To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Children’s Laureateship, the five authors who have held the post reveal their seven favourite children’s books. Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen made their selections for Waterstone’s.
Interestingly, bestsellers such as J. K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter and A. A. Milne were not among the chosen authors. Only five of the 35 books selected were published in the past 20 years; the post popular decade was the thirties, with seven books on the list from that era.
Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse, says that Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories ‘gave me a love of story but also of the music in words’, and that Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island showed him how to write with ‘huge descriptive power and pace’.
All of Jacqueline Wilson’s choices were published between 1868 and 1937. She says: ‘I would love to be Mary Poppins—admired by everyone, totally in control, never turning a hair even when flying through the air with her carpet bag and parrot-headed umbrella.’ She also identified with Jo in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, ‘the tomboy sister who is desperate to be a writer’.
The idea for the Children’s Laureateship emerged from a conversation between Ted Hughes, then the Poet Laureate, and Michael Morpurgo. It honours the writer’s achievement and promotes children’s literature at a time when many writers fear that educational focus on testing is undermining storytelling in schools.
Quentin Blake was the first Children’s Laureate. The successor to Michael Rosen, the current incumbent, will be announced on June 9.
Country Life asked top politicians, writers and celebrities which books every child should read. To find out their choices, click here.
Favourite children’s books
Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain, Edward Ardizzone
Queenie the Bantam, Bob Graham
The Box of Delights, John Masefield
Rose Blanche, Ian McEwan and Roberto Innocenti
Five Children and It, E. Nesbit
Snow White, Josephine Poole
Stuart Little, E. B. White
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
What Katy Did, Susan Coolidge
The Family from One End Street, Eve Garnett
The Railway Children, E. Nesbit
Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfield
Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers
Five Go to Smuggler’s Top, Enid Blyton
Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, Virginia Lee Burton
Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling
A Book of Nonsense, Edward Lear
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
The Happy Prince, Oscar Wilde
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
Absolute Zero, Helen Cresswell
Just William, Richmal Crompton
Journey to the River Sea, Eva Ibbotson
Lavender’s Blue, Kathleen Lines
A Child’s Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson
The Sword in the Stone, T. H. White
Clown, Quentin Blake
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
Emil and the Detectives, Erich Kästner
Not Now, Bernard, David McKee
Fairy Tales, Terry Jones
Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear, Andy Stanton
Daz 4 Zoe, Robert Swindells