The West Australian newspaper today devoted its whole page three to articles related to children’s books – hip hip hooray! As well as a piece about what JK Rowling is up to, and another about Paddington Bear, the big feature of the page is titled 12 books your kids must read before they turn 12. You can read the article online by clicking on the link, but unfortunately the online version does not include the actual lists that were featured in the print version.
Anyway, the article shares a list of 12 books that WA Education Minister Mark McGowan says all children should read before they turn 12. His list is:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Where is the Green Sheep
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
The Magic Pudding
Wind in the Willows
Round the Twist
Thomas the Tank Engine
Queenie the Bantam
Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop also shares her list, which focuses on classics:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Swallows and Amazons series
Seven Little Australians
Tale of Despereaux
The Faraway Tree Series
Danny the Champion of the World
Rowan of Rin
Minister McGowan has challenged readers to agree or disagree with the lists and to nominate their own lists. My first reaction, being the argumentative type was to scoff at some of the inclusions on both lists. But, as I discussed the article with my beloved and the Murphlets I realised just how hard it was to say which twelve I would include on my list. From the lists above, I would take out The Hobbit because there are just too many twelve year olds for whom reading The Hobbit is just too challenging – though many would cope better with having it read to them. I was both a voracious and a precocious child reader, and yet I struggled with Tolkein until I was in my thirties when I listened to The Hobbit and the Rings trilogy on audiobook. I think Tolkein can be offered to kids from perhaps ten and up, but wouldn’t include it on a must-read list.
I would also take the Faraway Tree series because, whilst many kids love them, I don’t think they are wonderful examples of children’s literature. I feel the same about the Thomas books – having had a Murphlet of that name, I read and reread many of the books from this series and though they are cute, I’m not sure they’re ‘must reads’.
Mr McGowan has three Mem Fox titles on his list. I would probably take the three out and replace them with Koala Lou. I do like that McGowan has six picture book titles on his list – Ms Bishop doesn’t have any. I believe that any list for kids up the age of 12 should include some from the early years – as this is not only the time when we plant the seed for children’s future love of reading (or otherwise), but it is also the books we were read as littlies that we treasure later on. What I like about Ms Bishop’s list is her mix of old and new.
So, I’ve ruled some out but I haven’t really formulated a list of my own just yet. For me, it needs, as I’ve said, a balance of picture books and novels. My list would probably be heavily weighted in favour of Australian titles, because these are the books which share our nation with children, and also because we have such wonderfully talented authors in our country. My list would also have a sprinkling of classics mixed with wonderful books from the past five or ten years.
I shall think on this some more. In the meantime, if you’d like to suggest your own list or want to see what other readers of The West have come up with, you can visit the forum here.