Classic children's stories top list as JK Rowling fails to work her magic
FROM Charles Dickens' OIiver Twist to the 2008 paperback Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear, a huge comic hit with reviewers last year, top British children's writers named their all-time favourites yesterday.
The 35 top titles named by the five "children's laureates" in a comprehensive list ran from Robert Louis Stevenson to Enid Blyton. But they ignored two writers whose works have transformed children's literature in the 21st century – JK Rowling and Philip Pullman.
When Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen revealed their choices, there was not a Harry Potter adventure in sight. Even more surprising, one literary expert said yesterday, was that Pullman's Northern Lights did not make the list.
Sarah Grady, director of children's programmes at the Edinburgh International Festival, suggested the writers "might have been choosing books they loved as children".
"Perhaps some of them lean towards classic books because they are transgenerational, have spoken to thousands of people in varying contexts throughout different history," she said.
The works were selected for The Laureates' Table, a promotion at bookseller Waterstone's, which forms part of tenth anniversary celebrations for the Children's Laureate.
Mr Rosen is the current laureate and the others were appointed for two years each, with Mr Blake the first.
With each writer picking seven books, classics dominated the list. Only five of the 35 chosen were published in the last 20 years and a fifth of the titles were released in the 19th century.
Mr Morpurgo chose the oldest, Oliver Twist, from 1838, along with Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, and Edward Lear's A Book of Nonsense. Mr Rosen chose the newest, Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear, by Andy Stanton, the 245-page book he called an "eye-watering comedy".
Ms Wilson, whose books have sold millions, picked PL Travers's classic Mary Poppins. She said: "I would love to be Mary Poppins, admired by everyone, totally in control, never turning a hair even when flying through the air with her carpet bag."
The most popular authors, with two picks apiece, were E Nesbit, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Terry Jones made the list for his 1981 book of Fairy Tales.
Sarah Clarke, Waterstone's children's buying manager, said: "I'm sure it will be a surprise to many that the list does not include more recent bestsellers like JK Rowling's Harry Potter. But it's great to see the laureates choosing some timeless greats."
The children's book agent Lucy Juckes, of Jenny Brown Associates, said: "I actually think it's a great list, showing the breadth of books for children not on the best-seller list."
THE OLD ONES ARE THE BEST
The full list of titles on the Laureates' Table:
Chosen by Quentin Blake:
Little Tim And The Brave Sea Captain by Edward Ardizzone (published 1936)
Queenie The Bantam by Bob Graham (1997)
The Box Of Delights by John Masefield (1935)
Rose Blanche by Ian McEwan and Roberto Innocenti (1985)
Five Children And It by E Nesbit (1902)
Snow White by Josephine Poole (1991)
Stuart Little by EB White (1945)
Chosen by Anne Fine:
The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (1963)
Absolute Zero by Helen Cresswell (1978)
Just William by Richmal Crompton (1922)
Journey To The River Sea by Iva Ibbotson (2001)
Lavender's Blue by Kathleen Lines (1954)
A Child's Garden Of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (1885)
The Sword In The Stone by TH White (1938)
Chosen by Michael Morpurgo:
Five Go To Smuggler's Top by Enid Blyton (1945)
Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton (1939)
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (1838)
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (1902)
A Book Of Nonsense by Edward Lear (1846)
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)
The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde (1888)
Chosen by Jacqueline Wilson:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868/69)
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)
What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge (1872)
The Family From One End Street by Eve Garnett (1937)
The Railway Children by E Nesbit (1906)
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (1936)
Mary Poppins by PL Travers (1934)
Chosen by Michael Rosen:
Clown by Quentin Blake (1995)
The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)
Emil And The Detectives by Erich Kastner (1928)
Not Now, Bernard by David McKee (1980)
Fairy Tales by Terry Jones (1981)
Mr Gum And The Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton (2008)
Daz 4 Zoe by Robert Swindells (1990)
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