Folks may have seen Nicholas Kristof’s NY Times column on what he (or his editor) claims are the best kids’ books ever.
Now, first of all, I highly support people writing about children’s books, and second, I happen to have my own deep and abiding affection for the FREDDY THE PIG books, and so am particularly glad to see Kristof resuscitating their brand.
However. It’s kind of annoying when people who know very little about children’s books adopt the veneer of expertise about them — and yes, I do feel more than a twinge of hypocrisy in writing that, but still; I have a hard time imagining that Kristof would’ve felt qualified to expound on, say, “the best oil paintings ever” just because he happens to have enjoyed seeing some with his family. Kristof’s amateur status shows in the oddly narrow list he made; as Marc Aronson pointed out, if what we’re worried about is IQ scores falling in the summer, then maybe we should thinking about books that will particularly appeal to the kids who are most reluctant to read. Harry Potter aside (and we clearly don’t need anyone recommending that one), this list probably ain’t that.
I think Kristof was mostly picking out the books he’s most enjoyed reading to his own kids, in which case I wish he’d dropped the pretense to objectivity or high-mindedness and written a more personal column about what he remembers fondly about those experiences. Because the thing is, while it’s simply not true that anyone can be an expert in children’s books — it is true that anyone can love them for reasons that are interesting for others to hear about.
At least, I hope so. Otherwise, what the hell am I doing with this blog???