The Independent on Sunday has declared its intention not to review any children’s books that are marketed in such a way as to exclude either gender. My feeling too is that children’s books should be available to whoever wants to read them. This chimes in with a comment on my previous post from Moira at ClothesinBooks, who remembers reading Biggles as a child. When she mentioned that, memories came flooding back. My friend Linda and I adored them when we were ten or eleven, and I don’t think it occurred to us for a moment that these might suitable only for boys. Quite why we adored them, it is hard to say now. I am amused to read in the Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature that the Biggles books, written by Capt. W. E. Johns, are regarded with contempt by librarians and critics as being racist and jingoistic. No doubt they were, but I guess they were also gripping yarns.
Similarly later on – aged around twelve or thirteen – I became friends with Pauline, who had the best collection of Superman comics in the school. We spend hours reading and rereading them together. We also read and reread Jackie. An omnivorous diet is best for young readers.
Linda and Pauline are the only ones I am still in touch with from my schooldays. Those hours spent poring over Biggles and Superman led to lifelong friendships.