Wednesday, 13 July 2016

My Top Ten

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. ( ) 

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
The Bible

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

Little Town On The Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Oh, yeah: and I cheated: I couldn’t just have one KMP. Well, it’s my list!

What's on yours? 


catdownunder said...

The little white horse (Elizabeth Goudge), The woolpack (Cynthia Harnett) Friday's Tunnel (John Verney), The Lark on the Wing (Elfrida Vipont),The Rose Round (Meriol Trevor), Let the Balloon Go (Ivan Southall), I am David (Ann Holm), The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken), Charmed Life (Diana Wynne Jones) and Sun on the Stubble (Colin Thiele)
Two of those are Australian (Southall/Thiele) and pretty well essential reading for any Downunder child. But only ten? (Henrietta gets more than that in Goudge's Henrietta's House.)

Sheena Wilkinson said...

Lovely list. I remember lots of those titles from the library when I was a child. The library Without Which...

Emma Barnes said...

Love your list! I'd substitute Cricket Term for End of Term, and Vicarage Family for Ballet Shoes, but we definitely shared many childhood tastes. As for the BBC list - including the Bible seems bizarre. If you're going to allow the Bible, then why not Shakespeare? Or the Iliad? Or...could go on indefinitely. I do love Lord of the Rings, though, and Alice would also be in my Top Ten (although Through the Looking Glass, not Wonderland).

Ann Turnbull said...

So much depends on (a) how old you are, and (b) which books just happened to be available. Here's my list, from ages 6 to to 12:

Winnie the Pooh (and all the Pooh books) (A A Milne)
Peter Pan and Wendy (J M Barrie)
The Jungle Books (all of them) (Rudyard Kipling)
Jim Davis (John Masefield)
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (& the Voyage of the Dawntreader) (C S Lewis)
Robin Hood (Carola Oman)
Heidi (Johanna Spyri)
What Katy Did (Susan Coolidge)
Little Women (Louisa Alcott)
She (Rider Haggard) (I read this one endlessly in my early teens).

Of the BBC list, I read and re-read LOTR, but not till I was in my late 20s; ditto Mockingbird; and my Dad made the mistake of reading The Wind in the Willows to me when I was 4 and I failed to appreciate it, and have never read it since.