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« This Week's Acquisitions | Main | Anthologize me »

June 19, 2005



Alas, poor Dr. Doolittle! And Mary Poppins . . . Whither are they fled?

Though it's a relief to see "Make Way for Ducklings," "Curious George," and "The Phantom Tollbooth" still hanging in there.

While I have the greatest respect (and affection) for Dr. Seuss, I do think allotting him eight spaces on a list of 100 titles is a bit disproportionate. And it's all too easy to quibble about the choice of those eight. Why "The Lorax" but not "Yertle the Turtle"? Why not "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" in place of "Oh, the Places You'll Go"? I note that all of Marc Tolon Brown's "Arthur" books are lumped together; maybe all Dr. Seuss books should be, too.


The list isn't put together very intelligently, in a lot of ways. It bears all the marks of having been machine-assembled, based on questionaire answers, with no human oversight. Little House in the Big Woods is listed (40), but so's the whole Little House series (80). Ditto for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (13) and the entire Chronicles of Narnia. And presumably the series aren't listed lower than the individual books because teachers as a group think they're less worthy, but because teachers as a group are more likely than not to follow instructions, and list single books for a list of "best books." Although since it's the first book in each series that makes the list, chances are a lot of respondants were being a bit lazy and just using the first to stand in for the whole.

What's most interesting to be is that there's definitely a period bias in the list. Very few 19th-century books, but also not a lot of super-recent ones (I've read about 80 of those listed, and most of those in my childhood). So I'd guess there are a lot of teachers recommending the books they read themselves as children.


The list reveals the awesome power of the Scholastic Book Clubs. I was perplexed by the absence of Harry Potter from the teacher/parent list, but was amused to see the HP series #1 on the linked kids' pics. I would add that only those UK books that have Hollywood tie-ins seem to have made it onto the lists. Dr Dolittle and Mary Poppins don't because they are so decidely unlike the movies. And where is Edith Nesbit, Philipa Pearce or Susan Cooper?

Ray Davis

No Moomintroll, either!

I bet DavidE's right about the Scholastic Book Club influence. That's probably why Tove Jansson didn't get a chance to become one of my favorite childhood memories until I was approaching 40.

Scott Eric Kaufman

Then there's Grant Morrison's WE3, destined to replace The Velveteen Rabbit as the children's book most likely to cause children to have nightmares for years and years...

(Am I airing my childhood traumas? Is that uncouth? Doesn't matter, I suppose. Miriam's a Victorianist, and, well, the rabbit's velveteen, one of the most Victorian fabrics around.)

teaching assistant

I think the reason that Harry Potter isn't on the adults' list may be that it was compiled back in the spring of 1999, when only the first two books in the series were available in the U.S. and when not as many people were aware of them. The third Potter book was only published in the States in October 1999. Also, the kids' list dates from nearly a year later than the adults' list (and after the release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban!).

Ah, the Scholastic book club. I loved that. Some of my happiest memories of elementary school are of pouring over the order forms and wondering how many books my mom would let me get that month! I agree, it wields a whole lot of power.

You can see the books from the list that I've read by clicking on my name.


I was glad to see Henkes' Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. It is my all-time favorite to read to my seven-year-old daughter. Henkes is a genius who uses words and phrases in a stimulating way and his books always seem to have positive messages.

Another book by Henkes that's worth considering is Chrysanthemum. This was our first experience with Henkes and his world of mice kids and their family, friends, and schools. A delight for kids and adults alike!

Other Henkes books that we've read and loved: Owen and Wemberly Worried.

Queen of West Procrastination

I find it really interesting that this list, the "Teachers' Top 100 Books," consists almost entirely of books that were in publication well before I (a graduate student) was born. What I also find interesting is the comparison between this list at the NEA's "Kids' Top 100 Books," which answers the question asked by other commenters of where is Harry Potter. Harry Potter, and then the Goosebumps series, top that list. The rest of the kids' list is a combination of those books favoured by teachers, and other popular series, such as Mary-Kate and Ashley books, The Babysitters' Club and Sweet Valley High.

Part of me finds it to be curious that teachers are consistently choosing books that they themselves would have read as children. And the other part of me is troubled by the fact that, other than the Harry Potter books, the more current books on the list have very little substance.

I also find it amusing that, while teachers favour Dr. Seuss's social issues books (The Lorax), kids consistently pick Seuss books that are intended for very early readers (The Foot Book, One Fish Two Fish, and Hop on Pop).

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