What Makes A Successful Children's Book?

2593 words - 10 pages

Northern Lights and Tom's Midnight Garden which are both prizewinning, children's books will be discussed in relation to David Rudd's 'defence' of the work of Enid Blyton. This will be achieved by answering the following questions and tying them into Rudd's essay. How can the success of a children’s book best be quantified? What criteria are used for judging children’s books? How do the chosen texts stand up to this criteria? Who are different groups that judge children's books and what criteria do each of them have? How have the criteria for judging the merits of children’s literature changed since the eighteenth century? What are the arguments for defending Enid Blyton? Finally, are the arguments presented sound, and if they are what impact does this have on how we judge children's books in general?
How can success best be quantified? Successful children's books are books that are known to be highly appreciated by a large, statistically verifiable number of children and, possibly, by many critics as well, however, the latter is not always true especially in such cases as that of Enid Blyton. By this definition it would appear that Enid Blyton would be considered an unmitigated success with sales of over 500 million books worldwide, having been translated into 40 languages and in August 2008 was voted the best loved UK author according to a survey conducted for the Costa Book Awards. Plus the fact that she still sells over 11 million books a year despite having died over 40 years ago. Is popularity then the best way to judge the success of a children's book or are there other criteria that have to be fulfilled? Given that Blyton has been heavily criticised it would appear that many people are of the opinion that the success of children's books is not a popularity contest, and that they are only a success if they are of literary merit.
Onto literary awards, as they appear to be how books are signposted as being of literary merit and a way of garnering success 'Although the Medal carries no cash prize, it can more than double the sales of a book, as well as increase the sales of the author's other books.'(Children's literature:Approaches and Territories P.157).
Criteria used for judging children’s books The two longest running literary prizes for children's books, the CILIP Carnegie Medal and the Newberry Medal use very similar criteria. For ease we will concentrate on the British, Carnegie Medal which states the following, 'the book that wins the Carnegie Medal should be a book of outstanding literary quality. The whole work should provide pleasure, not merely from the surface enjoyment of a good read, but also the deeper subconscious satisfaction of having gone through a vicarious, but at the time of reading, a real experience that is retained afterwards' (Children's literature:Study Guide P.181).
Do the texts stand up to this criteria? It is clear from this statement that Enid Blyton's texts would be immediately excluded on the basis...

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