

Where The Wild Things Are: Originally published in 1963, it has become a much-loved favourite children’s best-seller, and an acknowledged classic of 20th century children’s picture books.

Maurice Sendak said: “Max, the hero of my book, discharges his anger against his mother, and returns to the real world sleepy, hungry, and at peace with himself… from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustration as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things”

A.A. Milne

MY VIEW: I liked honey. Winnie-the-Pooh liked honey. He was a bit stoopid but then so was I.

Winnie-the-Pooh: “You’re the Best Bear in All the World” said Christopher Robin.

“Am I?” said Pooh hopefully.

Meet the world’s favourite bear in this delightful collection, in which Pooh gets into a tight place, nearly catches a woozle, and discovers the wrong sort of honey – amongst other things.

Hans Christian Andersen

MY VIEW: I doubt there is a child whose imagination was not stirred on being read The Ugly Duckling. Andersen’s stories manage to penetrate deep into our emotional heart and give us strength to face the absurdities, cruelties and irregularities of life.

The Ugly Duckling:

For two hundred years, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling has been a childhood favourite all over the world.

Now Robert Ingpen brings his spectacular adaptation to new generations of readers. Born bigger and different than the other hatchlings, the ugly duckling is ridiculed by his brothers and sisters, rejected by the other ducks, and eventually shunned by his own mother. The little bird leaves his home, embarking on a brave journey through hecklers, hunters, and cruel seasons-only to discover that the beauty he was seeking was inside him all along.

A beautifully told and brilliantly illustrated edition of this classic, essential story every child should embrace.


Lewis Carroll

MY VIEW: I don’t think there ever was a time when my imagination was not inhabited by the Mad Hatter, Alice, the Cheshire Cat, children tumbling down rabbit holes, sitting at strange tea parties, stepping through the looking glass… I don’t know when I came to know of these things or who brought them to me, all I do know is that my world and the worlds of Lewis Carroll’s making are united, forever.

On an ordinary summer’s afternoon, Alice tumbles down a hole and an extraordinary adventure begins. In a strange world with even stranger characters, she meets a rabbit with a pocket watch, joins a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and plays croquet with the Queen! Lost in this fantasy land, Alice finds herself growing more and more curious by the minute . . .

Now you may vote…
(or leave me a more detailed answer
in the comments section below)

17 Comments Share:

About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • thegracefuldoe

    September 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    I’m surprised Mem Fox isn’t on the list. Her works are Aussie childhood essential reading and still capture my imagination as an adult reading them to my children.

    Enid Blyton was the first author to really capture my imagination. I read the Faraway series many times over as a child. As I got a little older I devoured Roald Dahl. I loved his creativity and twisted stories. I always got a kick out of Red Riding Hood pulling the pistol from her knickers in Revolting Rhymes.

    I didn’t read Harry Potter until I was an adult, but it enthralled me and pulled me in — I’ve read the series several times now. J.K. Rowling is pure genius.

    • September 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm

      I apologise for not including Mem Fox. I had trouble cutting it down to just ten. I loved the book by Mem Fox about the pirate who cried.

      And the Revolting Rhymes are gems.

      • thegracefuldoe

        September 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm

        I can understand how hard it must have been to cut the list down to ten! There are so many fabulous children’s authors out there and all the ones you did list are up there amongst my favourites.

  • lensaddiction

    September 9, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Greensmoke by Rosemary Manning (and eventually the other 3 in the series) This is the first book I actively remember reading as a child that completely entranced me as actual fantasy rather than just a childrens story if that makes sense – must have been 5-6 maybe.

    Also The Phoenix and the Carpet by E Nesbit 🙂

  • September 10, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Ever since reading Enid Blyton as a kid I’ve wanted to go to the circus (or maybe even run away to one). At almost 40 I have just booked tickets to take my family and my excitement reminds me how much Blyton influenced my childhood imagination.

  • September 10, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Argh, I was torn between Alan Garner and Diana Wynne Jones … and E. Nesbit. I read everything I could get my hands on from those authors, and bought new copies for my own children (my original copies are treasured companions on my bookshelf)!!

  • Wade

    September 12, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I would have voted Tolkien but I simply found C. S. Lewis’s writing more accessible.

  • Cherri Ryan

    September 12, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Ursula Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea absolutely exploded my imagination at 13 years old.

  • September 12, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I can’t ever pick just one. Since it comes to a vote, it’s Enid Blyton all the way, but Roald Dahl was a hero of mine, and the author who certainly had the most influence on my writing was Gillian Rubenstein. Of course, I read widely when I was a kid, so I probably was influenced a little bit by them all.

    (When I was 13, I wrote a speech on my hero, and it was Enid Blyton. While everyone else was writing about their mothers, I used a writer from 40 years ago)

  • September 12, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    It’s all about L.M. Montgomery for me. I have never been there in ‘real life’, but I feel like I grew up on Prince Edward Island.

  • September 13, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I’m very sad to see there’s not more love for Dr Seuss. How many of us of a certain age would have never even got to Blyton, Dahl and the rest were it not for him? He not only saves beginner readers from the monotony of See Jane Run, he inspires them to play with words and thoughts. We quote him daily in our house. Oh the thinks we can think!

  • September 13, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Mine is Lewis Carroll. I collect Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, and sometimes poetry anthologies. I’m especially a fan of old hardcovers and innovative imagery. These are displayed on the bookcase prominently. I follow a twitter account that quotes from the books too.
    As you can tell, it’s not a secret obsession, I’m out and proud of it!

    • September 13, 2011 at 11:12 am

      Oh, but because I couldn’t vote for Alice, I voted for Enid Blyton. I literally used to read them up in a tree as a kid.

    • September 13, 2011 at 11:22 am

      I CANNOT believe I didn’t add Lewis Carroll.
      Thank you for the tap on the head.

  • September 13, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I never liked Dr Seuss. I always found the books overly long and repetitive, even as a four year old. Just eat the frickin eggs. Or don’t eat them. Whatevs man.

    For me the king of the picture book as a kid was Raymond Briggs – the two Father Christmas books, Fungus the Bogeyman, The Snowman…and then the deeper and more disturbing ones for older readers like Where the Wind Blows. He also illustrated other people’s stories like The Elephant and the Bad Baby.

    Equal to his greatness is Shirley Hughes, my favourite as a kid was Dogger, but her illustrations arouse a nostalgic longing in me for an always familiar world-I-never-knew. I love reading her books to my kids now. She also illustrated the Naughty Little Sister stories, which have become part of our family folklore.

    And surely a current generation would have grown up to the Ahlbergs – Each Peach Pear Plum, Peepo.

    Bob Graham and Alison Lester are shaping my children’s experience of Australian identity through landscape and narrative.

    I also loved all the Australian classics, especially The Magic Pudding which I admit to finding baffling as an adult. Ethel Turner deserves a mention. My absolute favourite book in childhood was John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat, illustrated by Ron Brookes, written by Jenny Wagner.

    Sorry, this is an unwieldy comment for an unwieldy topic!

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