March 6, 2014

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day, which means every school in England has a fancy dress day, except for Bernard’s school which is having a Lent assembly instead. They are dressing up next Friday, which gives me more time to figure out how to sew two t-shirts together to make a Horrid Henry outfit.

The Telegraph gives us a list of the Best Children’s Books of All Time, and that of course can’t possibly be definitive so let’s see what we think.

  1. Watership Down: I must have been about Bernard’s age when my dad first read this to me, as it was about the time that the film came out. It terrified me, though I went on to re-read it several times. We have a copy but Bernard hasn’t read it yet.
  2. The Hobbit: Absolutely one of the most excellent books of all time, I first had this read to me by my teacher at school when I was in what is now called Year 4, so maybe we’re nearly ready for this. And then we can watch that film, too.
  3. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: We have the entire Narnia box set, and have read four of the six in the last year. Bernard insisted that he was enjoying them, but I am not convinced he was following much of it. Incidentally I know these are supposedly heavy on the christian allegory, but you can totally read that as paganism at least in the early books and I’m fine with that.
  4. Charlotte’s Web: I never read this as a kid, I was probably put off by the MASSIVE SPIDER on the cover; but I enjoyed it last year or the year before when we had it as a bedtime story. I might put it back on the to-read shelf for another go.
  5. The Little Prince: Another one I didn’t read as a child, but have since discovered what I was missing. Weird little tale, but sweet. Bernard was nonplussed.
  6. Pippi Longstocking: Obviously it’s important to include fiction featuring strong female characters, though I find Pippi a little violent and nihilistic. Bernard tolerated this for my sake.
  7. Emil & The Detectives: This is the first on the list that neither of us has read, so I’ve wishlisted it. Any thoughts?
  8. James & The Giant Peach: One of my favourite Dahls (after Danny the Champion of the World). It has been noticed that I like his older work better; The Twits is mostly dreadful. Bernard is a big fan of George’s Marvellous Medicine, and we can recite the audiobook of Fantastic Mr Fox.
  9. Winnie The Pooh: I loved, loved, loved this as a child, slept with it under my pillow etc. Bernard has been less enthusiastic, though he does have the very box set given to me by my grandparents.
  10. A Little Princess: Another of my favourites, and of course I need to give myself a stern talking-to and not avoid this one because it seems a bit girly. I don’t currently have a copy, but we do have The Secret Garden, so we’ll give that a go instead.
  11. The Just So Stories: A staple of every child’s bookshelf, surely? We have this on two audiobooks, one read by Geoffrey Palmer and one by Johnny Morris. Both are super.
  12. A Journey To The Centre Of The Earth: I think I owned this but never read it, so have no opinion of it; do you?
  13. The Wind in the Willows: We have a beautiful illustrated copy of this, and have certainly read it more than once, as well as spent a great deal of time in the exhibition in the River & Rowing Museum at Henley.
  14. The Doll People: I don’t know this, but it sounds a bit scary.
  15. The Child that Books Built: Another one I don’t know, and from the Telegraph’s comment I’m not sure I would rush to wishlist it, unless for myself.

The Telegraph list, featuring only one book written in this century, strikes me as a list written by someone my age, of books they think children should be reading. It would be nice to add a few modern classics, but perhaps they were trying to avoid being all Harry Pottery.

Later I will get Bernard to compile his own top ten. It will feature mainly Horrid Henry and Sponge Bob. It doesn’t matter how much culture I throw at him, he remains a seven year old boy and will do for another few months.


11 thoughts on “World Book Day

  1. I re-read the hobbit last year to decide if it was suitable for M. *such* a disappointment: I loved it as a child/teen but oh lord as an adult it is tedious and linear and where are the sodding women. M, however, loved it as much as I had. I wouldn’t show her the film yet, it is pretty grisly.

  2. Most of those are pretty good – although I’m surprised at only one Dahl book. (And I’d agree re Danny, and Mr Fox – both preferred to Peach)

    I’m unconvinced by Watership Down – it’s a great story, but not really for under-10s in my opinion.

    Other than the list, one of my long-term favourites was “The Little Grey Men” by BB (AKA D.J. Watkins-Pitchford, if memory serves) about gnomes. It’s probably very ‘privilege’ these days, but I used to really like it. Must hunt it down and try again.

    There’s also (from memory) :

    • The Machine Gunners, by Robert Westall
    • Stig of the Dump by Clive [someone]
    • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
    • The Borribles by Michael de Larrabeiti (recently re-released)

    Probably others, but they’re the ones that come to mind.

    (I did that as a list, but may need to edit it within Uborka to make it work)

  3. We enjoyed Stig of the Dump and little while ago, and will probably read it again. Another of my childhood favourites. I don’t know any of your other suggestions.

  4. Oh, bollocks. So we sent the boy off to school in his full Beast Quest get up – tunic, cloak, sword, shield – and you’re saying we got the date wrong? He must have felt a right chump.

  5. I’m struggling to think of what I read at that age. The hobbit definitely, and a lot of famous 5. Pippi long stockings was on the list too, but other than that I’m drawing a blank until early teens (when I read mainly horror stories the like of which would give me nightmares were I to read them now)

    Clair on March 6, 2014
  6. Here is Maggie’s list (she’s 10 at the end of the month). I suspect it might correlate more with stuff she has read recently and can remember! But who isn’t guilty of that. 1. The alchemyst, 2. Inkheart, 3. The thornwaite inheritance, 4. Harry Potter, 5. Dork diaries, 6. Rat burger, 7. War horse, 8. Heidi, 9. The hobbit, 10. The railway children.

  7. Here is Bernard’s list:
    Horrid Henry’s Stinkbomb.
    How to speak Dragonese.
    Murderous Maths.
    George’s Marvellous Medicine.
    James and the Giant Peach.
    The Twits.
    Horrid Henry reads a book.
    Famous Five go off in caravans [sic].
    Horrid Henry tricks the tooth fairy.
    The Just So Stories.
    Mudpuddle Farm.
    Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

  8. I didn’t read them as a child, so perhaps I can’t comment, but I adore Neil Gaiman’s books. He’s such a wonderful storyteller. Yes, he’s written books for adults, but things like The Graveyard Book and Coraline are just wonderful. His last book had me in floods of tears.

    Like everyone else, I absolutely loved the hobbit when I was younger, and reading it now mostly just reminds me of what a spell it cast over me then, and I love it for that. Dahl, obviously. For me it was the BFG. I seem to have dim memories of loving the Phantom Tollbooth too, but reading the synopsis now, I wonder if I’m thinking of the right book! Kudos to Bernard for picking Grimm. Suitably gruesome, I should think.

  9. Over Sea, Under Stone… by Susan Cooper, and the first in the Dark is Rising sequence. I was thinking of that…..

  10. I only read The Dark is Rising as an adult, because the covers were too scary when I was little. I absolutely love it, that’s definitely on the list for a few years’ time!

  11. Neil Gaiman – yes absolutely! But again, came to him older.
    The dark is rising sequence is fantastic. Love all of it bar the very very very end. If I could remove one paragraph it would be perfect. Might put that on my list to read next.

    Strangely I’ve never read any Dahl.

    Clair on March 7, 2014

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