1. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
2. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
4. Winnie The Pooh – AA Milne
5. Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
6. James and The Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
7. The BFG – Roald Dahl
8. A Bear Called Paddington – Michael Bond
9. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
10. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
This is a fascinating combination of classic (Black Beauty) and contemporary (Dahl titles), adult books (Twain) and books for children (Paddington Bear). And it once again demonstrates some of the fallacy about lists. Ask adults which books kids SHOULD read and you are likely to get this type of list. Some of it is nostalgic (the books I read as a kid and loved) and some of it is pedantic (well, I had to read it so kids should too). There are other factors, of course. But ask folks to make a list, and anything can happen.
One of the things I loved about this list, though, is that it might just remind readers that children's books come from other countries. Too often we become very America-centric and forget that there are wonderful books from abroad. I love the Batchelder award because it rewards publishers for American translations of books from other countries. I am on the lookout for the British children's awards for that reason, too. So, take a look at this list of 50 books and see authors such as Phillipa Pearce and Sue Townsend and Nona Bawden. The Adrian Mole Diaries deserve new readers. Kids need a chance to read books by writers from other countries, books set in "foreign" lands, stories that broaden their own world.
This piece ends with a list of 20 most beloved children's book characters. It might be interesting to see how many of these characters are familiar to kids (and to your colleagues, too, perhaps?). Do they know the Gruffalo? Toad? A hungry caterpillar? I admit that I had to look up Mr. Men (though as soon as I saw the illustrations, I recalled them) and Mog the Cat (ordered one from Amazon). I smiled as I recalled reading about Noddy (Enid Blyton) and recalled how much my grandkids loved Thomas. What might your list of favorite characters include? What might your top 50 books look like?
Lists make me thing, make me remember, make me curious about what I do not know. They do not guide my reading, but they do inform it.