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Taking inspiration from classic children’s books

Taking inspiration from classic children’s books

Taking inspiration from classic children’s books

I write fiction for adults, but that doesn’t for a moment mean I don’t appreciate children’s fiction as well. Classic children’s books:

  • Take me back to my roots: My love for books – for reading and writing – began in early childhood. Such adventures I had between the covers of a book! And it was the book that sparked the dream of writing myself, the dream that has fueled and fulfilled me for as long as I can remember… for as long as I have read books.
  • Remind me of very happy days with my own children: Just as my parents brought me up to love books, I did my best to instill in my son and daughter a passion for the written word. Such happy times we’ve had reading together. All of the joy and wonder of childhood is captured in the pages of classic literature, and though my children are grown now, all I have to do is pick up their favourite books to remember them as they were.
  • Are just as good as adult books: CS Lewis wrote: ‘A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.’ The marker of great children’s writing, I think, is that it moves the adult reading it as much as the child.
  • Have much to teach writers: It is a misconception that writing for children is easier than writing for adults. In a shorter work each word matters all the more, and how challenging it is to tread the line between entertainment and education.

Recently, YouGov carried out a poll to discover the nation’s favourite children’s book. The top ten books were:

  1. Winnie-the-Pooh – AA Milne
  2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
  4. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
  5. The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson
  6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  7. Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
  8. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  9. The BFG – Roald Dahl
  10. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis

That British authors topped the poll isn’t surprising given that this was a UK-based survey, but the age of the books tells an interesting story: only The Gruffalois a relatively recent publication (although still fifteen years old).Winnie the Pooh was first published in 1926; Alice in Wonderland in 1865;The Very Hungry Caterpillar in 1969; The Hobbit in 1937; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1964; Black Beauty in 1877; Treasure Island in 1883; The BFG in 1982; and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 1950.

I’m very surprised not to see a Harry Potter book (or seven!) in the list. Perhaps JK Rowling’s blockbusting books need to age a little before we embrace them as a classic. I am delighted, however, to see Winnie-the-Poohis as popular as ever; it’s a book I remember fondly from my own childhood. I think AA Milne’s writing stands the test of time because of its whimsical charm and, above all, the truth that shines through. I will leave you with some of my favourite Winnie-the-Pooh pearls of wisdom…

  • Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.
  • How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard
  • If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.
  • I’m not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost. 
  • People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.
  • Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.
  • Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.
  • Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known. 
  • The things that make me different are the things that make me. 
  • Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.

You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.

 

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