Tuesday, 22 July 2008

More on children's books

Callmemadam asks at her blog whether a list of children's books such as the one I just posted should include books that were landmarks in children's literature even if one didn't like them.

That's a question I considered at some length, so I think I could say a little more about my choices. I actually consider that, with the possible exception of Treasure Island, which as I've said I found unreadable – though I quite accept that lots of other people enjoy it – my list is pretty comprehensive. I believe it does a reasonable job of representing the best in children's literature from the period 1840-1975, at least from a British perspective; where personal preference came in was in choosing which book from an author – I allowed myself to choose my favourite at times, rather than having to decide which might be someone's best work (anyway a subjective judgement).

Authors considered, and rejected, include those who had written books which I thought entertaining and amusing, but not necessarily memorable. However, since this is my list of recommendations, I also included some books I remember with great affection, but would certainly be missable from the point of view of others. For instance, I can't really see some of my friends and acquaintances settling down with a cup of tea and The Chalet School and Jo or Riding with the Lyntons, both of which gave me a good deal of pleasure as a child; also, I wanted to include an example of the genres, girl's school stories and pony books. Furthermore, it's hard to imagine anyone settling down and reading their way right through my list (except me, since I've already mentioned my plan to write about as many as possible here). However, the list is intended to stand as a resource for anyone who wants to use it thus, and I will happily add as a postscript books recommended by others, with the caveat that I haven't read them and can't therefore personally recommend them (though I will happily read anything I can find).

One book which is on the list but gave me food for thought is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I was persuaded by my husband that it should be included – he read it to a class of 9-year-olds and they all loved it. I don't, but I heard daily about their enthusiasm for it and saw some of the classwork it inspired, and I can't argue with its right to be here. When it comes to writing about it myself I shall have to try to approach it with an open mind.

So, if you think I've missed landmarks, please tell me what, and why it should be here.


  1. The Children Who Lived in a Barn (if that's the exact title) springs to mind. The one with the hay box. Everyone remembers the hay box!

  2. Hm, that's a very interesting point. I'm always on the hunt for great children's books and have recently discovered Bayard and their series of StoryBoxBooks, AdventureBoxBooks, DiscoveryBoxBooks They have work by acclaimed children's books illustrator Helen Oxenbury appearing in the Storybox series for September. In addition to this, they also have some great activities for rainy days: http://www.storyboxbooks.com/potatoprinting.php, http://www.adventureboxbooks.com/macaroni-picture-frames.php, http://www.discoveryboxbooks.com/skittles.php Enjoy!

  3. MMM, I haven't read that one, though I'd heard of it, and liked the sound of it. Will get a copy.

    Book, thanks for the links. Oxenbury will definitely be on my illustrator's list.