The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature by Daniel Hahn
|The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature by Daniel Hahn|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: If you're interested in children's literature this book is indispensable. It's a brilliant read in its own right and very accessible. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 688||Date: March 2015|
|Publisher: OUP Oxford|
|External links: Author's website|
When I was a child, some sixty and more years ago, there were not many books for children or, indeed, much money to buy what was available. Forty years ago, when my daughter was a child there were more and the libraries were relatively well stocked. But in the last thirty years children's books have flourished. I'm no great fan of Harry Potter but even the most hardened cynic would have to admit that the wizard has brought a lot of children to reading - and to enjoying it too. In the same period we've seen books tackling difficult subjects become mainstream and the rise of young adult fiction. From near-famine we've moved to feast, but what we need now is guidance.
Step in The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature. The book was originally published in 1983 but has been completely updated and revised by Daniel Hahn, no mean writer himself, and chair of the Society of Authors. Every genre is covered along with the big-name books of recent years. There are over 3,500 entries covering authors, illustrators and characters. English language authors are covered extensively - and that's not just the United Kingdom, but also the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland. Non-English language authors who have been translated into English also feature. I was delighted to see Timothee de Fombelle, Astrid Lindgren and Cornelia Funke for starters.
Some prizes are covered, but not all. The Guardian Children's Fiction Prize is in there (with the winners listed in the Appendix - where you'll find the other major awards listed, with their winners). There's no listing for the Waterstones Prize, but that has probably yet to achieve the critical acclaim of the other prizes which are listed.
The book is very accessible and not in the least sniffy about books which might be considered , er, populist rather than great literature and it's for this reason that I think children will get as much out of this book as adults. The writing is straightforward but not patronising and I loved the way that the entries can lead you on to other entries - an asterisk before a word indicates that there's an entry available - and the book will encourage children to explore and discover new reading for themselves.
I've one quibble with the book and it's true of all books of this type. Essentially it takes a snapshot of children's literature at a point in time and by the time that it's published the world of publishing has moved on. In late March 2015 - around the time of publication of this book - I was at a presentation by Penguin Random House of their up-and-coming children's books. Of the authors who were there, Dame Jacqueline Wilson has an entry, as does David Levithan, but there's no entry for Jennifer Niven or B J Novak. And I'll confess that I did wonder if the Randy Penguin presentation didn't look back a little too much at what had been published rather forward to what was coming. That's me being very picky - all round - though.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.
People who are seriously into J K Rowling will love J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography 1997 - 2013 by Philip W Errington. Adults wishing to be well read will appreciate How to be Well Read: A guide to 500 great novels and a handful of literary curiosities by John Sutherland.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature by Daniel Hahn at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature by Daniel Hahn at Amazon.com.
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