Here in the UK, there have been several media articles recently which have drawn readers’ attentions to books for children. This is great as it gets people talking and questioning their views.
It is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter and an even greater focus on her books, but also on some of her many other achievements. Not only did she leave the world books well-loved by adults and children alike, she was a trail-blazer as a botanist, farmer and environmentalist, at a time when women were not expected to step outside the accepted societal norms. Her sesquicentenary is being celebrated across the country but especially, in the Lake District where she lived, by the National Trust which was a major beneficiary at her death in 1943. A series of stamps depicting her best loved characters will be issued. Another 50p coin will join the others in the Potter series. This time it will show Squirrel Nutkin. And there are a gold and a silver proof coins available too.
The July 22 release here of the film version of the BFG has brought attention back to Roald Dahl, not only his writing for children, but also his wartime achievements. It has also created discussion about the rights and wrongs of book-to-film adaptations, and specifically, the pros and cons of Spielberg’s version. Is there too much darkness? Is Mark Rylance’s giant the right interpretation for you? Please let us know what you think.
There has been discussion about books which children should read by the very arbitrary age of 14. A BBC list recently included Harry Potter, The BFG, The Famous Five, Wind in the Willows, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bible, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Gruffalo, The Fellowship of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland. Of course, this kind of list is compiled by adults and has the nostalgic remembrance that many have for books which they loved as children. The BookTrust’s criticism was that it focussed on ‘daunting classics’. But it also raises the issue of whether these are the best books for children in 2016. This kind of list tends to omit books published recently – most adults compiling them have stopped reading children’s literature apart from what they read to their children. For me, the titles included would depend on the reader because we know that readers are not all the same, and that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’. A resistant reader needs to be tempted by the offerings whereas a voracious reader will read much more widely.
I would really struggle to restrict myself to ten books and what I include today may not be the same titles as one compiled next week. What would be the ten books you would include on such a list? Please let us know and start a discussion.
Retired Teacher Librarian and avid reader