Northern Ireland isn’t a big place and I’m articulate/ opinionated/gobby, so I’m often wheeled out when they want someone to talk about children’s books/reading/libraries on the radio.
This time it was to comment on a poll commissioned by the BBC Love To Read campaign, which asked 1,000 parents which books children should read. The list has courted some controversy, with Booktrust suggesting that it’s too focused on classics. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/10/bbc-childrens-book-list-too-focused-on-daunting-classics-booktru/ )
What children’s books had meant most to me growing up? the producer asked during our briefing. I mentioned a few. Hmm, she said. She obviously hadn’t heard of any of them.
Which is fine. My favourites are my favourites. Your favourites are yours. Of the ‘top ten’ in the BBC poll, none has particular resonance for me. That doesn’t mean they won’t for you. The list includes nothing published this century, and I wouldn’t describe either To Kill A Mockingbird or The Bible as children’s books, but, in the words of Miss Jean Brodie, ‘For those who like that kind of thing, that is the kind of thing they like.’
Just in case you care, here is the list:
The BBC’s top ten recommended books:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J K Rowling
The BFG by Roald Dahl
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Famous Five by Enid Blyton
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
Last week I was at Charney with 22 other children’s writers, and as an introduction, we all talked about a favourite childhood book. 23 eulogies to 23 different books. Some of them sparked smiles and nostalgia throughout the group; many were met with polite blank stares. Of course. Because such things are totally personal and subjective.
So when I was asked, in the studio this morning, what my childhood favourites had been, I resisted the chance for a nostalgia fest. Nor had I much to say about the BBC list: I stressed that it was much more important that children were given the resources to find their own favourites. I talked about the importance of local and school libraries (of course).
But I do have my own favourites, so just for fun, and in the hope that it might encourage some ABBA readers to think of their own special books, here is my Top Ten from My Childhood. My rules were: I had to have read them as a child, and I was only allowed one book from each author. Otherwise, Antonia Forest and K.M Peyton would have dominated.
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
The Chalet School In Exile – Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
I Wrote A Pony Book – Joanna Cannan
Harriet The Spy – Louise Fitzhugh
End Of Term – Antonia Forest
The Abbey Girls In Town – Elsie Oxenham
Flambards – K.M. Peyton
The Last Ditch – K.M. Peyton
Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild
Oh, yeah: and I cheated: I couldn’t just have one KMP. Well, it’s my list!
What's on yours?
What's on yours?