Alexander Averin

Monday, 21 April 2008

The book group - on children's books.

Dear Diary,

Our book club met in the library last Monday to discuss our favourite children’s books and it turned out to be a very successful evening. I had been a bit worried that the subject, chosen by me, would not be of particular interest to our members as we are all middle-aged or older and none of us have young children any more. Quite a few of us are grandparents though and all of us are parents and believe it or not all of us had been children once. I need not have worried.

Because of my concerns I had broadened out the subject somewhat to ask how they had been introduced to books and reading and how their love for literature had developed. I drafted out a very last-minute and hastily-put-together children’s book survey (see earlier blog). Purplecooers also gave me their views which was a great help as we could compare their replies with the book group’s. This comparison went down very well, I had done a similar thing when the Purplecoo book group also discussed Margaret Forster’s Diary of an Ordinary Woman. It helps to widen the viewpoints and bring in new opinions.

What struck me most though in this case was the similarity between the answers by the library book club to the answers from the online survey. Time and time again, as we chatted, the same book titles were being mentioned and the same kind of experiences in childhood were coming through. It became obvious that we are all like-minded souls, a special breed of bibliophiles, never happy without a book or books close to hand. A lifelong passion rooted very early on in our childhood.

We disagreed over Roald Dahl. In the past, as a book group we have read his autobiography and perhaps we feel that we know him well. I had to defend him again last week and did my best to explain his appeal and why I consider him to be my number one classic children’s author.

I was also alone in that I was the only person in the group who had not been read to as a child (everybody say Aaaahhhh) but in Purplecoo there was one other so I am not completely alone in that respect.

A few people brought in very old, rather obscure children’s books, some were school or Sunday school prizes passed on to them by their parents. Funny how we all hang on to these prize books. One or two were very old indeed and made for interesting reading, very un-politically correct some of them! Some were beautiful classics.

Our discussion ran over the clock. We usually finish at ten but were still chatting at twenty past and could have gone on even longer.

The response online from Blogland and in Purplecoo was amazing too. The discussion in that forum is still ongoing.

So what were the best loved books/authors according to this random survey in the library group?

You won’t be surprised, here are a few.

A A Milne
Dear old Enid Blyton
C S Lewis
Treasure Island
Alice and all her adventures
Arthur Ransome
Mallory Towers
Black Beauty
Anne of Green Gables
Winnie the Pooh
What Katy Did and what she did Next and at School.
Little Women
Adventure Stories
Mabel Lucie Atwell
Grimms Fairy Tales
Hans Andersen
Boarding School Stories
Malcom Saville
Christine Pullein Thompson
Little Grey Rabbit
Robin Hood

It seemes that Wind in the Willows would be most people's Desert Island choice.

When we got to talking about books the younger generation enjoy, more names emerged.

These are a few, pretty obvious aren’t they?

Jacqueline Wilson

J K Rowling

The Daisy Meadows Fairy series.

Roald Dahl

Horrid Henry

Illustrators got a mention too, Quentin Blake for one.

Alison Uttley, remember her? There are so many, I feel a blog coming on.

We discussed (and looked at) some of the wonderful picture books around for very young children. Board books for tiny babies and touchy feely ones as they grow. We talked about how important the library was to us when we were children and how it fed our appetite for books, for a while anyway. Most of us had soon devoured everything on the shelves.

I did mention that boys on the whole go mad for non-fiction,
( girls like it too but not as much, they generally prefer fiction).

The children have a love of poetry books here in Wales, I don’t know if it is a Welsh thing?

What I gleaned from all this is that the love of books about adventure both in real life and as a fantasy lives on. Also stories about animals and fairies. Witches have always been popular as well, even before Harry Potter. And funny books are always enjoyed.

So a real winner of a book could maybe combine all these?

Is the new J K Rowling out there somewhere?

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,


Elizabethd said...

Talking to my grandson in Canada recently, I found that he is reading all the expected things, ie Dr Who, HP, etc, but also loves Rudyard Kipling and rather old fadhioned books. I'm very glad, as not long agp a cynical friend told me that books would disappear in the next 20 years, with computers taking their place. How sad.

DJ Kirkby said...

We are reading Enif Blyton's Faraway tree series at the moment, just finished the Enchanted Forest and are moving onto book two, such beautiful dreamy fun in those sotries, the whole family crowds into N3S's room to listen each night.


So sad I missed children book survey and most miffed! Just have not had time to read anythgin at alllately and see what I missed out on !! WOdnerful choice of books adn very interesting reading too. Poor you never read too!

lampworkbeader said...

I wish I lived near your library. It sounds like just my kind of book club

Inthemud said...

What a wonderful evening you must have had discussing all those children's books.
I've been riveted by this discussion , it has brought back so many delightful memories of books i've read in childhood.
Thank you so much for doing the survey and giving us all such pleasure !!

Cowgirl said...

I read copiously as a child. The books I loved the most all seemed to have one thing in common - they didn't "talk down" to children but instead were intelligently written with often quite long words - think of the "sophorific" bunnies in Mr McGregors veggie patch! Popular culture is responsibe in so many ways for "dumbing down" todays youth - and its such a crime. The best mix seemed to be that of the Famous Five - plenty of mystery, outdoors-iness, suspense, heroism and of course Lashings of Ginger Beer!

Frances said...

A toast to young readers and to older readers who remember being young readers! And a second toast to the glories of the Library!


ChrisH said...

I'm sorry I missed the survey. I remember 'Little Grey Rabbit' with affection and Alison Uttley but also recall a book called 'Little Grey Men' by I think BB? These day's I'm a huge fan of Louise Rennison, albeit she's not a small children's author.

CAMILLA said...

Hi Cait,

Thank you for doing the post for children's survey. I so enjoyed remembering those books I read as a youngster. Ah, how lovely to know that one of my favourites - The Wind In The Willows came out tops.


WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

I think we all enjoyed doing the survey and it took me back to my reading as a child and my love of books then and now. Thank you for reporting back . . . really interesting to see what was and is popular. As a child I loved adventure books too.

Blossomcottage said...

Oh!!!! pony stories I still love them. How I wanted to be the people in those books

KAREN said...

I loved Enid Blyton as a child, but my own children weren't so keen, although my daughter quite liked the Malory Towers series. (Do you know, I only noticed recently that it's spelt with one 'L' !!)

I wasn't read to as a child either, but I clearly remember sitting on the landing reading aloud to my younger brothers and sister! We didn't have a tv growing up, and that's where our love of books developed. It's a struggle to get my teenagers to read now, but I bring books home from the library every week and sometimes it even works :o)

Milkmaid said...

Glad you mentioned Malory Towers, my childhood wouldn't have been the same. It's funny then I could read books over and over, can't do it now. Would also like to put in Swallows and Amazons and one that I do find not many know Milly Molly Mandy.

Milkmaid said...

I've read your blog again and you have got Arthur Ransome, may be I still should read things several times !!!