Blue Peter is running a competition to find the best children’s book of the last ten years. The ten contenders include JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful, Jacqueline Wilson’s Candyfloss and Francesca Simon’s Horrid Henry and the Football Fiend.
The vote is open till 4pm tomorrow (February 23) and the winner will be announced on Blue Peter on March 1 – World Book Day. You can find out more here.
But today, to mark the competition, The Times has hit on the idea of asking the ten authors vying for the accolade to reveal the books they loved as children. And it turns out that JK Rowling loved I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, The Little White Horse and E.Nesbit, David Walliams adored Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while Jacqueline Wilson plumped for Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild.
Some great choices, but my own out-and-out favourites were The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown and Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (above).
Pamela Brown was only 14 when she wrote The Swish of the Curtain, a story about seven stage-struck children who launch their own theatre company in a disused church hall. Typing her manuscript on a battered old typewriter with two fingers took her a whole year and she then followed it up with four more – Maddy Alone, Golden Pavements, Blue Door Venture and Maddy Again. Those early editions are highly sought after collectors' items now, so I clearly wasn't the only fan.
Meanwhile Madeline is the tale of a little French orphan who gets into a series of scrapes at her school in Paris. It’s written in verse and the first lines are so captivating that I remember them to this day. “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived 12 little girls in two straight lines,” runs the story. “In two straight lines they broke their bread. And brushed their teeth and went to bed. They left the house at half past nine in two straight lines in rain or shine. The smallest one was Madeline.”
What did you read as a child? I’d love to hear.