What was your favourite book as a child? I re-read The Mountain of Adventure and The Valley of Adventure, both by Enid Blyton, till the pages fell out of the spine. I think I kept re-reading them because I wanted to absorb the scenes right into my bloodstream. Even now I’m not sure if I always loved mountains and valleys or if those books instilled in me a love of adventure and wild places.
The Guardian mentions one of the quiet secrets of literature: children’s books are underrated. Children’s laureate Malorie Blackman (http://www.malorieblackman.co.uk) agrees: “Call me biased, but I find the standard of storytelling in children’s books and books for young adults second to none. I find it telling that even now there are far more children’s books and books for teens that I’d like to re-read than books for adults.”
Whether the prize givers wake up to that remains to be seen. To be honest, who cares about prizes? Great books are great books and will remain so whether or not they come with a prize or the label ‘Adult’, ‘Young Adult’ or ‘Children’s’. Children’s and Young Adult books are great reads and more and more people are waking up to that. So perhaps the secret is out.
My personal fantasy favourites are anything by Neil Gaimon (Neverwhere is fab); Eoin Colfer (Artimis Fowel is excellent); Terry Pratchett (the Discworld Series, second to none); and Ursula K Le Guin (take your pick, but I loved A Wizard of Earthsea).
For classics, I could re-read Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain ’til the paper wore out. Huck Finn is not only one of the best characters in fiction, in my opinion, but Twain’s descriptions of that Mississippi river world, now long gone, are peerless. Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce has a timeless quality, which is interesting as it’s about a boy who goes back in — oh, read it and you’ll see. You’ll like it.
There are also scores of contemporary YA and children’s writers whose work shouldn’t be stifled under one label. John Green, perhaps best known for The Fault in Our Stars (book and film) tells great stories, as well as being connected to teenagers and young adults in a way that makes his work authentic and very readable.
Bath Spa alumni from the MA WYP (MA in Writing for Young People) are well represented in prize listings for this and other years: check out authors Nicola Davies, Jill Lewis, Clare Furniss and Sally Nicholls, all long-listed for the Carnegie/Greenaway prize, all great authors for various ages. (Personal interest acknowledgment: I went to Bath Spa Uni and did the MA WYP, so yes, I’m biased. But no, I don’t recommend books I don’t like).
Also worth looking at: Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go (which was really good, but I got cross when I realised it was leading me on to a cliff-hanger ending so I’d buy the next book… which I didn’t. Proving that some marketing ploys don’t work with everyone, especially bad-tempered Scottish women 🙂 ). But he’s an excellent writer and his books are well worth reading. Among others, he also wrote A Monster Calls and More than This.
I could while away a happy afternoon or three reading David Almond, too, from Skellig to his more current works A Song for Ella Grey and My Name is Mina.
If you like wolves/werewolves, try Maggie Stiefvater’s, Shiver. Beautiful writing. Lots to choose from from this author too.
Janine Amos’s childhood favourite was The Borrowers by Mary Norton. For her, these were: “Teeny, tiny people living under the floorboards, making good use of all those little things we leave lying around. And when we’re really tired, we can just catch a glimpse of them out of the corner of our eyes, darting from under the sofa to the bookcase. My belief in them is absolute.”
Here are a few of Electrik Inc’s fantastic books, all of which can be enjoyed by adults or children. No secret there!
Walking on Gold by Janine Amos
Treasure This by Kay Leitch