Our top 10 books for learning about England

explore England through the pages of a good book

When you think of England, you might think of characters such as Peter Rabbit, Matilda Wormwood, and Paddington Bear. You might think of settings like Coniston Waters from Swallows and Amazons, the Yorkshire Dales from the Secret Garden, or the banks of the Thames from the Wind in the Willows.

England's literary history is beyond impressive - chuck in a few of our favourite non-fiction books too - and limiting ourselves to our 10 favourite books about England was almost impossible! So find a cosy nook, grab one of the following books and transport yourself across the seas to England through the pages of one of these amazing books!

the books

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1. Kings and Queens by Tony Robinson, illustrated by Tony Ross

My girls giggled and giggled every time they opened this book while we were reading it! Mostly because Tony Robinson seems to take great pleasure in giving gruesome details of some of the absurd ways some of England's monarchs have died. This book is an awesome resource for those of us still trying to get our heads around how many King WIlliams there have been, which King Henry had so many wives, and why Queen Mary was so bloody! Add in the fact that it is jam-packed with Tony Ross' awesome illustrations and you'll understand why we love this book so much!

2. Maps of the United Kingdom by Rachel Dixon, illustrated by Livi Gosling

Although this book doesn't just cover England, it includes the entire United Kingdom, we had to include it because of the beautifully detailed maps of each region of England. This is one of those books that's just fun to open up to a random page and see what delightful treasures you'll discover!

3. Horrible Histories England by Martin Deary, illustrated by Martin Brown

My girls adore the Horrible Histories series, and while they're only getting exposed to the more gruesome side of history, I always appreciate a non-fiction chapter book that they devour.

4. A Stage Full of Shakespeare Stories by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Alice Lindstrom

Last year we studied Shakespeare as part of our homeschool. Reading this book provided me with insights to Shakespeare's stories that I hadn't understood when I had read them during high school! The book is beautifully illustrated, and each of Shakespeare's stories is retold in modern English. Our family really loved reading this book together.

5. The Secrets of Stonehenge by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom

Each year around 800,000 tourists visit Stonehenge! The mystery of this prehistoric monument captures many imaginations and this book does a great job of explaining Stonehenge's history. If you've got any littlies that are fascinated with Stonehenge - this is a great introduction to this ancient monument!

6. The Fossil Girl: Mary Anning's Dinosaur Discovery by Catherine Brighton

If you've got any dinosaur-mad kiddos in your house, this introduction to Mary Anning (who discovered several intact dinosaur fossils on the Southern Coast of England during the first half of the 19th century) is an awesome read! We loved learning more about Mary Anning. First of all because we were surprised to learn that there were dinosaur fossils from the Jurassic period intact in England - for some reason dinosaurs and England don't seem to go together. Secondly because Mary Anning's story is so fascinating - this book is such an interesting read!

7. Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Roald Dahl

We found it hard to pick among Roald Dahl's many books which to include in this list. However, there's something about how Mr Fox battles those horrid farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean, that makes this a super-fun read aloud with the kids. The home of the fox family was actually inspired by a famous tree, local to where Roald Dahl lived in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where he lived while bringing up his family.

8. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Just like the many possible titles we could have included in this list from Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter has 23 enchanting tales we could have included. However, we decided to begin with the first character she introduced us to, Peter Rabbit. I loved these books as a child, and I loved reading them to my children. The illustrations are so sweet, and of course the tales themselves are stories that have now become a part of popular culture. We were very lucky to visit Beatrix's home when we visited the Lake District, and it felt just like stepping into the pages of one of her books. So, by reading these lovely tales of Beatrix Potter's you can feel just as though you've spent an afternoon wandering the English countryside.

9. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Swallows and Amazons is the classic English tale of a wonderful childhood summer spent adventuring across Coniston Water. We actually listened to the audible version of this book, narrated by Gareth Armstrong, and loved the adventures of the Walker and Blackett children as they spent their days sailing, camping, and battling pirates!

10. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Another childhood classic, this story is ultimately about the growth of the main character, Mary. Although Mary's story begins in India, she (and we, the readers) are soon transported to Misselthwaite Manor, in Yorkshire. One of my favourite parts of the book was exploring the manor and it's estate along with Mary and imagining what life must have been like in such a place around the turn of the 20th century!

want more amazing resources?

If you want more resources for a specific destination, check out our resources page for book recommendations and more!

I hope you enjoy exploring the world through the pages of some of these books - they're real treasures that our family just loves!

Stay Curious!

Hana xo