I came across a blog post this afternoon (thank you Mitali Perkins) on the site Anglotopia.net (my kind of blog!) listing the Top 10 British Children's Authors and Books. The article, which was posted by a guest blogger, lists "the most popular British children’s authors and their books which have captured the hearts of children (and adults) the world over." I couldn't find fault with the list; every author is indeed beloved, every book a classic--this list is Canon with a capital 'C'. And yet, I found the list to be predictable to the extreme. I guess that's to be expected with something which lists the most popular of its kind. But there was something in its predictability which lacked creativity. Without data to back up the list--such as book sales, or library borrowing statistics--it just seemed to be a catalog of the best-known English writers (and I say English, because Britain is not well represented by this list; Roald Dahl was born in Wales, and C.S. Lewis in Belfast, but that's it. And Francesca Simon, the author of the Horrid Henry series, is in fact American.)
But what bothered me the most with the list was the complete lack of picture book authors. But have no fear--I have remedied that! England (sorry--but my list will also be guilty of an English bias) has produced some of the most innovative, prolific and--according to the borrowing habits of at least the library where I work--popular writers for children.
So, I present to you, in no particular order, my list of 10 of the Greatest British Children's Authors and Books. You may recognize several of the authors. And those you don't already know, I'm so glad to introduce them to you!
1. Allan Ahlberg
2. Raymond Briggs
3. John Burningham
must-have book. My personal favorite is John Patrick Norman McHennessy, the Boy Who was Always Late, a book which I was so happy to see return to print in 2008.
Note: I had the chance to meet John Burningham about a month ago, at the 2010 Boston Globe Horn Book Awards Ceremony (and I got myself an autographed copy of JPNHtBWwAL to boot.) What a thrill!He was exactly as I imagined him to be--curmudgeonly and cuddly all in one droll package.
4. Helen Oxenbury
5. Michael Rosen
6. Graham Oakley
here, here, and here.)
7. Julia Donaldson
Note: The Gruffalo was recently the subject of a BBC article trying to decipher its enormous appeal.
8. Shirley Hughes
9. Anthony Browne
defends fiercely. Many of his books feature gorillas; all feature a magical realism that is reminiscent of the works of Chris Van Allsburg. Eye-catching, and sometimes eye-popping, illustrations dominate his books, opening the reader's eyes to the wonder of our world and the power of a picture. Two of my favorites are Gorilla and The Piggy Book.
10. Dick King-Smith
So there you have it--my list of the Top 10 Greatest British Children's Authors and Books: Picture Book edition. As always, I'd love to hear recommendations and favorites from you.