I went to a bookshop yesterday for the first time in a month or so. I wasn’t going to buy anything (really) – I was there to pick up a book for someone else, and my to-read pile is about to topple over it’s so high. I was just browsing, promise.
As I was browsing the children’s fiction section, which I am inclined to do as soon as I get into any bookstore, I discovered that dotted through the shelves were a whole lot of new Random House Children’s Vintage Classics. And I was pleasantly surprised by the titles that had appeared in the range – a whole lot of them I had read for the 1001 Children’s Book list, and loved. There was The Incredible Journey, and Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and Charlotte Sometimes, and The Dark is Rising… All books I really enjoyed, and think deserve to be classics, but aren’t as renowned as other books in the Children’s Vintage Classic range, such as Peter Pan, The Secret Garden, Wind in the Willows or Treasure Island.
Books like Peter Pan, The Secret Garden and Alice in Wonderland deserve to be classics, without a doubt. But there are so many versions of them. You can’t help noticing these titles when walking into the children’s section of a bookshop – they probably have several editions of each of them. So I really love that Random House have picked some of the ‘lesser known’ classics (don’t get me wrong – I still know that they are classics so aren’t exactly unknown) – those books deserve to be titled classics, and read by children everywhere.
When I worked at the bookshop, The Incredible Journey, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Charlotte Sometimes and The Dark is Rising didn’t sit on the bookshelves. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of them were out of print in Australia at the time. The same goes for some of the other titles they brought out in their first drop of Children’s Vintage Classics – I had never seen Emil and the Detectives, or The Silver Sword, or The Wolves of Willoughby Chase before. But I’ve read them now, and loved them.
And isn’t that what classics should be about? Not just promoting books that everyone knows, but shifting through titles to find the hidden gems, and showing them to the world? To introduce a whole new generation to the book, and have them treasure it? Let’s call more books ‘classics’, I say. It might mean that more books are kept in print for longer, and treasured longer.