And now, the top ten children’s books

03 October 2014

As a complement to the main list, we decided to find the ten best Christian books for children. Paul Handley explains how we set about it

ISTOCK

AS ANY child will point out, the book in first place in our top ten Christian children's books is not a book at all, more a marketing concept.

It is, though, a neat way to bundle up the seven titles in the Narnia series, which might otherwise have cluttered up the list. From this, readers may gather that our approach to the children's list has been a little less rigorous than it was with the main one. None the less, we again asked the views of contributors who had reviewed children's books for us, and collated their replies. The criteria were the same: enduring influence, popularity, and impact.

We separated children's books from the main list, although The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe leapt the fence. Our reviewers were divided about C. S. Lewis (see William Whyte's piece), but his place at the top of the list is unassailable, and not just for quantity. His stories have always captivated more than they have taught.

One reason for eschewing another panel for the children's books was our view that getting any sort of consensus out of its members would have been impossible. For one thing, there was the debate about the readers' age: how to compare books for toddlers with those for young adults, i.e. The Pilgrim's Progress v. Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

For another, there was the matter of definition: whether a work might be properly termed "Christian" becomes harder when considering fiction, the category into which all the titles in our top ten fall.


THIS is most obvious with Philip Pullman, who would, we presume, argue against being included in a Christian list. (Again, see Whyte's analysis.) This could be seen as an annexation of general virtues by Christian sectarians, or, we would argue, a generous and imaginative approach that finds Christian inspiration from a wide range of works.

Thus, titles that embodied the values of hope and courage, such as The Silver Sword and I Am David, were popular.

Also, children's classics received a number of votes, including the following, which did not quite make it into the top ten: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame; The Railway Children by E. Nesbit; Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne (usually appropriated by the Buddhists); Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; Little Women by Louisa May Alcott; The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken; Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce; and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

We expect to be challenged - even more fiercely, perhaps, than we will be over our adult selection. What about Harry Potter, for example, or a number of excellent teenage books produced during the past decade or two?

Once again, let us know your recommendations.

 

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