Monday, 11 November 2013

Choose your favourite children's book

You have only till 15th November - this Friday! - to vote on your favourite childrens' book from the Booktrust list of 100 books to read before you are 14.

So do click on the link above and cast your vote in each category. (I do have a book hiding on the list but am not asking you to vote for me - it's just something to stimulate discussion with children in your family or classroom).

I put up my own favourites in a few blog posts over the last few weeks and some of those make the Booktrust list too.

So, it's got me thinking about what makes a book a favourite and my not very original conclusion is that it has a lot to do with its being the right book at the right time. I'm sure we've all had the experience of being put off a book by reading it when we weren't the right age to appreciate it. But then reading it again years later we suddenly discover what it was all about.

A book by Roald Dahl that I do like!

There are some books you really do need to read as a child and don't enjoy as an adult. I think if I had been a child when Roald Dahl was writing I would like his books much more than I actually do. And - prepare to recoil in amazement - I am not a big Narnia fan for the same reason. Not that they weren't available when I was a child but I think I read only The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and maybe The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

I read them all when reviewing the first recent film of TLTWatW and was struck, as an adult reader by the poor plotting, loose ends and many infelicities in the writing. I know this will be heresy to all those who fell in love with Aslan with they were little and for whom the whole Narnia saga is bathed in his magnificent tawny aura. I understand but just can't share.

I have deliberately chosen two writers who are no longer with us because there are some current books hugely popular with young readers that leave me cold and it would be terribly unfair to subject living writers to my just not really engaging with them. Having a favourite is a very personal thing.

What it really points up is the necessity to have a really wide choice of books available at every age and stage of childhood in the hope that something will have that personal appeal. With school and class and public libraries all dwindling, that is getting harder.

On the other hand, I heard today that 25,000 children's books (including e-books, self-published and so on) in 2012. So the variety is there but how on earth is a parent or teacher to choose?

This is where lists like the Booktrust one can step in and pick out the titles most likely to be a hit with a young reader. We can all quibble with any list. The "where is X?" and "surely not Y?" and fun games to play - but only if you know a lot about books already.

So do get your children or class of children to cast their votes. It gets people talking about books and introduces them to titles they might not know.