This year sees the 150th anniversary of when Lewis Carroll, on a now famous boating journey in Oxford, made up the story that was to become ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’.
This has become a true classic – often imitated, and so deep in our culture many people can tell you story or recognise characters without having actually read the book.
You might find publishers today defining a classic as something that has been in print for far less time than this, maybe only twenty years these days makes a classic.
But what makes some stories the ones successive generations want to return to? It is possible to define that elusive enduring quality to stay in print?
And with so much now published exclusively for children – are they still reading the classics?
Oxford University Press is currently relaunching fourteen titles on its children’s classics list by the fresh idea of finding children who have loved them to champion the books.
The publisher ran a competition in February last year asking children to write a short review for their favourite classic story, and selected ‘Classics Champions’ from the best entries. These winners will then see their reviews appearing in the new editions of classic titles – and get their name in a book!
The reader of the two Alice adventures, Steffan Nicholas, recommends Asterix and ‘Going Solo’ by Roald Dahl as similar adventures, and the book contains quizzes and background information, such as pointing out that Lewis Carroll made up words in his stories, such as ‘chortle’. It’s an imaginative way for children to approach the classics.
Sally’s very own Beatriz Poyton won the competition to see her review of ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ published, along with her recommendations of books its readers might enjoy.
She review s it as ‘an exciting story, with lots of twists and turns and entertaining characters in an extraordinarily colourful world. Even if you have watched the film you should read this book, and discover the secrets of Oz in more detail and see what Dorothy’s slippers are actually made from!’
‘The Wizard of Oz’ was the best-selling children’s book for two years after initial publication in 1900 and was followed by 17 sequels – none of which were as successful as the original.
Interview with Beatriz about Children's Classics...
I really like your Wizard of Oz review and I wondered what prompted you to read it in the first place?I had watched the film, and I wanted to compare the book to film and see the extra details that aren’t in the film. I was very pleased when my aunty brought me a Kindle for Christmas to find a copy of the book on it, so I read it. I discovered that the book is much better than the film.
I also wonder do you approach reading classics any differently to when you picks up something that has been written for a modern audience?Erm, yes, I don’t believe that classics are better just because I’m told they are. Usually I start reading them, believing that they won’t be as good as the more modern fantasy books I usually read, however, I usually find that the classic books are more engaging and are better than the usual books I read.
What, for you, is the biggest draw about reading classics?I think that if the blurb is really catchy, I’ll open up and start reading, and usually continue to read them. Also I like to read the actual story to see if it is like the story I already know, from films and cartoons.
What, if anything, do you feel might stop children reading or enjoying classics?Possibly that the title doesn't really fit the book, and seems duller than the story actually is. Sometimes it is the cover, as a lot of Classic Books have old fashioned covers, so they are not as attractive and don’t appeal to children as much as newer books. Also I think some people think they already know the stories.
Post Written by Nicki.