Top Ten Childrens Books
Earlier this year I read an article in a newspaper which listed the top ten children's books of the past 150 years. This list was based on a poll of 2,652 adults and, I assume, carried out in the UK. Some titles which featured in the top ten I wholeheartedly agreed with, some I didn't and some were titles I hadn't read so couldn't express an opinion. Top of the poll was Winnie-the-Pooh, a worthy winner in my opinion as the mix of characters and personalities have wide spread appeal - who could resist a character as adorable as Winnie-the-Pooh, or Piglet, or Eeyore?
The rest of the top ten was as follows:
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
- The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkein
- The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
- Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
- Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
- The BFG – Roald Dahl
- The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis.
This list started to make me think how many of those titles would feature in my top ten? And, as only two did, what would I include instead? From the books I have read in the above list I would include Winnie-the-Pooh, as I mentioned above, and The Gruffalo - a very clever story. That left eight other titles to choose, so here are the rest of my favourite top ten children's books or stories.
My all-time favourite from childhood has to be The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I loved the excitement of the different lands that would arrive at the top of the tree and the adventures the children had in these lands. The Land of Goodies, where everything was made from things to eat, was the one I would have visited given the chance. We have been asked numerous times in Rose's Books for this title so I was obviously not the only child to have loved the book.
I said to my sister a few years ago 'I don't know what happened to our copy of The Magic Faraway Tree' and she replied 'it's on my bookcase at home'. So after reading it again I rehomed it on my bookcase. I was surprised to find how much detail I had forgotten, especially some of the characters who lived on the way up the tree like Moonface and the Washer Woman, but I did enjoy rereading it.
Another favourite of mine isThe Wind in the Willows byKenneth Grahame, I was very surprised this didn't make the newspaper top ten. Although I knew parts of the story, probably from television and school, I didn't read the whole story until I was an adult. I think it's the contrast of characters that I enjoy, the gentleness of Mole and the sometimes gruffness of Badger contrasting with the brashness of Toad. I also enjoy seeing how different illustrators depict the characters and which scenes they choose to depict. I have started to read the follow on tales by William Horwood and I'm enjoying them too.
Bunnikins Picnic Party is the only Ladybird book in my top ten and the only Ladybird I remember from my childhood. I'm not sure if I ever owned this book or if it was one I used to borrow from the school library. The story is told in verse, as are all the titles in Ladybird series 401, and is about the adventures Bunnikin and his brothers and sisters have on their picnic. The illustration that I distinctly remember from my childhood is the one of Bunnikins asleep against a tree trunk. He gets left behind when the picnic party heads for home and this illustration shows him being found after a frantic search.
I would have to include a book of Fables in my selection, probably Aesop’s. I think of fables as short, often only one or two paragraphs long, with a moral. The ability to write a complete tale in just a few sentences impresses me. Most people would be familiar with one or two fables, perhaps the hare and the tortoise being one of the best known. The following example sums up a fable to me.
The Old Woman and her Hen.
A poor woman once had a hen that laid an egg for her every day. As time went on, the woman thought that if she gave the hen a larger supply of corn it would lay twice a day. She tried the experiment, but the hen grew so fat that it gave up laying even once a day, and the poor woman had no eggs at all. Moral: Be content with what you have.
A Flower Fairies Book written and illustrated by Cicely Mary Barker would be my next choice. I enjoy the illustrations as they have such tremendous detail. I do a lot of gardening so I am familiar with many of the garden flowers and wild flowers depicted. When I look at the beautiful illustrations for some of the wild flowers, which I treat as weeds in my garden and pull out, I wonder why I do this - after all a weed is just a flower in the wrong place. A good example is the dandelion fairy, the pom-poms on his shoes look like dandelion clocks and one line in the accompanying poem reads 'Pull me up – I grow again'. I can vouch for that!
As a child I used to buy and enjoy the Beano comic every week so I think a Beano annual should be in my selection, not strictly a story but a good book never the less. I still have my 1973 annual in the attic which I read over and over again, I'm sure I would still remember many of the stories if I looked through it now. Favourite character(s) – difficult, either The Bash Street Kids or Gnasher, Dennis the Menace's dog. I'm very proud of the fact that I once had my name published in the Beano for sending in a puzzle, I received a postal order as my prize.
The next title on my list is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I enjoy this story because I think it shows that no matter how set in your ways you are or how old you are it's never too late to change your outlook on life and make improvements. There have been so many different illustrators over the years I'm not sure which I would chose as my favourite. I do like Michael Foreman's edition and Quentin Blake's but I think Arthur Rackham's has to be top of my list. All three have very different interpretations of the same characters and I would make space for them all on my bookshelf.
I have recently discovered a story called The Magic Stone but I think the story is also known as Stone Soup and it's gone straight into my top ten. I think there may be different versions along a similar theme but the story I read featured a tramp tricking a supposedly poor and hungry old woman. They met by chance in the woods, he was looking for somewhere to stay overnight, she was collecting firewood. Eventually he persuaded her to let him stay, but she said she couldn't possibly feed him as she was a poor old woman who couldn't afford to feed herself. The tramp offered to make the old woman, in lieu of his lodgings, a delicious soup using a stone.
He put the stone into a large cooking pot and brought it to the boil. The old woman was fascinated and sat watching him, 'what will it taste like?' she asked. 'Stone soup is delicious', he replied, 'of course it would taste better with an onion or two, but as we have no onions, we will have to do without'. The old woman jumps up and says 'I may have some onions in my garden', she brought a couple in and they were added to the pot. The tramp then says 'this is going to be good soup, of course it would taste better with a little beef but we have no beef so we will have to do without'. The old woman produces some beef, it gets added to the pot and so the story continues using the same scenario with turnips, barley, milk and salt. They dine well and the woman is amazed at the tramp's ability to make delicious soup from a stone but as the tramp leaves the next morning she realises that she has been duped. This story makes me smile every time I read it.
So those are my top ten children's stories, choosing them wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. As favourites are a very personal thing I doubt anyone would agree with all of my choices but maybe some of them have brought back fond memories for a few of you.
Contributed by Lorna