Childrenâ€™s lives are lived to music, from nursery rhymes and lullabies to that first playlist, leaking from illicit headphones in the back row of maths. Which is why, for my heroine Katie Cox in Accidental Superstar, every event deserves its own song, whether itâ€™s a family breakup or buying a new belt.
Music and youth are such natural partners, it seems only right that childrenâ€™s and teen books are filled with songs. And even though we canâ€™t hear the tunes, the best of them have a music thatâ€™s all their own. Here are a few of my favourites.
1. â€œIsnâ€™t it Funny?â€ from Winnie-The-Pooh by AA Milne
Pooh is always singing. This is his very first song, and such a lovely introduction. Itâ€™s simple, charming, and completely unforgettable – just like our favourite bear.
Isnâ€™t it funny
How a bear likes honey?
Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!
I wonder why he does?
2. The Sorting Hatâ€™s Song from Harry Potter and the Philosopherâ€™s Stone by J.K. Rowling
It says a lot for the sheer inventiveness of the Harry Potter books that by the time Harry reaches the Great Hall, a singing hat doesnâ€™t seem even slightly out of the ordinary. Itâ€™s such a witty song, too. If I were ever to have dinner with a hat, it would be this one.
Oh, you may not think Iâ€™m pretty,
But donâ€™t judge on what you see,
Iâ€™ll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
3. â€œDance For Yer Supperâ€ from Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton
The songs in Mr Gum are gorgeously bonkers â€“ you wouldnâ€™t find Space Age Billy and the Meat Brigade anywhere else. This one, though, is a bit different from the rest. Itâ€™s the shanty the sailors sing to poor Padlock the bear.
Dance for yer supper!
You big ugly tungler!
Dance for yer sailor pals!
Anâ€™ the wind she blows high anâ€™ the wind she blows low
With a wiggle-me-higgle
I canâ€™t read this, as Padlock shuffles in circles, weighed down by iron chains, without wanting to cry. Who knew that such a funny book could be so sad?
4. Toadâ€™s song from The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Weâ€™re introduced to Toadâ€™s big number with the words, â€œIt was perhaps the most conceited song that any animal ever composed.â€
The world has held great Heroes,
As history-books have showed;
But never a name to go down in fame
Compared with that of Toad!
It ends with the comment, â€œThese are some of the milder verses.â€
5. â€œDeep in The Meadowâ€ from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Katniss Everdeen is a character of such steel that itâ€™s easy to forget her gentle side. When young Rue is wounded, she asks Katniss to sing to her, and Katniss chooses this, a lullaby she once used to soothe her little sister, Prim. Of course, Rue is not safe. But at least she is loved.
Here itâ€™s safe, here itâ€™s warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.
6. â€œThe Lobster Quadrilleâ€ from Aliceâ€™s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Mock Turtle sings this song because the Gryphon has forgotten the words. I donâ€™t understand how anyone could forget words like these.
Will you walk a little faster?â€ said a whiting to a snail.
â€œThereâ€™s a porpoise close behind us, and heâ€™s treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle â€“ will you come and join the dance?
As the song unfolds, weâ€™re told that seals, turtles and salmon all line up, each with a lobster as a partner, and dance. Itâ€™s so strange and so wonderful. Mind you, I can see why Alice is a bit baffled by it all.
7. â€œSeal Lullabyâ€ from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
When we think of The Jungle Book we tend to remember the catchy numbers from the film version. In fact, the original text is rather less upbeat, but just as good. Here, a mother seal sings to her baby – and itâ€™s a quiet masterpiece.
Where billow meets billow, there soft be thy pillow;
Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease!
The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee,
Asleep in the arms of the slow-swinging seas.
8. â€œAugustus Gloopâ€ from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
The Ooompa-Loompas are a race of tiny men who work in Willy Wonkaâ€™s chocolate factory, with a sideline in mischievous songs. And as child after child meets their sticky fate, the Oompa-Loompas down tools to sing their explanation of whatâ€™s just happened. Theyâ€™re like a miniature Greek chorus.
Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop!
The great big greedy nincompoop!
How long could we allow this beast
To gorge and guzzle, feed and feast
On everything he wanted to?
Great Scott! It simply wouldnâ€™t do!
9. â€œSong for Trisâ€ from Nick and Norahâ€™s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan
Set on one giddy night, scouring New York for a secret gig, Infinite Playlist throbs to an indie beat. This song was written by Nick for his ex-girlfriend Tris. Not that Tris is particularly impressed by Nickâ€™s efforts, in fact, she passes it around her Latin class, which is how Norah comes to read it.
The way youâ€™re singing in your sleep
The way you look before you leap
The strange illusions that you keep
You donâ€™t know
But Iâ€™m noticing
Norah says, â€œI would give body parts to have a guy write something like that for me.â€ Me too, Norah. Me too.
10. â€œPig Lullabyâ€ from Holes by Louis Sachar
The Pig Lullaby is actually a kind of a curse, a family stain from a broken promise. The song is passed down through Stanleyâ€™s family, and with it, terrible misfortune. Stanley remembers his fatherâ€™s gruff voice, and the sweet sadness of the melody.
â€˜If only, if only,â€™ the woodpecker sighs,
â€˜The bark on the tree was just a little bit softer.â€™
While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely,
He cries to the moo-oo-oon,
â€˜If only, if only.â€™
If you have great songs to add to this list tweet them to @GdnChildrensBks and weâ€™ll add them to this blog!