There is something about the truly awesome body of children’s books that tempts people to try to separate the cream from the chum. It’s just irresistible.
This week the New York Times noted two organizations that have recently published their lists of the 100 “best books” in children’s literature, the New York Public Library and the British charity BookTrust. There is a growing number of such lists. There may even be a list of the 100 best lists of the 100 best books in children’s literature out there. Like I said, it’s irresistible.
The funny and great thing about all of these lists is that they are all different. Between the NYPL and BookTrust lists there are only 16 books in common. Despite the air of objectivity around the term “the best,” choosing the best books is, after all, wholly subjective.
Nobody’s list should be the same as anyone else’s, because when you think about it, what are the criteria? Sales figures? (That would be a skewed list, indeed.) Reviews? Worldwide distribution?
If you think about what you believe are the 100 best children’s books, your criteria would undoubtedly be more emotional than that.
One book that makes your list might be a book that kept you from being lonely on a rainy day.
Or one that changed the way you see the world or yourself, that made you laugh or cry, that confirmed an idea that you were just starting to understand, or that challenged everything you thought you knew.
Maybe one that taught you something valuable and gave you the tools to become who you are now.
Or one that you read with your mom or dad that always reminds you of them. Maybe it was a book that was a guilty pleasure, or symbolized your rebellion. Or its cadence matched your rhythm and stayed in your head forever.
Maybe a book that filled you with joy or sorrow or will forever bring to mind the smell of your grandmother’s molasses cookies.
Maybe even a book you hated, that really ticked you off and that you are still angry about to this day.
The truth is, nobody can make your list of the 100 best books but you. That’s why when you look at these lists you inevitably end up saying, “What about this?” and “What about that?”
The book you love the most might not be on anyone else’s radar at all.
But while these lists can’t be considered definitive, they can give you lots of ideas. There are bound to be great books on these lists that you haven’t read and maybe have never heard of. Just think of it! While some of your favorites may be absent, what a great starting off point for new books to discover.