Posts Tagged ‘Betsy Bird’

Top 100 Children’s Novelists #2 – E. B. White

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

# 2 Children’s Novelist – E. B. White, 365 points.

Nobody’s surprised about this one. The author for the second highest number of points in Betsy Bird’s poll of the Top 100 Chapter Books of All Time is E. B. White.

What might be surprising is that while J. K. Rowling, the #1 author, got there with votes on all seven of her books, E. B. White pulled off second place with votes on only two of his books.

Charlotte’s Web was Chapter Book #1, with 349 points.
And The Trumpet of the Swan had two people vote for it with a 2nd place and a 4th place ranking, for a total of 16 points.
I was surprised that Stuart Little got no points at all.

Now, I personally didn’t vote for Charlotte’s Web, but I might have if I’d thought for a moment it wouldn’t win. I have to admit the book is practically perfect. I have wonderful memories of Charlotte’s Web, since it was my 3rd grade teacher, Miss Kita, who introduced the book to me when she read it to our class after lunch. I remember being completely enthralled.

I was never enamored with the other two books, though my husband ended up making me fond of them. That Stuart Little was a mouse, I always found completely creepy. A small human would have been interesting. But a mouse? The open ending didn’t help for me, either.

Then there was The Trumpet of the Swan. I didn’t encounter that one until I was an adult. It’s a good story, but, come on, a trumpet? Really? I know enough about brass instruments to know that you really do need lips to play one. Playing a trumpet with a beak? I’m sorry, but my imagination doesn’t stretch that far.

Even though you’d think that would bother him, my ex-husband, a tuba player, had loved all three books since he was a boy. He read all three to our sons, and I get warm feelings just remembering that. He and our older son were working together on a sequel to Stuart Little called Margalo.

Then there was the Hanna Barbara film of Charlotte’s Web. My son watched that over and over and over, as only a preschooler can. And yet — I did not hate it, even after hearing it uncountably many times. Most of the dialogue was straight from the book, and the fact is, that’s good dialogue.

Come to think of it, Charlotte’s Web, though completely brilliant, is unconventional, like the other books. Perhaps that’s what blocked it from a Newbery Medal in the end. It starts out as a realistic book and then switches into fantasy with talking animals, though never going all the way there, staying firmly grounded in reality.

I recently read Michael Sims’ brilliant book, The Story of Charlotte’s Web. It turns out that E. B. White studied spiders for a full year before writing the book. His impeccable research is reflected in the book. These animals — and that immortal spider — are real and grounded in reality.

#1 Chapter Book Author – J. K. Rowling

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

#1 Chapter Book Author: J. K. Rowling
445 points.

Tonight I’m beginning my posts of the Top 100 Chapter Book Authors from Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Chapter Books Poll with something of an upset. I hadn’t looked at the totals in awhile, and in the back of my mind, I simply thought that of course E. B. White, having won the top slot so decisively with Charlotte’s Web, would naturally be on top.

But I shouldn’t have been surprised. We all know how much the books by relative newcomer are beloved. Though this time most of us simply voted for the first book in her beloved series, not only was that book #3 in the Chapter Book Rankings, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was #12, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was #98, and yes, every single other book got at least one vote.

Just a little background. Betsy Bird did a poll on her Fuse #8 blog asking people to write in with their Top 10 Chapter Books of all time, ranked in order from 1 to 10. Each book was given 10 points for first place, 9 for second place, and so on. Then she gave us a ranking of the top 100 point-getters. I helped tally up the points, and I was interested in what authors would be on top, since with some it was so hard to choose just one book to vote for. Hence this series of posts.

Here are Betsy’s posts about J. K. Rowling’s three books in the Top 100:

#3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

#12. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

#98. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

And here are my own reviews of all the books:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I am very proud that I gave the first book to my son Josh on his eleventh birthday, and just as soon as he finished reading it, he urged us to read it as a family at bedtimes. (His little brother was five years old, and we’d started reading them books together, when we could find a book both would like.) The next year, before the book was famous, we gave the book to several other people. One of those was Josh’s fifth grade teacher, and he said it was the best present he’d ever received. When controversy began breaking out over the book the following year, his class put up big “We Love Harry Potter” signs on the classroom windows.

I confess, when my husband told me he wanted a “trial separation” a few months before Harry Potter #6 was due out, I said, “But then you won’t be there to read Harry Potter!” and burst into tears. (He did stay through the purchase of that book, but it was clear his heart wasn’t in it.) He had been the principal reader for all the earlier books, and I had treasured that family time. By #7, my son Josh was away at college, and my ex-husband was in Japan, but I talked my young teenage son who remained to let me read it aloud to him. Sigh. Now I just have to read them on my own. But I will always ALWAYS treasure those memories of reading Harry Potter together, at home and on vacation in England (one year we got the book earlier than everyone else by going to England) and in Germany (we spent a whole day of our vacation in Bavaria reading the end of The Goblet of Fire rather than going sight-seeing).

We also have a collection of Harry Potter books: American, British and German editions of all the books except the last (In case you’re wondering, that’s my childhood collection of Black Stallion books next to the British editions of Harry Potter.)

And we have copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in many different languages: Hebrew, Chinese, Czech, Bulgarian, Japanese, and French. As well as, of course, American, British, and German. (I’ve read the American, British, German and French ones. Not the others.)

Yes, I must admit I’m pleased that J. K. Rowling has the Number One Chapter Book Author spot. She deserves it!