Share a British Family Story with Your Family: Beyond Borders

A couple of weeks ago, when we were preparing the original post about family stories, there were so many good ones that we decided to divide the list in two, and the natural division seemed to be between the U.S. and the U.K. (with books that are in English). So today’s post is the companion piece to Share A Family Story with Your Family: moving beyond the “Little House” books.

These books were selected as interesting and enjoyable reads for a range of ages and generations. Depending on your family’s preferences, try either doing group “read alouds” or a family book club with individuals reading on their own. You know you need something new to talk about at dinner!

Sharing books without going crazy or broke.

Remember that you can download 1 Kindle book to 6 devices at a time, which is much easier than trying to share one print copy of a book. The Kindles/devices all need to be registered to the same account, and you need to make sure everyone knows not to use the “sync” feature!

Here’s advice on using the “Family” feature (you can always set the grandparents up as extra kids).

We need your help.

If you know of family stories from other countries, especially if they were originally written in English, please let us know as that list in the the works!

Fun and Adventure

The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett

Unlike most children’s books, which are either set in middle class families (and up) or meant to illustrate social problems, The Family from One End Street is about a family in which the mother is a house cleaner and the father is a “dust man” (trash collector), but it shows how the family enjoys life. It’s a lot of fun and was named the best book of 1937.

The Railway Children and The Treasure Seekers by Edith Nesbit

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I had a copy of The Railway Children as a child, and I couldn’t get over that the children were left alone…and why! Because their father had gone to jail! It’s another example of British children’s literature dating to take directions I don’t see in American children’s literature so much, unless it is an “issue” book.

Nesbit’s work is in the public domain, so it’s easy to find legal free copies of these and all of her work.

The original novel about child entrepreneurs, The Story of the Treasure Seekers is about a family who tries to figure out how to make some money because their father’s business is failing. Some of the background might seem a bit dated, but the story is still enjoyable. It’s about children trying to solve problems on their own: that alone makes it a great read.

With authors in the public domain, the best deal is usually just to get a collection. Also nice if anyone gets interested in the author and wants to read more.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransom

Swallows and Amazons is the first of a series of adventures that a sibling group has on their sailboat. Sometimes it seems that British children get a lot more freedom than American ones do, but whether that is a feature of the literature or real life I don’t know.

A Really Unusual Family

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

The Borrowers is the first of a classic series about a family who secretly live in the hidden crannies of a house by “borrowing” from the family who officially lives there.

If you want an easier read with a similar plot, check out the American series, The Littles, as seen on the American Family Story post HERE.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

Yes, this is the same Ian Fleming who wrote the “James Bond” novels. He also wrote the book that the classic film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which starred Dick Van Dyke. Meanwhile, Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), wrote the screenplay for the film. Like the movie, the book is about a family and a wonderful car, but the parents’ mother is still with the family in the book, which is only one of the rather startling departures from the film version you might know better.


Families with Nannies

Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine

Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine

The Robin Williams movie Mrs. Doubtfire started life as Madame Doubtfire, by British author Anne Fine. If you don’t know the work of Anne Fine, you are in for a treat as she is a prolific and well known author who has written many humorous books for kids of a variety of ages.

Both versions of the story feature a family trying to work out its issues in a creative way.

Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand

Nurse Matilda is the basis for the film Nanny McPhee. The original stories are also about a large family, whose problems come from their being spoiled. If this reminds you a little of Mary Poppins, the difference is that the family in Nurse Matilda is large, very large. Also, Nurse Matilda is a completely different character.

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

And then there is Mary Poppins and her charges. The original novels have not always been readily available in the United States, so if you missed them as a child, you will be in for a happy surprise when you encounter Mary Poppins characterization in the books.

It’s funny how the United States has never seemed to have embraced the idea that AMERICANS have nannies, although plenty do, but we certainly enjoy stories about families with nannies if they are British.

Is it almost the same as the Royal Family? We prefer to enjoy the idea vicariously?

One for the History Buffs

The Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat

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Set during the English Civil War, The Children of New Forest is about a group of siblings from a Royalist family who are left on their own.

Yes, the English had a Civil War too. Americans didn’t invent everything. Theirs happened when they tried to overthrow their king, who eventually was reinstated. You can read about it at Britannica HERE.

Note: This one can also be found digitally for FREE on Amazon.

For more great reads written for children (but great for all ages) around the world, try 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up

Photo Credit

British media personality Peter Ustinov with family in Italy in the 1950’s. Unknown (Mondadori Publishers) / Public domain

British media personality Peter Ustinov with family in Italy in the 1950’s.

Unknown (Mondadori Publishers) / Public domain

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