Philip Pullman

This writer is a rarity in the recent Waterstone's best children's books list. He's still alive!

Last week's Bookworm and Waterstone's booksellers poll for the Nation's Favourite Children's Book contains no big surprises, but a lot of intriguing small ones

It's no mystery, for example, why Roald Dahl is overwhelmingly the most popular of all the authors on this list - at least, among younger readers. What Dahl did supremely well was tell a story. Given a sequence of events, he picked the right line through them with unerring skill. That's not easy to do, but if you can manage it, you'll never lack for readers.

He appears no less than seven times in the under-I6s' top 10, together with JRR Tolkien (for The Hobbit) and AA Milne (for guess what); it's a great tribute to Jacqueline Wilson, the only living author there, that she makes it to number 10: warm and funny and firmly rooted in the real world of families and relationships, her books tell children what they didn't know that they knew.

Do dead people write better books than living ones, then?

Only one living writer, Michelle Magorian, makes it into the overall top 10. Apart from that it's dead men all the way: The Wind in the Willows, published in 1908, comes in at number two overall: all right in parts, is my verdict on that. CS Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, at number one, was published in 1950 (hmm, is what I say), and that nauseating piece of whimsy, Winnie-the-Pooh, at number four, has been simpering at us since 1926.

Further down, but not much, we find Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden and Little Women. Who voted for these? The older readers, probably. It's not really surprising that the younger readers' list features more recent books: they're reading them today, after all, whereas the grown-ups aren't.

What strange creations such lists are, mixing enduring favourites up in one big heap with the sensations of the passing moment. Despite my loathing for it, I have to acknowledge that Winnie-the-Pooh must have something, to have been around for so long. But how long will RL Stine's Say Cheese and Die, or One Day in Horror Land (76 and 79 respectively) last? Some of us benefit, of course: my own Northern Lights appears at a highly respectable 28 (19 in the under-l6s' list), and I shall boast about the fact for as long as I can squeeze any credit out of it. Two years ago I wouldn't have been anywhere near the top 100, and I shall be very surprised if I'm still there in two years' time. It's fairly safe to say that Swallows and Amazons (number seven), Treasure Island (number 40) and The Borrowers (number 61), however, will still be there or thereabouts for years to come, and quite right too.

Of course, it's impossible to look at a list like this without trying to draw up your own top 10. It's easier to arrive at favourite authors than favourite books, though: if you like the flavour of Richmal Crompton, for instance, you wouldn't want to be without all the William books, even though Just William might be the one title that people remember. Anyway, here are my 10, in alphabetical order, with their "Nation's Favourite" rating":

Paul Berna, A Hundred Million Francs (not listed)

Lewis Carroll, the Alice books, both of them (nine and 58)

Tove Jansson, Finn Family Moomintroll and the other Moomin books (not listed)

Erich Kastner, Emil and the Detectives (not listed)

Rudyard Kipling, The Just So Stories (10)

Andrew Lang, the fairy tale collections (not listed)

Norman Lindsay, The Magic Pudding (not listed)

Arthur Ransome, Swallows and Amazons (seven) and the rest of them

RL Stevenson, Treasure Island (40)

To qualify, these had to be books that I read and enjoyed when I was a child, and have read and enjoyed since. But the closer you look, the more difficult to pin down this "favourite" business becomes. I fell in love, for example, not so much with Paul Bema's text in A Hundred Million Francs as with the girl in the drawing on page 14. Richard Kennedy's fluid pen-and-ink line is still, for me, a major part of the delight of that book. (How many of Roald Dahl's readers would like his books quite so much if they didn't have the Quentin Blake illustrations? Some of them would feel a lot less like fun.)

I notice that my top 10 is actually nine, but never mind. We enjoy characters, too, independently of the stories they come in, and children don't only read children's books. I loved the Saint and Sherlock Holmes and Jeeves at least as much as William. And what about comics - Superman and Batman in particular? The tenth place in my list would be occupied jointly by all the stories featuring all of those characters.

And of course we change, and some books don't change with us. I have to confess that for sheer number of readings, the absolute top of my childhood list, the pinnacle of all favourites, would have to be a book called Winks and his New Friends. Out of curiosity, I ordered it recently at the Bodleian Library and read it again. It was absolute twaddlen

Philip Pullman's `Northern Lights' won the Carnegie Medal and The Guardian Children's Fiction award. Its sequel, `The Subtle Knife', is published this month

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

    £600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

    Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star