Voices: The Top 10: Underrated Children’s Books (Part II)

·3-min read
Here is part two of the Top 20 I started last week (Getty Images for The Children’s)
Here is part two of the Top 20 I started last week (Getty Images for The Children’s)

Here is part two of the Top 20 I started last week. Next week I shall do a supplementary Top 10 of underrated children’s books by authors who are famous for other works.

11. I Want My Hat Back, Jon Klassen, 2011. “A sneaky rabbit, a growing sense of menace, and revenge, all aimed at young kids. Can’t beat it” – Alistair Magowan. “Classic tale of love, loss and revenge. Beautiful illustrations and a huge plot twist” – James Whetlor.

12. Frog and Toad stories, Arnold Lobel, 1970-79. “Friendship, philosophy and gentle humour nobody can resist” – Julia Paolitto. Also nominated by Joe Lee.

13. The Giant Jam Sandwich, John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway, 1972. “Beautifully written absurdist verse that amuses kids and adults alike” – Chem 2006. Enthusiastic endorsements from Svennig, The Burkeshottian and Clareine Enderby, and from Grafica, who said Lord “was one of my tutors in Brighton Art College 1963-65”.

14. The Uncle series, J P Martin, 1960-73. “A millionaire elephant trundles around on a traction engine while his dastardly foes plot his downfall” – Scope Davies. “Uncle is a velvet dressing gown-wearing elephant who lives in a castle seeing off gloriously awful baddies. An eccentric world with unlikely inventions” – Clarissa Reilly. “Extremely silly and now almost forgotten” – Clement Walsh. Supporting nomination from Jonathan Metzer.

15. Annie, Thomas Meehan, 1977. “Book of the syrupy musical, but it gives a fantastic introduction to the great depression and poverty in America in the 1930s. I was really surprised by how good it was,” said Thomas Penny. Gili Bar-Hillel Semo said she “made the mistake of lending it once and it never came back”.

16. Holes, Louis Sachar, 1998. “For its plot alone: two improbable, eccentric stories, one in the past, one in the present, entwining so perfectly that the resolution when it comes is pure joy – and a good strong moral arc to boot” – Ministry of Quiz. Supporting nomination: Rupert Hawksley.

17. Auntie Robbo, Ann Scott-Moncrieff, 1941. “Eleven-year-old Hector goes on the run with his great aunt. Hilarious and subversive. I remember laughing out loud and it was one of my favourites” – Hannah Roberts.

18. The Cricket in Times Square, George Selden, 1960. “A hardscrabble mouse, a cat-about-town, a country-bumpkin cricket, a blue-collar Italian family and a dash of opera. All on the New York subway” – Mathew Lyons. Supported by Steve May.

19. The Mennyms, Sylvia Waugh, 1993. “A bizarre but haunting and poignant series about a family of rag dolls trying to lead ordinary human lives” – Stephen Dilley. Backed up by Ken Patrick.

20. Charmed Life, Diana Wynne Jones, 1977 (and the rest of the Chrestomanci series). “Wonderful imaginings, well written, fully developed characters, each one interlinked but very different” – Andrew Shimmin. “Amazingly imaginative and original” – Conor Downey. Also nominated by Stephen Nichols.

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Apologies to the late Ms Jones, who should have been listed under J, but I mistakenly thought that her surname was Wynne Jones.

Next week: Underrated children’s books by famous authors.

Coming soon: Jesters, as Boris Johnson prepares to leave the stage.

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to top10@independent.co.uk

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