Another day, another list

I seemed to have missed (how could I?) the Guardian’s request that readers vote on  “which books best defined the successive eras of the 20th century”. Well, the votes are in and here are the results.   Happily I can say I’ve read them all except for the 1910s choice, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.  Huh?

Interesting that with one exception (the one with the protagonist’s weight provided at the start of each entry) the rest have become standards in many English syllabi.

So, would it be possible (or has it been done already?) to come up with similarly defining children’s books of the various 20th century decades?


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10 responses to “Another day, another list

  1. John Peters

    Let’s see…assuming that one can paint outside the lines a bit, date-wise:

    1900s: Wizard of Oz
    1910s: Anne of Green Gables
    1920s: Millions of cats
    1930s: Caddie Woodlawn (thanks Ms Fuse for the suggestion)
    1940s: Curious George
    1950s: Cat in the hat
    1960s: Snowy day
    1970s: A tossup between Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret and The outsiders
    1980s: Arnold Lobel’s Fables
    1990s: Harry Harry Harry
    2000s: Man who walked between the towers


  2. John,
    Thanks for weighing in! I was wondering about Roald Dahl — he seemed very important in the 70s and 80s, but I’m not sure what book to select. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory perhaps?

    And Fables for the 80s? Not sure about that one. And think we are still too close to the 2000s to agree on any one book. Why do you chose Gerstein’s book? Because 9/11 changed the world or because of the book itself?


  3. susie wilde

    Your blogs continue to fascinate!


  4. I would replace “Fables,” which was a perfectly nice little book but went and resonated nowhere, with one of the big glitzy picture books that arose in the 1980s in response to the then-burgeoning children’s bookstore market. But so many to choose from . . .


  5. Micki

    The 60’s MUST include HARRIET THE SPY- this was my first experience with a life- changing read- and I have been astounded at the number of adults who speak of this as a turning point for themselves as well- for so many different reasons.
    and WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE!! The touchstone by which all subsequent picture books are measured!


  6. Yes, I too thought of Harriet the Spy, but figured I’d see if someone else mentioned it. So glad you did! And how could we possibly overlook Where the Wild Things Are! I think I’d pick it over Harriet and Snowy Day, much as I love both if them.


  7. Brooke

    Oh, how odd!

    I just finished writing a comment on this same topic over at Fuse #8, in which I went on at length about how I would include both Harriet and Wild Things as the quintessential books of the 60s.

    Great minds think alike . . .

    As for choosing a big, glitzy picture book of the 1980s, I’d have to pick If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, simply because I find it the most irritating picture book to read aloud, and also because, like that other 1980s icon, Madonna, it simply will not go away.


  8. Brooke

    Oh, and one more thing —

    Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908. Are we being strict about a book’s publication date linking it to a particular decade?

    If so, then perhaps the 1910s could be represented by, um . . . Pollyanna (from 1913) or Jean Webster’s excellent Daddy-Long-Legs (from 1912).

    My vote’s for the latter.


  9. John Peters

    (sound of hand smacking forehead) How could I have forgotten Wild Things?

    In response to Monica’s questions, though: Fables, because it ushered in a still-healthy genre of retold folktales with modern tropes (I know there are earlier examples of this, but how many can claim the “legs” of Mr. Lobel’s?), and Man who walked…. because it reflects the zeitgeist—but of course it’s just thrown in there as a guess.


  10. Beverly Cleary ought to be in there somewhere….

    And Arthur Ransome, unless you’re restricting it to American books.


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