It came to my attention the other day that Scholastic Parent & Child magazine had released their list of ‘100 Greatest Books for Kids,’ found here at USA Today. As someone who considers herself a children’s book enthusiast, if not aficionado, I was deeply upset by the seemingly random nature of this list. It’s difficult to organize my thoughts on this, as I have many, but let’s try, shall we?
For starters, what on earth was their rationale and reasoning for this assembly? Is it based on sales? Conversations with librarians? Dartboard? A friend to whom I was complaining suggested the method of asking notable people, librarians, etc., and then putting anything on the list that made multiple appearances.
Secondly, the age range is all over the place, moving from board books like Pat the Bunny to obvious YA selections, like The Hunger Games. There should absolutely be a separation of picture book and chapter book at the least. Maybe a third list for easy readers? Maybe an age cutoff for obvious young adult novels? 100 books is far too few to get a proper spread of what’s great, when you’re trying to span such a wide age range.
And last, but most certainly not least, is the selection itself. I have a few issues with the order, and a few more issues with the representatives they chose for certain authors (The Bad Beginning and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, while I understand why they were chosen, are hardly the ‘greatest’ examples of their series. Wouldn’t it just be easier to say ‘the XYZ series by Steve Author’?), but most notable are the glaring omissions.
Missing authors that I thought would’ve been obvious: L. Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll, Beverly Cleary, Beatrix Potter. Rick Riordan gets two items, but Beverly Cleary gets none? (No offense, Rick Riordan, I like it, but I do not consider the Percy Jackson series to be ‘greater’ than any of the above.)
On the YA front, if you’re going to include Hunger Games and Harry Potter, I see no reason why Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series or Susan Cooper is not on this list.
Other missing series: Little House on the Prairie, The Boxcar Children, Berenstein Bears, the Mercer Mayer books, Amelia Bedelia, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Curious George. Hell, the Waldo books don’t even have a plot, but I don’t know anyone who didn’t devour those as a child. They’re as much of a religion as Graeme Base’s Animalia. (I also, personally, would’ve included Base’s Eleventh Hour, which is just a gorgeous, fun book.)
And some more missing titles: Harold and the Purple Crayon, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day, Harriet the Spy, Sideways Stories From Wayside School, The Borrowers, Bunnicula, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Caps for Sale, Tikki Tikki Tembo, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Blueberries for Sal, Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Story of Ferdinand, The Great Gilly Hopkins, The Napping House, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Make Way for Ducklings, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, and of course, anything by Chris Van Allsburg. These are just omitted books, to the point that were I to tag this post, the tag list would be longer than the entry itself.
It’s hard to truly fault this list, as it’s so all over the place it’s difficult to say what they were even going for. So whatever their goal, perhaps they succeeded? In any case, I still feel like there are a lot of errors. This is just what I came up with now. Leave your ‘greatest’ children’s books in the comments.