Many people said my Christmas Children’s Book Quiz was too hard – sorry! I was just about to provide more clues, when a friend who is a bit of a Hermione emailed me with a 98% score! (If you haven’t tried the quiz yet, it’s here.)
Whether you raced home like Hermione or are sulking in a snowdrift, I hope I conjured childhood memories and showed you books you haven’t heard of. Children’s literature deserves every bit as much attention as writing for adults, so I’ve added links to explore further (or enjoy reminiscing). One thing I’ve learnt from setting this quiz is that my knowledge needs updating, something for the next lockdown perhaps.
Round 1: Did you, like me, read these as a child?
- Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. Kipling was a product of his time and class, with much of his writing jingoistic. But these animal stories remain delightful.
- The Children Of Green Knowe by Lucy M Boston. Not now as well known as she should be, Boston wrote ghost stories based on her own ancient home. The second, The Chimneys of Green Knowe, was unusual in featuring a heroine whose blindness isn’t central to the plot.
- Peter Pan by J M Barrie. Strange notions of childcare here! But as stipulated in Barrie’s will, Peter Pan royalties go to Great Ormond Street Children’s hospital in London.
- Just William by Richmal Crompton. She preferred her numerous novels for adults, but William – who never ages – is universally recognisable.
- Thomas The Tank Engine by the Rev W Awdry. Despite brilliant illustrations the original text is somewhat dense, but the characters have adapted for each generation.
- Island Of The Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. This is a stirring story of an indigenous teenage girl’s survival after cruelty leaves her alone on a a remote island. See some of the Goodreads reviews for more in depth thoughts. I loved this as a teenager.
- The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. The first in a long, wonderful series. Aiken is up there with Pullman and Rowling for creating imaginary worlds and intelligent female leads.
- The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. Charming, nostalgic, romantic…
- Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield. Streatfield’s knowledge of theatre helps this classic story of yet more disadvantaged young girls deciding what they want and going for it!
- The Borrowers by Mary Norton. There are definitely Borrowers in my house. Inventive, and yet it teaches about vulnerability and inequality too, if you want morals in your children’s reading.
Round 2: A Picture Tells a Thousand Words
- Lucy and Tom’s Day by Shirley Hughes. This was first published in 1960. Hughes, now in her 90s, is still producing high quality stories and artwork, something new for every generation.
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The first book I read my children, when they were just a few months old. I’ve used it for the happiest teaching ever since, in lots of different languages.
- Peace At Last by Jill Murphy. Another brilliant, repetitive bedtime story even for the youngest babies.
- Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines / Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” Who wouldn’t carry on after a start like that?
- Funnybones by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. The skeletons try to scare the humans but they’re much too funny!
- The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. Just to show that a book can captivate without words. Briggs has also produced much darker work, and drawn a touching biography of his parents.
- Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Brown. Beautiful illustrations, funny ending.
- The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley. I still can’t read this without welling up – try it for yourself or just admire the fabulous pictures.
- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. This 1962 US classic was possibly the first published picture book to feature a black child without stereotyping. It was still popular with the children I taught up to 2016.
- So Much by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury. At this family party, seen through the eyes of a toddler, you’ll have SO MUCH fun!
Round 3: Classics Old and Newish
- Anne Of Green Gables by L M Montgomery. The later books disappoint (me), but Anne Shirley as introduced here is great fun, overcoming a rotten start in life to win everyone’s hearts.
- What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge. The message about learning good behaviour through disability is cloying now, but this story fascinated me as a child. Again, the sequels are less successful (I think).
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Still good enough to make a great recent film. Amy was always my favourite, but you’re supposed to like Jo best. The sequels? Nah…
- Noughts And Crosses by Malorie Blackman. A simple but clever premise, and an excellent recent TV series. Some reviewers miss the point!
- Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling. Not sure where you’ve been if you’ve missed this one. An imaginary world that’s given pleasure to millions, despite some of the author’s recently expressed opinions running into opposition. The sequels work brilliantly, if at too much length.
- The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe by C S Lewis. A wonderful series for any child (or adult) who’s ever played about with a fictional universe. It’s a shame about the girls’ roles and the blond, noble Narnians against the dark skinned evil Calormenes, but the imaginary world created and the love of nature and animals remain outstanding.
- Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Having loved this as a child, I was surprised how wordy I found it when reading it to my own children. But a roll call of illustrious illustrators have had enormous fun with the invention and characters over the years.
- Winnie The Pooh by A A Milne. Now the subject of many Facebook memes, Pooh remains as lovable and silly as ever.
- Northern Lights (published in the US as The Golden Compass) by Philip Pullman. My use of the UK title of the first in this fantastic series may have thrown some of you. But hey – it’s meant to be a mystery. The recent BBC adaptation does it far more justice than the film.
- Mary Poppins by P L Travers. Quite dry to read, compared to the film, but worth persevering.
Round 4: These characters are (part of) the family – but in which book(s)?
- Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace Ingalls are the daughters in the Little House… series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Controversial now for the way some (not all) characters view American Indians, but beautifully written and fascinating social history as long as it’s clear it’s from the point of view of white “pioneers”.
- Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis are The Railway Children (E. Nesbit) For an Edwardian woman, Nesbit had an extraordinary life.
- Pod, Homily and Arriety are The Borrowers (Mary Norton). See above.
- William, Charles, Percy, Fred, George, Ronald and Ginevra are the Weasley children’s full names (Harry Potter). See above.
- Kurt, Marcie and Minal Cricket are the siblings of Clarice Bean, in the series by Lauren Child. A popular contemporary series.
- Pongo and Missus are the parent dogs in The 101 Dalmations (Dodie Smith). This link is to the edition I had as a child, as I prefer the cover to one with film stills.
- Sally and I (her narrator brother) are visited by The Cat in the Hat (Dr Seuss). When he comes back things get even crazier!
- Lily Rose, Kate, Jim, John, Jo, Peggy and baby William were The Family From One End Street by Eve Garnett. The language may seem patronising, but when published in the 1930s it was ground-breaking as the first British children’s series to feature a poor working class family in a realistic way.
- Naledi, Tiro and Dineo were siblings in Journey to Jo’burg by Beverley Naidoo. It’s an easy to read story of children living in apartheid era South Africa. For my mixed ability classes of 12 year olds it packed a powerful emotional and educational punch.
- Ahmet is the schoolboy refugee separated from his family in Onjali Rauf’s prizewinning 2018 debut, The Boy at the Back of the Class, illustrated by Pippa Curnick. There’s also a US book with the same title by Tahlie Purvis, which I hadn’t heard of when I set this quiz. Take a point (or two) if you’ve answered with that one (or both)!
Round 5: Animals
- Paddington by Michael Bond. Pooh may like his honey, but for Paddington only marmalade will do.
- Orlando, the Marmalade Cat by Kathleen Hale. Hermione tells me there’s also a heroine called Marmalade Atkins in a series by Andrew Davies.
- Wilbur is described as SOME PIG in letters spun into Charlotte’s Web by E B White.
- In The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, Ferdinand is a bull who would rather smell the flowers than fight in the bullring.
- Mog is Meg the witch’s cat in Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski’s Meg and Mog picture books. Mog is also the Thomas family’s cat in Judith Kerr’s Mog the Forgetful Cat series. There may be more!
- One owl service is a set of dinner plates featuring owls with magical properties in Alan Garner’s The Owl Service.
- The second is the postal service provided by owls in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. See above.
- The two benevolently despotic elephants I thought of were Babar by Jean de Brunhoff, and Uncle, by J P Martin. Hermione also suggests Colonel Hathi from The Jungle Book.
- In The Magician’s Nephew by C S Lewis, Diggory’s Uncle Andrew was planted (and watered) by an elephant who mistook him for a tree. Google “images from The Magician’s Nephew” to see this incident as depicted by the wonderful Pauline Baynes. (Must blog about children’s illustrators some time.)
- The Elephant’s Child (Rudyard Kipling) was spanked by his aunts and uncles for his insatiable curiosity. See Just So Stories, above.
- Elmer, in David McKee’s picture books.
- The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.
- Anansi the spiderman features in traditional folk stories that originated in Ghana and spread to the Caribbean. Anansi tells stories and plays tricks.
- Although a dog, Nana was nanny to Wendy James and Michael in Peter Pan (see above). They escaped through an open window as she was babysitting.
- Mole, in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
Round 6: Identify the author and/or the book(s) they are talking about.
- “It is the book I’m proudest of because it had something to do with the death of the Dick and Jane primers.” Theodore Geisel (Dr Seuss) said this of The Cat in the Hat (see above). The UK Dick and Jane were Janet and John. Janet helped Mummy in the kitchen. John helped Dad wash the car. They were boring.
- “… reviewers at the time said things like: “in spite of the strange title, it’s a very good book.” Judith Kerr on When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit interviewed in the Guardian 18/2/15
- “… my father had got to where he was by climbing upon my infant shoulders.” Christopher Robin Milne, in his autobiography The Enchanted Places, showed resentment of the Winnie the Pooh books by A A Milne.
- Richmal Crompton complained here that William Brown “takes possession of every story I try to write, even though they are not about him.”
- “I knew it would make people feel uncomfortable.” Malorie Blackman writing here about Noughts and Crosses.
- “If you read my novels, you know, they’re not black novels – they’ve just got characters in them…” Benjamin Zephaniah quoted in The Guardian 14/10/14
Round 7: Snippets of random information
- Tolkien and C S Lewis drank together in The Unicorn pub, Great Malvern, Worcestershire, whose gas lamps feature in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (see above).
- James Thurber was part blind after being shot in the eye by his brother in a childhood game of William Tell. (The Thirteen Clocks and The Wonderful O was a favourite of mine as a child, in the Puffin edition with illustrations by Ronald Searle.)
- Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and once married to Prince Andrew signed a seven book “nurturing” children’s book deal in Australia and New Zealand in early 2020. I think authors should get contracts on merit, not because they are linked to the UK royal family. So I am not giving a link to her books. 10,000 bonus points if you agree.
- The UK children’s author and illustrator who said “I get on with (children) perfectly well but spend time with them? No, no, no…” was Quentin Blake.
Round 8: And lastly, in honour of a Europe I’m so sorry and angry to leave, have a go at these questions:
- Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (whose parents were Polish).
- Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (France). See above.
- Miffy by Dick Bruna (Netherlands).
- Strewwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffmann. This link is to the German edition because I loved the picture which was on my English copy as a child. Horrifying stories of awful punishments for children who misbehave.
- The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank (Holland). Apologies if I muddled you – I always thought this had the title I’ve given but now see recent translations call it The Diary of a Young Girl.
- Fables by Aesop (Greece).
- Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (Sweden).
- Pom, Flora, Alexander and cousin Arthur are Babar’s triplets and nephew in the French books by Jean de Brunhoff. See link above.
- When they’re told by the Brothers Grimm (German brothers who collected fairy tales from all over Europe).
- Pinocchio (by Italian Carlo Collodi) and Johnson are both shown with noses that lengthen with every lie.
I hope you enjoyed my quiz. Do keep sharing it, and let me know how you did by commenting below. Happy new reading year!
Questions and answers © Jessica Norrie 2020.