The publication of Fifty Favourite Books From the Last Fifty Years, marks the beginning of an exciting year of events designed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups founded by Anne Wood in 1968.The idea for the list was first suggested during the Groups Meeting at the annual conference in Telford. Based entirely on titles submitted by FCBG’s Children’s Book Groups and individual members, the list is now available (here) and in print form on request (from firstname.lastname@example.org).
Arranged chronologically, the list highlights popular books from the last five decades, many of which have had an enduring appeal for successive generations. Although more than fifty books were nominated, care has been taken to ensure that the most popular titles have been represented and spread evenly across the three age categories used by the Children’s Book Award (Young Children, Young Readers and Older Readers). The list also includes a title by each of the ten Children’s Laureates to date, plus a brief summary of events in the world of children’s publishing for each decade.
It seems fitting that the first title in the list is Paddington Goes To Town by Michael Bond. 2018 also marks the 60th anniversary of Paddington’s first appearance in print and throughout that time stories about the little bear from darkest Peru have continued to delight young readers around the world, with the help of different illustrators along the way and both small and large screen adaptations. The Paddington stories are intrinsically British, endearingly humorous and ideal for reading aloud. Like the iconic teddy bear in FCBG’s logo, Paddington pays testimony to the continuing popularity of bears (whether live or toy versions) in stories for children – see We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury) and Dogger (Shirley Hughes), for example.
It seems just as fitting that the last title listed is One by Sarah Crossan. Winner of the Older Readers category of the Children’s Book Award in 2017 and written in verse, this novel exemplifies the emergence of a relatively new way of storytelling for young adults. As the only national children’s book award voted for entirely by children, the CBA reveals books that are the true favourites of their intended audience – a real accolade for any author or illustrator. In the case of One, the novel explores the unusual topic of conjoined twin sisters and packs a powerful emotional punch. The Fifty Favourite list includes other landmark titles for older readers – including Noughts and Crosses (Malorie Blackman) and A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness and Jim Kay), for example.
All of the titles listed are currently in print and while it can only provide a glimpse of publishing for children during the last fifty years, the list represents books that for many of our members have stood the test of time and remain firm favourites for children and adults alike. As such, it provides a good point of reference for parents, carers, teachers and librarians who are looking for books to read aloud, share and promote. We also hope that the list will spark discussions – here are some questions to get you going. Are any of your own favourite books included? Do you have particular memories associated with any of the titles listed? Which other books would you have liked to have seen included? If you were asked to pick a favourite book from each of the five decades, what would they be? It’s almost certain that everyone’s answers to these questions are likely to be different!
The Federation of Children’s Book Groups would like to thank Orchard Books for giving us permission to use illustrations by the current Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child, for this special anniversary list.