Dr Seuss but will plump for this one, probably his best known. Dr Seuss's work is quite simply bursting with invention, and his unique view of the world – of strange creatures with strange names doing utterly strange things – is both surprising and wonderful. In this first outing for the eponymous Cat, he attempts – with varying success – to have fun while the children's mother is out. The chaos escalates to near total destruction, but is luckily remedied before adults and normality returns. Psychologists would doubtless read all sorts of interesting stuff into Cat in the Hat, but to be honest, it's just chaotic fun with a capital F.
Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler are a quite formidable team, and I'll place three of theirs as one choice here, all of which are excellent: Tiddler, Stick Man and Tabby McTat. Tiddler is the story of a fish who always makes up some bizarre reason why he is late for school, but then gets caught in a net – shock, horror – and finds his way home by following the trail of his own stories. Perfect construction, a brilliant idea, and for early listeners, the notion of a plot – and a push at the fourth wall to end with. Inspired.
AA Milne's books of poetry, Now We Are Six and When We Were Very Young? All of the poems are delightful, but several deserve special mention: Disobedience, about a small child and the difficulties in looking after wayward mothers who will insist on going down to the end of town without assistance, Bad Sir Bryan Botany, whose aggressive tendencies toward fellow villagers leave him bruised and battered and wet when he gets a rude taste of his own medicine, and naturally enough, The King's Breakfast, a small drama about a dairymaid, an Alderney (it's a cow, in case you're wondering) and a king, who wants some cream on his porridge. The order has to go down the chain of command as a king, quite rightly, can't speak directly to a cow.
Roald Dahl would be the last of my choices, and it's difficult to pick out a book that defines an oeuvre that is at all times charming, mildly seditious, full of wicked adults, savvy kids and fools getting their comeuppance – a winning combination if ever there was one. Fantastic Mr Fox is as good a place to start as any. The wonderful things about Dahl books is the simplicity of the prose, the ease of reading aloud (not always as easy a task as one might imagine) and their dark humour. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would be a good follow-up, followed by The BFG and eventually, when your teenagers are reading on their own, a copy of Tales of the Unexpected left in clear view by their bedside. It will be devoured as eagerly as Matilda.
Blast! I forgot The Tiger Who Came to Tea, which by long Fforde tradition has a Sean Connery voice for the tiger, and also not mentioned are the original Mr Men books, The Adventure of the Little Wooden Horse, Gobbolino the Witch's Cat, Lotta, My Naughty Little Sister, The Borrowers, Mrs Pepperpot, The Worst Witch, Stig of the Dump, The Red Balloon, Billy's Beetle, Tintin, Mog … and so on. So many stories, so few evenings. Before you know it, they're at university.
• Jasper Fforde will take part in Naughty Boys storytime with Joe Dunthorne at Dinefwr Literature Festival on Saturday 30 June