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Golden Oldies or Latest Greatest?

(17 Posts)
SecretSpi Thu 04-Aug-11 14:35:00

I've noticed in a lot of threads here that many of us like to read classic books from our childhoods (or long before!) to our children - and in some cases, older children choose older books (pre-Harry Potter) to read themselves.

OK, I know the answer is probably going to be "both" but what are your views on the classics vs. "this year's thing"? What are the plus points of both? Which do you think your children really prefer? Is something missing in a lot of today's fiction for children? Which books from the last couple of years can you see your kids reading to your grandchildren?

mk3 Thu 04-Aug-11 20:33:11

One thing I have noticed about current books is that they seem a lot more gendered. I think more of the classic books are about both boys and girls and are therefore maybe more likely to appeal to both sexes. That said my dd likes Horrid Henry and my ds quite likes the Daisy Meadows fairy books.

Also maybe this is really unfair but older books seem to be more complex and vibrant in terms of their language. Of course I know that there are lots of great childrens writers nowadays but there do seem to be more trashy bubble gum pink series around than when I was young.

I think my children like both. My ds (7) finds modern stuff less demanding and therefore easier to read by himself.

Colyngbourne Thu 04-Aug-11 20:33:47

Depends what you mean by 'classic' - if you mean by classic, the books from our own childhood, and "latest greatest" means written in the last 20 years, then I would say, to read aloud, probably the Harry Potter series; I would read also some of the Diana Wynne Jones books from the 1980's/early 90's.

As proper old-fashioned style classics, I would count -
Michael Morpurgo's Robin Hood.
Rosemary Sutcliff's Black Ships Before Troy & The Wanderings of Odysseus.

I would regard other modern books as classics and definitely to be recommended reading but not the kind to read aloud.

madamehooch Fri 05-Aug-11 09:14:20

I think it is important to realise that some of what people dismiss as 'trashy bubblegum pink series' actually make reading more accessible to today's children who would not be able to to cope with the more complex language of yesterday's classics. Those mumsnetters who recommend classics have very lucky children - they are obviously brought up in a house where reading and books are important. For those who are not, 'Beast Quest', 'Rainbow Magic' etc have a vital part to play in encouraging the reading bug. Personally, I think that a 'classic' is a story which inspires millions of children to read it and remember it years later. Whether or not you approve of the writing style, there's got to be something special about a series such as Harry Potter which encouraged so many children to read it even before the PR bandwagon started up.

Takver Fri 05-Aug-11 14:17:26

I think there are loads of new books that are just as good as the 'classics'. Clearly there's loads of new rubbish - but there was loads of old rubbish too, it just hasn't lasted!

mk3 Fri 05-Aug-11 20:54:06

Fair point, Madame Hooch. I did not mean I I disapprove of books with simpler language - my kids like Beast Quest and love Rainbow Magic. What I disapprove of with the bubble gum pink series is the narrowness of the subject matter of books being marketed at girls. Individually each series is probably fine, its just that they certainly dominate our local library and its hard for girls who want to read to find anything different.

Takver Fri 05-Aug-11 21:37:28

I think that maybe the offerings for very young readers tend to be more gendered and/or 'trashy', but once you get past 8/9 years old there are some fabulous modern books. I think Frances Hardinges novels, just for example, would stand up in any company. Similarly, if you want an adventure novel, Percy Jackson / Lionboy / the Roman Mysteries all far outclass the Famous Five, IMVHO.

Takver Sat 06-Aug-11 09:14:50

Actually, thinking about it further, maybe it is just hard to write good books for younger age groups. There's a small selection that get mentioned very frequently on here, and most of them date further back than my childhood - thinking of My Naughty Little Sister / Milly Molly Mandy / Clever Polly etc.

Maybe each generation adds just one or two books to the selection of classics, so inevitably there will be more older books in the list, IYSWIM?

Takver Sat 06-Aug-11 09:15:50

Also, there were plenty of extremely gendered trash kids books in the past - if you liked Biggles, did you ever read the 'girls' version, Worrals . . . (I wouldn't recommend it, other than for historical interest!)

madamehooch Sat 06-Aug-11 10:54:48

It may just be mk3 that, unfortunately, budget restraints mean that your library does not have a wide selection of appropriate books to choose from. Warning - shameful plug for bookshops coming up!

Please, please make friends with your local children's bookseller. A good one can recommend things you may never know existed and reintroduce you to some you did know but have forgotten about. Granted, there do seem to be more gender specific books on the 5-8 shelves but there are those which appeal to both sexes. Off the top of my head, I can think of:-

Flat Stanley
The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark
The Giggler Treatment
The Butterfly Lion
Eddie Dickens
Roald Dahl
Horrid Henry
Mr Gum
Seriously Silly Stories
Dick King-Smith
Paddington
The Magic Treehouse
The Faraway Tree
Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf
Louis Sachar's Marvin Redpost and Wayside School series
The Troll Trouble series by Alan MacDonald
Alan Ahlburg
Mortimer and Arabella
Tom Trueheart
Judy Blume's Fudge series
Cressida Cowell

That is a lot of space taken up on the shelves.

You can almost view Beast Quest and Rainbow Magic as extensions of reading schemes. They are there to build confidence and to encourage a love of reading. Once that is there, you can gently steer them on to other things. Don't forget, also, that you can get abridged 'old fashioned' classics - Usborne do a fantastic range.

SecretSpi Sat 06-Aug-11 14:10:55

The gender-specific issue is an interesting one and I suspect that many of the "girls'" books from the past haven't survived simply because they're just not so relevant for girls today - all those endless pony and school stories! (Although there are a couple of specialist publishers around who are re-printing them, mainly for adults nostalgic for their past, I reckon.) It was always so that girls were happy enough to read "boy" books, such as Biggles, but not the other way round!

That's a great list of books from MadameHooch - thanks!

begonyabampot Thu 11-Aug-11 00:23:40

i was a huge reader as a child and loved all the old classics (Little Women, Little House, Tom Sawyer, Anne of Green Gables etc as well as Enid Blyton, Noel Streatfield, and others). I have 2 boys and just can't get the older one (nearly 9) interested. I'm so pleased that he loves reading and disappointed that he won't follow me in all the more typical 'girl' based oldies but he turned his nose up at Blyton and the Famous Five for Percy Jackson, Artemis Foul and others of that ilk. I even got him The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen and The Ghost Of Thomas Kempe but he said the language was too difficult and different. I keep trying to sneak in some of these oldies but he's just not having it. Sigh... and I kept all my old childhood books hoping to pass them on.

DeWe Thu 11-Aug-11 21:41:21

Interestingly dd1 (10yo) tends to like more modern books. She'll read the older books I have, but doesn't seek them out like the Roman Mysteries and Harry Potter. She did enjoy Watership Down though. She tends to read a book once, and then look for others in the same series, but not go back to reread it for a long time. Swallows and Amazon was probably the only old series she has reread.
Dd2 (7yo) loves the golden oldie books. Gwendoline Courtney, Monica Edwards, Malcolm Saville, Little house, Violet Needham etc. She does enjoy Jacqueline Wilson, but other than that doesn't read the modern books. She's trying an Alex Rider tonight, which will be interesting to see whether she enjoys it. But her method of reading is to read, and reread. She's quite capeable of reading a book through and immediately starting again at the beginning.

They've both enjoyed Enid Blyton, and ds (4yo) loves them too. Famous Five were popular, but they've all preferred the Adventure series.

begonyabampot Thu 11-Aug-11 22:15:55

Guess i'm just a little disappointed i can't get him to read some of the stuff I loved - there might be hope with no 2. I'm delighted he loves to read though as he wasn't that interested in books when he was younger and was quite a 'lively' child. He also loves to reread and reread the same book.

begonyabampot Thu 11-Aug-11 22:16:47

Also agree that The Adventure series was much better than The Famous Five though i loved them all.

jongleuse Sat 13-Aug-11 11:40:46

There are some brilliant books around that will appeal to modern children. I remember someone (? Booktrust) did an
IF you like X you might like Y booklet for kids which was very good both ways round eg

If you like Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson series you might like Susan Cooper Dark is Rising series.
If you like Roald Dahl the Twits you might like David Walliams or Anthony McGowan
If you like Horrid Henry you might like Ramona and Beezus, Beverly Cleary
If you like Harry Potter you might like Diana Wynne Jones or Eva Ibbotson
If you like Rosemary Sutcliffe, you might like Celia Rees.
Am doing a children's lit MA and have been surprised and delighted by the quality of much of the current crop of children/teenager books. Some of the books I read as a child I still love, some are astonishingly dated when you go back to them.

lovecheese Mon 22-Aug-11 21:42:54

DD (7) recently went with pocket money in hand to scour our local charity shops for books. She chanced upon 25 classic books eg. The wizard of oz, peter pan, the railway children, swallows and amazons, alice in wonderland and through the looking glass - apologies for lack of capital letters in titles, it's getting late - all complete and unabridged for £5. She thought it was Christmas. However, she read 3 or 4 in quick succession but is now on HP the Deathly Hallows for a bit of variety. So a mixture of both in the cheese house is good.

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