How To Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell shares her top picks for kids books

And the books she’s told us are sure to keep kids happy during lockdown

It’s official - the much-loved author and illustrator of the How To Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once series Cressida Cowell has been asked to continue in her role as Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate for another year until June 2022, in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The role is given out every two years to celebrate a writer’s achievements, and so they can encourage children in the joy of reading. The decision to extend Cressida’s tenure to three years will mean the ambitions she laid out at the start may just become a reality.

Cressida is passionate about children reading for the joy of it – aware that the outcome is significant, if they do. Founder of the Children’s laureate role, Michael Morpurgo, said: “At this time more than any other I have known we need a Children’s Laureate with heart and hope, and we have just who we need in Cressida. I’m so pleased she is happy to extend her time as Laureate. Roar on, Cressida. We need you. Dragons rule!”

Amongst the many goals in her magical ‘to-do list’ Cressida believes every child should have access to new books in schools, libraries and bookshops - and should be allowed to be completely creative in school for at least fifteen minutes a week. Despite knowing it’s a huge mountain to climb to achieve all her goals, she loves a challenge:

“It is when times are hardest that we need the transformative magic of books and creativity the most. To bring books into the hands of each and every child in the U.K. is going to require some practical magic and action. I’m delighted to have this extra year to bring these plans to life.”

Since lockdown, Cressida has launched Home Time, entertaining children and families with book-related activities they can enjoy at home including drawing lessons, competitions, quizzes and readings – yes, daily readings of the very first How to Train Your Dragon from Cressida’s writing shed. Now there's a treat.

Cressida’s top picks for kids during lockdown

The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Rauf (5.99, Hachette, PB)

This is a lovely, warm book that is all about kindness, and putting yourself into someone else’s shoes.

The Lorax by Dr Suess (£6.99, Harper Collins, PB)

An incredibly important book with a message about environmentalism. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot / Nothing is going to get better, it’s not”. You have to have a heart of stone if you’re not moved by this book.

The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones (£6.99, Harper Collins, PB)

This book has wicked stepfathers, and chemicals that make you fly. When I was nine years old, I read it to my brother and sister, my cousins - to anyone who would listen, and 35 years later, I read it to my own children. I have never met a child who does not love this book.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (£6.99, Penguin, PB)

This is a brilliantly written, exciting and original adventure series in a wildly original fantasy world. It's also extremely funny.

Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (£20, Penguin, HB)

We need our children to have a connection with the natural world, and the language to describe it is crucial. Robert and Jackie’s book is not only a truly beautiful book - it’s an important one too.

Knock Three Times is book three in Cressida Cowell’s best-selling, award-winning The Wizards of Once series (£12.99, HB, Hodder Children’s Books)

Zoe is a features writer and books editor for Woman&Home. Over the last fifteen years she has worked on magazine titles including Marie Claire, Now, LOOK, Woman’s Weekly and Junior.

She loves to travel and is a self-confessed luxury hotel junkie following a honeymoon stay in Ravello on the glamorous Amalfi Coast, which she claims spoilt her forever. Having also visited Lake Como, Puglia, Tuscany (where she got married), Venice and Rome on more than one occasion, it’s no surprise that she hopes to live in Italy one day.

Travelling with family is important to Zoe, appreciating the time she spends on holiday with her husband and two daughters. Although she loves Italy, it’s Greece that’s become their family holiday place. With an intoxicating mix of beautiful beaches, warm weather and chic hotels catered to families, it’s a win-win for everyone.

Her most memorable trips would have to be South Africa and Canada for their vast, wild and dramatic landscapes, New York for that ‘film set’ feeling and swimming with pigs in The Bahamas.

The Norway Fjordes and Vancouver are firmly on her travel wish list, but she is just as fascinated by Europe’s cities and could spend most of her life on short breaks - although her beach-loving husband may have something to say about that.

Always looking for that escape from the norm, a source of inspiration and relaxation away from a hectic home and work life, Zoe is most likely to be found googling ‘out-of-this-world hotels’ and then working out how to get there…