'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 21 November 2010

My Favourite Children's Books

As part of KBR Founder Tania McCartney's book launch blog tour, we share with you this post on favourite children's books. What are your favourite books? Leave a comment below!

Asking an author (or anyone, for that matter!) to name their favourite children’s books is not only thrilling, it’s somewhat disabling. How oh how to choose?

Having a severe kids-book addition is not something I regularly talk about in public – it’s kind of something I keep hidden behind closed doors, sitting snugly alongside a mountain of books we have to shove aside every time we open the front door.

But I suppose now is as good a time as any to admit it: Hello. My name is Tania and I have a children’s book addiction. I love them so much, I wrote my own.

Of course, we all know you don’t have to be a kid to adore kids’ books. Even before my two gorgeous kids came along, I was stashing a vast collection of picture books inside my ‘glory box’ (remember those?!) to not only enjoy but prep for my eventual offspring.

Now, my kids have a collection of books stretching from the 1980s (yes, I began collecting for them in my teens… I told you this was serious) and it’s as overwhelming as it is glorious. From Coles Funny Picture Books to Andy Griffith, I doubt several lifetimes will be enough for my kids to work their way through our jam-packed shelves – but boy, we’re having fun trying.

I do think many of our favourite children’s books, even as adults, stem from childhood and remain with us lifelong. There’s almost an inherent part of us in these books – sending us back to the smell and feel of the paper, the stories that took us to other worlds, the sentiment that was so much more colourful and large and impactful when we were so small.

Like many mums, I’ve encouraged my own kids to read the books I enjoyed as a child, and it seems these timeless classics appeal to modern day book-devourers as they once did with us. CS Lewis, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Dr Seuss, Elisabeth Beresford, Maurice Sendak, Bob Gill – books by these authors have all been hauled out of the attic and sit proudly on the shelves in my kids’ rooms, and on the shelves of modern day kids all over the world.

Mr Twiddle alongside The Saddle Club.

Hop on Pop jammed against No, David!

This is London squeezed in between Knuffle Bunny and The Wrong Book.

Where the Wild Things Are nestled with Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

This morass of retro and modern books just seems to blend into one large wall of seriously pluckable titles, lined up like paper-clad soldiers, clamouring to open their pages and the take kids on a whirlwind tour of superlative imagination. It’s a thrill every time I read a book to my kids or watch them in wide-eyed wonder, with their noses wedged firmly in pages.

So, how do books become favourites?

For me, my favourite children’s books will always be picture books and junior fiction – because they are the type of books I fell in love with as a child. I adore vintage books but I am also in love with newer incarnations that are certain future classics.

Currently, I adore the work of popular writers and illustrators like Oliver Jeffers, Emily Gravett, Andy Stanton, Roland Harvey, Morris Gleitzman, Rod Clement and Nick Bland, but I also enormously appreciate the lesser known or overseas talent like Barney Saltzberg, Grahame Baker Smith and Davide Cali.

As a children’s author and book reviewer myself, I tend to have favourite authors and illustrators rather than favourite books per se, but I’ve found it actually doesn’t matter who writes or illustrates a book when you simply fall into the pages and fall in love.

I tend to fall in love with ‘different’ and in that case, the variety of authors and illustrators is immeasurable. Overall, I love something I have never seen before – a new concept, something brave, something out there but also written with heart and intelligence.

I love books that look beautiful but that also have a subtle message from the author – it doesn’t have to be a hefty moral but it does have to be poignant and clever. I love clever. I think clever and different and beautiful are what make books become favourites but the most interesting thing about ‘favourite books’ is subjectivity.

We all see something different in every book we read, and this probably epitomises how a book becomes a favourite. We might relate to a book not only for the story and pictures, but for what it brought us during that time of our lives, just when we needed it... and when we later open its pages, we are winged back to that moment, with heart palpitating wildly or eyes pricking with tears.

So – if I had to choose my favourite books of all time? Sigh. How long have you got? I just might have to write a book about it.

Tania's blog tour ends today... see her full tour schedule here.