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Saturday, March 10, 2012

'Charlotte's Web' and 99 more 'great' kids books

Charlotte's Web, E.B. White's 60-year-old novel about how a determined farm girl and a noble, vocabulary-building spider save a naïve runt of a pig, is No. 1 on a new list of the "100 Greatest Books for Kids."

'Scholastic Parent & Child' magazine ranks 'Charlotte's Web' as the No. 1 book for kids ever written.

'Scholastic Parent & Child' magazine ranks 'Charlotte's Web' as the No. 1 book for kids ever written.

'Scholastic Parent & Child' magazine ranks 'Charlotte's Web' as the No. 1 book for kids ever written.

The rankings, released today by Scholastic Parent & Child magazine, are aimed at "generating controversy and conversation," says Nick Friedman, the magazine's editor in chief.

In that spirit, why is J.K. Rowling's groundbreaking debut, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, only No. 6, chosen to represent the entire series?

It's "undoubtedly one of the greatest in history," Friedman says, but "it is only 15 years old and hasn't had time to be as firmly established."

Beyond literary merit and popularity, he says, the list was chosen to include a variety of genres for different ages — from infants to middle schoolers — and to be "culturally representative."

A team of literacy experts and "mom bloggers" nominated nearly 500 titles. Friedman and four other editors at the magazine made the final decisions.

Their toughest choice, he says, was between Charlotte's Web and Goodnight Moon, the 1947 picture book by Margaret Wise Brown, with illustrations by Clement Hurd, as No. 1. Charlotte's Web emerged as "a bit more sophisticated."

Friedman welcomes "comments and complaints." The list includes Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham (No. 7), but not The Cat in the Hat. It omits classics such as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Stephenie Meyer's best-selling Twilight series was considered "too mature."

Scholastic, which publishes books as well as the magazine, has 14 titles on the list, including No. 33, Suzanne Collins' best seller The Hunger Games. Friedman says the judges looked at the books, not their publishers.

Also named are 10 "superlative award" winners, including (overall rankings in the top 100 in parentheses):

• Best Read-Aloud: Mo Willems' Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (28).

• Most Beautifully Illustrated: Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse (61).

• Most Relatable Character: Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid (38).

• Most Side-Splitting Hilarious: Dav Pilkey's The Adventures of Captain Underpants (97).

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