The final 100 books are drawn from literally thousands of recommendations and votes from the children, parents, grandparents, older brothers and sisters, and staff.
We hope that these books will be enjoyed by students at Rosendale for many years to come and so we made the final selection very carefully.
Here are the guidelines we used.
There were a few great non-fiction suggestions in the Rosendale poll – Roald Dahl’s wonderful book about his childhood, Boy, for example – but we’ve stuck to fiction.
Similarly, we’ve not included any of the excellent collections and anthologies of poetry that were suggested. (Perhaps poetry should be the next project!)
We’ve included just the first in any series of books. Experience suggests that if you read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone you’ll end up reading the whole of the series.
We’ve not included more than one book by any author. If the book club introduces children to an author they enjoy, and they want to go and read more of their books, then great!
We have deliberately not defined what a children’s book is, other than to say it is any book that can be enjoyed by a child – whether reading it themselves, having it read to them, or listening to an audio recording. The 100 books are for children to enjoy throughout their time at Rosendale – nursery to Year 6 – and we’ve included picture books upwards. We’ve added film-style classifications (U, 7+ , 9+, 11+), but these are guidelines only.
We’re taking the view that there’s nothing to gain from encouraging children to read books too soon, and so, for the most part, we haven’t included any of the abridged adult literature that was suggested. However, the list does include books on the cusp of teenage/young adult literature, raising the question of subject matter. Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, for example, is extremely violent science fiction. It is also reflective of reality TV and modern news coverage, accessible and relevant to children, and widely read at Rosendale. Judy Blume, some of whose books have been quite controversial for different reasons (and even banned), has an interesting perspective. Parents worry too much, she says, about what their children are reading. Children will simply “self-censor” by getting bored with anything they do not understand.
There is also debate over controversial content in books written in different times. Many of the books on our list have been written 50 or 100 or more years ago, when the authors’ experiences of the world, and prevailing social attitudes, were significantly different to today. A few of the books that have been suggested, while widely enjoyed and admired, have also been criticised for outdated or offensive attitudes and stereotyping. Rather than exclude any such book from our 100 as a matter of principle, we’re taking the approach that we’d would prefer to educate and then trust our children to read books with thoughtful, modern frames of mind.
Lastly, there’s the question of the definition of a ‘classic’ book. This preoccupies great experts and we certainly should not enter the debate except to say that part of the definition of a classic book is the enduring interest it generates over a period of time. So we haven’t included books solely because they are the current flavour of the day. Misia and Nina from 6AF, for example, made a great case for including Withering Tights: the Misadventures of Tallulah Casey. This may become a classic over time, but we can’t say that it has yet. Rosendale children will, of course, continue to read and enjoy all the new blockbusters (The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Tom Gates and Dork Diaries each received lots of votes in our poll), but we’ve not considered them for our 100 classic books just yet.
We know that not everyone will be happy with this selection. There are some, for example, who will not stop pleading the case of Michael Morpurgo (who not just is a best-selling author of more than 100 books, but also officially opened the Rosendale Library Bus)! How can he possibly not be on the list? If you’re dismayed that your favourite book is not included, then there’s an opportunity, on your personal bookshelf, to list the books that should have been on the list but aren’t for your friends to see and take note of!