Forget Hogwarts, vintage is the best children's read say Laureates

Laureates' list of best reads for kids omits Harry Potter in favour of classics

Arts Correspondent,Arifa Akbar
Sunday 13 October 2013 02:16

Anne Frank is in there, as is Oliver Twist, the four March sisters, William and the Famous Five. But a certain Hogwarts wizard was notable by his absence from the list when the five past Children's Laureates were asked to hand-pick their "favourite ever" reads.

Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and the current Laureate, Michael Rosen, have selected seven works each as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations for the Children's Laureate.

What is clear is that the classics dominate their tastes, with only five of the total 35 books having been published in the past 20 years and a fifth of the titles dating from the 19th century.

Sarah Clarke, the children's buying manager from Waterstone's, said: "I'm sure it will be a surprise to many that the list does not include more recent bestsellers like J K Rowling's Harry Potter. But it's great to see the laureates choosing some timeless greats like The Railway Children and Just So Stories and introducing them to a new generation of readers – that's what the laureates are all about."

The laureates plumped for the well-worn charms of Charles Dickens' 1838 classic orphan story, Oliver Twist, chosen by Morpurgo, Louisa May Alcott's tale of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March in Little Women, selected by Wilson, and the irrepressible tales of the mischievous 11-year-old in the Just William books.

Rosen selected his seven top reads based on the responses they had elicited from his children as he read and reread them at bedtimes. Morpurgo chose Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Treasure Island because, he said, "Jim Hawkins was the first character in a book I identified with totally. I was Jim Hawkins. I lived Treasure Island as I read it. And I loved it; still do."

The 1930s emerged as the vintage decade for children's fiction, with seven titles making it on to the list, including The Sword in the Stone by T H White, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild and P L Travers' classic, Mary Poppins.

Dickens's Oliver Twist was the oldest book to appear on the list, written 170 years before the newest title to make the grade, Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton, published in 2008.

Kid lit: The favourites

Michael Morpurgo chose Five Go to Smuggler's Top by Enid Blyton (1945)

Morpurgo reveals his love of the classics in his choice featuring Julian, Dick, Anne, George and their dog Timmy. Other stories on his list date as far back as 1838 to Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, Just So stories by Rudyard Kipling from 1902 and Edward Lear's A Book of Nonsense (1846).

Anne Fine chose Just William by Richmal Crompton (1922)

The 39 William stories, about a mischievous 11-year-old schoolboy and his friends sold over 12 million copies in Britain alone. Ironically, William was originally created for grown-ups.

Michael Rosen chose Clown by Quentin Blake (1995)

Blake created a wordless book that was a "silent film between book covers" when it was published. The story involves a bin full of old toys, from which emerges a toy clown that comes to life.

Jacqueline Wilson chose The Railway Children by E. Nesbit (1906)

The story of a family who move near the railway after the father is imprisoned as a result of being falsely accused of selling state secrets.

Wilson also lists Mary Poppins among her favourites.

Quentin Blake chose Rose Blanche by Ian McEwan and Roberto Innocenti (1985)

McEwan collaborated with Italian illustrator Innocenti to create the story of Rose, a girl named after a group of young German anti-war protesters.

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