Monday, May 15, 2006

New chapter in childhood

FANTASY rules supreme with young readers with Harry Potter, Narnia, Eragon and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory being voted tops by 23,000 Australian children aged five to 17.

The Angus & Robertson Top 50 book poll will be released this morning.

It reveals many of the most popular books have recently been made into films, begging the question of whether their popularity spurred the film or a film version fuelled book sales.

Most of the top authors are foreign, with the highest-ranked Australian author, Emily Rodda, coming in at No. 7.

Rodda's Deltora Quest has not been filmed, but is being made into an anime television series in Japan.

Eragon, a magic fantasy about a boy and a dragon by 22-year-old American author Christopher Paolini, is set for a film release later this year.

Classics such as J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and the more adult Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen made the list, along with one Enid Blyton favourite, The Magic Faraway Tree.

The month-long poll was conducted in bookshops and online.

The survey was conducted online and in stores, with young readers from five to seventeen were given a month to vote for their all-time favourite books.

In the voting, girls only slightly pipped boys in the number of nominations for favourite books, and the highest number of votes came from children aged 10 and 11.

Rodda – who became a full-time children's writer after completing an honours MA in English literature from Sydney University, editing The Australian Women's Weekly and working in publishing – said she was honoured to be the top Australian writer on the list.

Rodda, 58, the mother of four adult children, including twins, has sold more than seven million copies of her Deltora Quest series alone.

The series, a fantasy incorporating ancient folklore and the purported powers of gemstones, has been translated into more than 20 languages, with the biggest sales achieved in Japan, the US, Italy and Australia.

Ms Rodda said the phenomenal popularity of the Harry Potter books, and the movie versions of classics like Narnia had been strong positives for children's reading.

"I think there is a crop of good books around at present which are encouraging children to read," Rodda said.

"A decade or so ago, I think there was a danger that some children were seeing reading as boring or a bit wussy – especially boys and that some children thought television and videos were the only source of good stories.

"But now children are taking up the reading habit in their thousands and enjoying lots and lots of good books."

Rodda, who was rarely without a book in her hand herself as a child, especially remembers the Anne of Green Gables and Wind in the Willows stories with affection.

Angus & Robertson general manager Dave Fenlon said the list suggested that Australian children might be "switching off the TV and video games" in order to read a diverse range of complex books.

"This overwhelming response can only be a sign of the true passion for reading by our kids," Mr Fenlon said.

"Sitting down and reading a good book is obviously still shaping childhoods.

"Not only do we find a significant number of Australian authors amongst the top 50, but it is extraordinarily positive to find that movies are actually feeding kids' desire to read."

1. Harry Potter Series, JK Rowling
2. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
4. The Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis
5. Eragon, Christopher Paolini
6. A Series Of Unfortunate Events: Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket
7. Forests Of Silence Bk 1 Deltora Quest Series 1, Emily Rodda
8. The BFG, Roald Dahl
9. Tomorrow, When The War Began, John Marsden
10. Matilda, Roald Dahl
11. The Cat In The Hat, Dr Seuss
12. Just Crazy, Andy Griffiths
13. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, JRR Tolkien
14. The Adventures of Captain Underpants, Dav Pilkey
15. Just Disgusting, Andy Griffiths
16. The Day My Bum Went Psycho, Andy Griffiths
17. Just Stupid, Andy Griffiths
18. The Twits, Roald Dahl
19. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfe
20. Eldest, Christopher Paolini
21. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
22. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
23. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, Ann Brashares
24. Specky Magee, Garry Lyon and Felice Arena
25. The Witches, Roald Dahl
26. Chinese Cinderella, Adeline Yen Mah
27. Green Eggs and Ham, Dr Seuss
28. Ruby The Red Fairy: Rainbow Magic, Daisy Meadows
29. Rowan of Rin, Emily Rodda
30. Go Girl! Sister Spirit, Thalia Kalkipsakis
31. Dragonkeeper, Carole Wilkinson
32. Just Annoying, Andy Griffiths
33. Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz
34. The Bad Book, Andy Griffiths
35. Holes, Louis Sachar
36. Looking For Alibrandi, Melina Marchetta
37. Possum Magic, Mem Fox
38. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
39. Just Tricking, Andy Griffiths
40. Pride and Predjudice, Jane Austen
41. Hover Car Racer, Matthew Reilly
42. The Power of One: Young Readers Edition, Bryce Courtenay
43. Boy Overboard, Morris Gleitzman
44. Tashi, Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg
45. To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
46. The Ruins of Gorlan: Rangers Apprentice Book 1, John Flanagan
47. Are We There Yet?, Alison Lester
48. Utterly Me, Clarice Bean, Lauren Child
49. Hating Alison Ashley, Robin Klein
50. Truck Dogs, Graeme Base,20797,19132777-953,00.html


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