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Reading List for the 11 Plus: Classical Texts

Is your child preparing for the new 11+ entrance exams? If so, then you will find this list of some of the most often recommended reading texts for these exams.

These books are classic favourites – and they are often used in comprehension extracts in the actual exams, so your child must read through as many of them as possible to get used to the different writing styles in these types of books.

Alice in Wonderland By Lewis Carroll is: About 95,000 Words

The story is set in the vicinity of Kingston upon Thames, which Dodgson knew well. Alice’s adventures begin beside a riverbank, where she sits bored “under a tree” and then unintentionally falls into conversation with other characters on the topic of her cat’s funeral arrangements. Soon, Alice finds herself falling down a rabbit hole into Wonderland after accidentally eating an unknown substance. She sees many strange, apparently anthropomorphic creatures during her journey, various animals and even objects that talk and sing (such as shrubs), all manner of nonsensical things. At other times she has adventures involving imagined or nonexistent beings like her own cat. Her neck temporarily grows long enough to reach the moon; another time, her a book with illustrations and text by Lewis Carroll.

The book tells of Alice, who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar and anthropomorphic creatures. The tale is filled with allusions to Dodgson’s friends (and enemies) and the lessons British schoolchildren were expected to memorize. The Wonderland described in the story plays with logic in ways that have made the story of lasting popularity with adults and children. It is considered one of the most characteristic examples of the genre of literary nonsense, and its narrative course and structure have been enormously influential, mainly in the fantasy genre.

A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens: About 31,500 Words

Setting: The story is set in the imaginary “most miserable period” of Ebenezer Scrooge’s life. He is portrayed as a cold-hearted miser who loathes Christmas and refuses to help his less fortunate fellow men. On Christmas Eve, he is visited by four ghosts of the past, present, future and spirit world, who show him how wrong his actions have been to others.

Storyline: Ebenezer Scrooge is a very old moneylender and businessman living alone in London. He hates Christmas and has no interest in it or anything related to it. It’s shown that he goes as far as avoiding human contact on a particular day. On the night before, he is visited by Marley, his dead business partner, who warns him to change his ways; otherwise, he will be condemned as well. The following day, someone else knocks on his door: It’s an old woman claiming to be a charity collector for the poor named Bobina Cratchit. She is wearing ragged clothes and torn up – just like her family – because she didn’t receive any help from anyone during Christmas either year prior and because she didn’t have money to buy new ones. She begs him for a donation, and he rudely tells her that there is nothing wrong with putting poor people in their place and throws some coins into her hands. The ghost of Marley appears again while it’s raining outside, telling him that three more spirits will visit him before the night is over.

The first spirit shows Scrooge how other people celebrate Christmas – particularly Bob Cratchit’s family, who have only potatoes for dinner. He also sees his nephew Fred playing with his children at home during Christmas, while Scrooge refuses to take time off from work, even on holiday itself – he claims working makes “the world go round”. Next up is the Ghost of Christmas Present, which takes Scrooge to a toy shop where he sees his cheery nephew with his family, as well as the Cratchit kids having a good time with their father. Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows him Bob Cratchit’s mysterious empty chair at a now impoverished household and a disabled Tiny Tim all by himself outside in the cold.

Scrooge is initially upset by what he sees but changes after visiting three spirits – just like the ghost told him earlier. When Bobina Cratchit returns yet again, asking for money, this time because she can’t even buy coal for her ovens anymore, he finally buys it from her and gives her extra so that she could have dinner on Christmas day too. It’s also revealed that he has invited everyone from her household and his nephew and the impoverished family to dine with him at his house, which is no longer thin and miserable but overflowing with happiness. Not only did Scrooge change for the better, but we also see how people around him changed their opinions of him for the better, too: The businessmen who hated and looked down on him suddenly began to respect and praise him.

A Wind in the Willows By Kenneth Grahame is: About 145,000 Words

Setting: The story is set in the River Bank, an English countryside landscape with deep forests, a cosy village, a navigable river and areas of open water. Characters include Mr Toad; his friend Ratty; the villainous weasels; Mr Badger; and his elderly housekeeper, Mrs Otter.

Storyline: Mr Toad is a wealthy, high-spirited animal who lives in a mansion. He has his boat, and he loves to go boating on the river Thames; when out with his friends Ratty and Moley (and their dog), he delights in speeding up and down the river in his boat Preference. One day Mr Toad decides he wants to go boating by himself and does so without asking Ratty or Moley. The result is a series of misadventures: he crashes into the bathing house, nearly sinks his boat in a weir, and ends up in prison for stealing a car (he had mistaken it for his own with which he had meant to return home).

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: About 188,000 Words

The story is set in England on an estate near the fictional town of Meryton in Hertfordshire. The Bennet family’s home is Longbourn House, located near the fictional market town of Meryton in Hertfordshire, England. The 300-year-old estate is described as an idyllic rural paradise. It is the home to Mr Bennet and Mrs Bennet and their five unmarried daughters, with a small income from farming that supports them all.

Storyline: The story focuses on Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, a wealthy gentleman of imperious manner, proud temper and £10,000 a year (about £800 thousand in today’s money), who is an eligible bachelor. He is the son of Mr Darcy senior, who made his fortune as an investor and landowner through trade in South Carolina. The story follows the emotional development of Elizabeth Bennet, his young female companion from early in the novel. Elizabeth first dislikes Mr Dacy and then gradually learns to understand him. She overcomes her prejudice which stems from a sense of inferiority that is fed by an inaccurate representation of his character.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien: About 255,000 Words

The story takes place in “Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men”, which is thousands of years after our time. In an English-language folk-tale style, it has been since its publication seen as a precursor to fantasy literature and as a “classic” featuring a battle between good and evil, the search for happiness, and self-determination.

Storyline: The story is about the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who is convinced by the wizard Gandalf to accompany thirteen dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield on a quest across Middle-earth to recover the dwarves’ treasure from Smaug, a dragon. The novel won a 1966 August Derleth Fantasy Award for best novel.

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien: About 498,000 Words

This is a story of high fantasy. It is told in plain language intended for those not specialists in fantasy literature, but most critics agree that it belongs to an epic story.

Storyline: Most important are the first two volumes, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, which relate how Frodo Baggins inherits the Ring from Bilbo Baggins and leaves his home at Bag End to take it far away from Sauron’s evil power; also critical is The Return of the King (titled “The Lord of the Rings” in its three-volume hardcover edition), which brings all events to their conclusion.

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis: About 186,000 words

Setting: The story is set during World War II in England. Four English children evacuate to an old country house (Professor Kirke’s house), where they find a wardrobe that leads to the magical land of Narnia.

Storyline: They discover that Narnia is ruled by the evil White Witch and her companion, the wolf Maugrim. However, when Lucy visits it later in Edmund’s absence, she finds that Aslan has created a “new Narnia” with his power and that he will ultimately render all evil things powerless.

Harry Potter Series by J K Rowling: About 1,084,170 words

The story follows Harry Potter, an ordinary boy who discovers at age 11 on his eleventh birthday that he is a wizard and is invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There, he meets the friends who become his closest allies and both enemies and teachers, who introduce him to the magical world and help shape him into a courageous young man. In addition to focusing on Harry’s life at Hogwarts, his struggles with dark magic (Lord Voldemort) are central themes of the series. Harry’s struggles are usually more intense than many of his school professors or connections.

The first novel, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, begins with an orphaned 11-year-old boy named Harry Potter living with his horrible muggle aunt Petunia Dursley and uncle Vernon Dursley in Surrey, England. On Harry’s eleventh birthday in 1991, a half-giant named Rubeus Hagrid appears to tell Harry that he is a wizard and has been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving: About 7,500 words

Setting: The story is set around 1790 in Sleepy Hollow, New York, United States. It begins as a frame story with a narrator who claims that he is passing on a real history of the Dutch settlement of the area under its English name. It explains how Ichabod Crane has been sent to Sleepy Hollow for educational purposes and narrates an October 2005 event of his arrival through October 31, 1790.

Storyline: The Horseman Without Head possesses Ichabod Crane at night and tries to take over his mind completely. This occurs after he hears the tale from Brom Bones’ father about “the headless horseman” (who was once their town hero until one day he got drunk and lost control of his horse), which causes Ichabod to think it is a warning.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift: About 93,752 words

The book comprises five chapters, each illustrating one or more of Gulliver’s adventures as set out in the title. The first and largest chapter concerns his setting ashore on Lilliput after being caught by its inhabitants, who are only about six inches tall; he has many exciting battles with them until the King of Blefuscu helps free him. He later engages in a war against both countries because they deprive him of food for refusing to serve them, but this is ended by civil intervention between the two kingdoms.

Summary: This section outlines Gulliver’s second voyage, where he visits the land of Brobdingnag. The second voyage concerns Gulliver’s arrival in the country of Brobdingnag, which is inhabited by many people who think that Gulliver is a puny weakling.

Storyline: Lord Voldemort uses Horcruxes to attempt to become immortal. He continues to subjugate his former servants by giving them only minimal information about the tasks he assigns them. He then engages in a bloody battle against Dumbledore and his allies; Snape is revealed to be a double agent and seriously injures Hermione.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum: About 77,287 words

Summary: The story begins in Kansas, just before Dorothy Gale’s tenth birthday.

The first edition of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” depicts Kansas as a drab and grey place. Dorothy’s first impression is that it is ugly because of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry; however, she later decides it has some beautiful aspects to it. In his preface, Baum writes: “In the following pages I have tried to give the reader a true picture of life in America… The country and people are much better known to me than is the case with most Americans. Therefore you must not believe everything your friends or teachers say about them.” Moreover, there is a certain duality between good and evil in Kansas-the benevolent Miss Almira Gulch who tries to own Toto (a good trait) and the evil farmers who hate Dorothy (an evil trait).

Storyline: On a Kansas farm, Dorothy lives with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and her little dog Toto. She loves to play with Toto, but above all, she wants to go back to her family in the Emerald City from which she came. One day a tornado swept off Dorothy’s house and land and let it land faraway into the Land of Oz.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: About 32,423 words

Summary: Peter Pan flies into the Darling children’s nursery in search of his shadow. After being discovered and chased out by Mr Darling, he instructs the children to go to sleep, promising to return and teach them to fly. When their mother comes in shortly after, all three children have disappeared, but it is revealed that Nana, the family dog, has eaten the children, and Mrs Darling faints upon seeing their empty crib! She awakes when Peter enters once again (“I say,” he announces imperiously, “this won’t do at all.”). He flings open a window and tells her that she can close it behind him or lose her children forever.

The story follows a group of young children evacuated from London to escape German bombings. Each chapter deals with the children’s adventures as they travel to a farm in the countryside and adapt to their new lives there.

Wendy and her brothers, Michael and John, are without parents and living in a house near London during World War II when they are visited by Peter Pan, who takes them away to Neverland. There they join Wendy’s younger sister Jane, the fairy Tinker Bell, the Indian princess Tiger Lily, the pirate Captain Hook, and others on magical adventures. Eventually, Peter agrees that Wendy should remain at home for an indefinite time (he can’t be persuaded otherwise), but he returns now and then for adventure.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: About 53,816 words

Summary: The story is about the four March sisters-Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth-who live with their mother and their Marmee on a small farm in Massachusetts. While the girls’ father is away fighting for the Union in the American Civil War, they struggle with major and minor problems of family life.

The story opens when Mr March brings his four daughters to visit his wife at her childhood home of Concord, Massachusetts, during summer vacation while he goes on business trips to San Francisco (where the firm has posted him). It follows them through their everyday activities, involving around thirty people (namely school friends or neighbours like Mr Laurence or various gentlemen callers such as Fred Vaughn) and the four sisters and their three maiden aunts.

It follows the life of Jo, whose literary ambitions (inspired by her idol “Nathaniel Hawthorne”) lead to conflict with those she loves, especially her sister Beth, who is played off by later tragedy. Meg is pursued by the wealthy and haughty Laurence boy, whom she eventually marries after his family’s fortunes revive and then goes through many hardships that test her commitment to him and love for him. Amy develops into a young woman but faces heartbreak when it looks like Laurie might not return her affections until events take an unforeseen turn. Marmee has her troubles as she struggles with giving up her children one-by-one as they marry and begin their own lives.

Anne of Green Gables: About 51,121 words

Summary: Anne Shirley is an 11-year-old orphan girl who has mistakenly been sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who had requested a boy to help them on their farm in Prince Edward Island. The story follows her mishaps and adventures as she grows up with the Cuthberts.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson: About 47,227 words

Summary: The story follows the travels of an English boy called Jim Hawkins who, while on vacation in a seaside town

Treasure Island: The story follows a group of young children evacuated from London to escape German bombings. Each chapter deals with the children’s adventures as they travel to a farm in the countryside and adapt to their new lives there.

Storyline: The story follows a group of young children evacuated from London to escape German bombings. Each chapter deals with the children’s adventures as they travel to a farm in the countryside and adapt to their new lives there.

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling: About 58,593 words

Summary: The narrator, a young Englishman living in India, tells the story of Mow: About 81,734 words

The book follows the adventures of a boy named Mowgli, who wolves and lives raised in the

The jungle book is the story of Mowgli, a foundling child raised by wolves in India, who has to adapt to human ways after his life with the wolf pack is threatened.

The book’s first half features five stories about Mowgli and three unrelated stories; all but one are set in India, most in or near an area that Kipling knew well despite never visiting it during his few years spent as a correspondent for an Indian newspaper. The second half of the book consists of seven further adventures (and one tragedy) involving other characters; at least one story was probably based on an out-of-Africa experience of his wife, Caroline Kipling.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Around 40,401 words

Summary: The story is set in Yorkshire, England, during the late 19th century. It follows the adventures of a young boy named Dickon and a young girl named Mary Lennox, who is brought to stay at her uncle’s manor house where she meets Dickon. The two explore their new surroundings and soon discover a locked garden that has been shut for ten years. They begin to work on the garden together, somewhat against the wishes of Martha, the housekeeper.

Storyline: The story is set in Yorkshire, England, during the late 19th century. It follows the adventures of a young boy named Dickon and a young girl named Mary Lennox, who is brought to stay at her uncle’s manor house where she meets Dickon. The two explore their new surroundings and soon discover a locked garden that has been shut for ten years. They begin to work on the garden together, somewhat against the wishes of Martha, the housekeeper.

Black Beauty By Anna Sewell: About 39,627 words

Black Horse

Summary: The story follows the titular horse’s life, from his carefree days as a colt on an English farm with his mother to his challenging career pulling cabs in London to his happy retirement in the country. Besides being a powerful story of animal welfare (and even pointed social commentary, which was unusual when written), the story is now considered a classic of children’s literature.

Storyline: The story follows the titular horse’s life from his carefree days as a colt on an English farm with his mother to his demanding career pulling cabs in London to his happy retirement in the country. Besides being a powerful story of animal welfare (and even pointed social commentary, which was unusual when written), the story is now considered a classic of children’s literature.

Five Children And It By E. Nesbit: Around 32,838 words

Storyline: Five children – Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane and the baby, called simply “the Lamb” – find a sand-fairy, Psammead, who grants wishes. When the children accidentally wish the grown-ups would stop quarrelling, it takes them on many magical adventures that highlight the social problems of Edwardian Britain.

Storyline: Five children: Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane and baby-who are called simply the Lamb find a sand fairy who grants wishes. When they accidentally wish the grown-ups would stop quarrelling, it takes them on many magical adventures that highlight the social problems of Edwardian Britain.

The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer By Mark Twain: Around 38,013 words

Summary: In the central portion of the novel, Tom plays several antics on his friends and relatives – including joining a band of robbers, hiding a fugitive from the law in his Aunt Polly’s house, and swearing an oath with his comrades that they will not reveal where the treasure was buried. He eventually confesses to Aunt Polly, who decides a jury of boys should judge him. His friends testify that he is truthful, and Tom wins the case. He hears about a mysterious “Injun Joe” having one half of a treasure map in the later chapters.

Storyline: Tom Sawyer, the story’s main character, is a boy about twelve years old. He would be considered very lucky, as he lives in a time when boys are free to have fun without being considered “trouble makers”. He enjoys fishing, playing Robin Hood, pretending he is a pirate, and participating in various other games.

Five Children and It By E. Nesbit: Around 32,838 words

Summary: Five children – Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane and the baby, called “the Lamb” – find a sand-fairy, Psammead, who grants wishes. When the children accidentally wish the grown-ups would stop quarrelling, it takes them on many magical adventures that highlight the social problems of Edwardian Britain.

Storyline: Five children: Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane and baby-who are called simply the Lamb find a sand fairy who grants wishes. When they accidentally wish the grown-ups would stop quarrelling, it takes them on many magical adventures that highlight the social problems of Edwardian Britain.

Heidi By Johanna Spyri: Around 31,742 words

Summary: The novel tells Heidi, a young girl in her early teens, who is taken from her home by her aunt Dete to be raised as a companion to Clara Sesemann, a wealthy young heiress. Her lovable personality wins the hearts of all those around her – even those of her stern “hochwohlgeboren” (high and noble) grandfather. He had not seen her, as well as those of the entire Sesemann household.

Storyline: The story follows the titular child’s life from her carefree days as a girl on a Swiss farm with her grandfather to her challenging career in the big city of Frankfurt with Clara Sesemann, a wealthy young heiress. Besides being a powerful story of animal welfare (and even pointed social commentary, which was unusual when written ), the story is now considered a classic of children’s literature.