25 November 2008

British and American Favorites

Charles Bayless at Through the Magic Door has correlated two newspaper articles on readers’ favorite childhood books: one article from Britain and one from America. This produced four different lists because some respondents had named books or series, and some had named authors.

Bayless summarizes the overlap:

There are four titles that show up on both the UK and the US lists: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Charlotte's Web. There are also four cross-over authors: Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, Enid Blyton and Isaac Asimov.
While that's "two quintessentially American and two quintessentially English authors," as Bayless says, Seuss and Asimov are the only American authors on the British list. A Greek and a Dane rank fairly high, but everyone else is British. In contrast, the American list has Dahl at #2, Verne, Blyton, Montgomery, Milne, and Christie.

Among titles, the American list includes five books from authors outside the USA, plus two by British expatriates writing stories set in their homeland (Burnett's Secret Garden and Lofting's Doctor Doolittle). Charlotte's Web is the only American title to appear on the British list, and it's at the bottom.

Thus, for the generations of readers who responded to these polls, British children's literature was still disproportionately popular in America, and American literature secondary in Britain.

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