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C S Lewis tops poll

3 March 2008

C S Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the best children's book of all time, according to a recent poll of 4,000 people aged 16 to 65 conducted by the British charity Booktrust. The second book in the list was The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, a classic picture book which is said to have sold a copy a minute across the globe since it was first published in 1962, and which has influenced a whole generation of children's picture book authors.

Perhaps it's no surprise that third place goes to Enid Blyton's Famous Five Series, the first of which came out in 1942 and which consists of 21 books. (The Bookseller recently pointed out that Blyton earned £3.8m ($7.56m) in 2007, edging out many more recent authors.)

Fourth was Winnie the Pooh by A A Milne, written in 1962, and the list also contained six of Roald Dahl's titles. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince only made it to sixth place, but this is probably because the adults polled were reaching back into their own childhoods, long before the Harry Potter phenomenon, for their favourites.

The survey also found that four in five parents read their children bedtime stories every night - a very encouraging statistic, although it does make you wonder how the sample was recruited. Perhaps though recent Children's Laureate Jacqueline Wilson's efforts in campaigning to persuade parents to read aloud to their children have borne fruit.

In the US the first children's laureate has recently been announced. Jon Scieszka, author of the much-loved The Stinky Cheese Man, has become the first American Ambassador for Young People's Literature. No doubt his influence will be all to the good, as it has been in the UK, where a succession of children's laureates, culminating in the current Laureate, the energetic and opinionated Michael Rosen, have been creating fantastic publicity for children's books for a number of years.

We'll report on World Book Day on March 6th next week, but it's sad to see that the site has just been hacked into, as anything which promotes books and reading, especially to children, has to be regarded as a good thing for writers.


UK Children's Laureate

World Book Day