Tag Archives: Maurice Sendak

Dare to be honest?

When asked for the best children’s books, do you a) list the ones you truly loved the best, or b) mention the ones you reckon are expected of you? The ‘proper’ books of childhood.

Last week I was impressed to find I wasn’t totally alone in thinking the new list of 11 best books for under tens, published by the BBC wasn’t one I agreed with. They asked critics, who are supposed know about this. All adults, I imagine.

Charlotte’s Web, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Where the Wild Things Are, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Little Women, The Little Prince, Winnie-the-Pooh, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, A Wizard of Earthsea, A Wrinkle in Time, Little House on the Prairie.

These are fine books. But how much were they even the favourites when these critics were under ten, and how likely is it that they will continue to please young readers of today? Under ten 25 or 50 years ago is not the same as now. Much as I loved Little Women, I’d give it to an older reader today.

I’m not too keen on Roald Dahl. Never read Narnia, but accept that many have and will continue to do so. I have a feeling I’ve not got round to Charlotte’s Web, either. It’s one of those books that are always mentioned, and so well known that it can be hard to keep track of whether or not you’ve actually read it.

Surely this is primarily a list of the books a group of adults believe they loved the best, or feel are the books they ought to admit to in public? Rather like the castaways on Desert Island Discs, who were always asking for the Bible and Shakespeare, and I suspect, not always because those are the very best books in the world. True, there is a lot to read in both, but the choice feels more to be about what you dare say in public. Brave is the person who’d admit to not being a reader, or one who’d prefer Enid Blyton or Lee Child, to pick a couple of very popular writers.

As a foreigner, I feel I’m allowed not to know all these books from childhood. But if I were to choose my favourites, I feel I would be expected to go for Astrid Lindgren, rather than some unknown or forgotten light fiction (by that I mean there were lots of books I loved to bits, but where I either didn’t note the author’s name, or can’t remember it now). Nothing wrong with Astrid, I hasten to add, but whereas I liked Pippi Longstocking back then, today I’d rather not suggest her, but go for one of the others.

And there is that difference between now and then. What I liked 50 years ago, and what I reckon a little Bookwitch today would enjoy. It’s not the same. These critics would also not all be the same age, so their choices show a top eleven from the mid-20th century onwards.

If Offspring were under ten today, there are about four books on the list I’d give them (wouldn’t prevent them from picking any of the books themselves, of course). If I ever end up with Grand-Offspring, I might offer two of these books, and after that I’d go for much more recent books. There are countless wonderful reads for under tens from the last 25 years.

Bookwitch bites #80

I borrowed this as it seemed just right for a week full of tributes to Maurice Sendak.

Goodbye to Maurice Sendak, by Sarah Van Tassel

The Top 10 UK Child Literature Blogs published its new list this week, and I appear to be on it again. Not sure what I’m doing there. Not much, probably. But the recognition is nice, whether or not they are accurate in the way they measure whatever it is they measure. Some very worthy blogs are not on the list, whereas I wonder a little whether the penguin blog belongs to this category.

New-ish blogs I have been meaning to mention for ages are UKYA and the Demention blog. UKYA want to make British YA fiction better known, while Demention is more of a ‘demented’ dystopian kind of blog. And whenever I see another excellent blog start up, with lots of professional bloggers sharing the burden I get awfully jealous. Anything I can do they can do better.

Penguin beach chair

Speaking of penguins, I am still hoping someone will want me to review a beach chair, or better still, the more Bookwitch-friendly deckchair. When I looked these up they were all out of stock. Does that mean it’s still too early? Or too late? Was that our summer, back in March? Please say it wasn’t!

The Big Sleep seems appropriate for this chair, methinks.

Speaking of beaches, I realise summer is almost here. By that I mean the time of year we call summer. It will no doubt be cold and wet, but summer it is. And I’m not ready for it. There is now a lot less May left in which to do my pre-summer stuff.

Before I know it, it will be the 5th of July. After then September won’t be far away. (Am I having an Eyore moment?)

Shortlist Branford Boase 2012

Many bookish events are planned for the 5th of July, and one of them is the Branford Boase Award. This year I have read fewer of the shortlisted books than ever, but it is a great selection.