With Where The Wild Things Are (which I reviewed here) and The Fantastic Mr Fox, these past few months have brought us true gems when it comes to adaptation of children's books - or rather, masterpieces aimed primarily at children. The likes of Roald Dahl, my absolute favorite writer when I was a kid, and Maurice Sendak, are true magicians, true artists who do not pale in comparison with the greatest writers.
Right now, I am reading a recent scholarly volume, Children's Literature - A Reader's History From Aesop To Harry Potter, by the respected University of California professor Seth Lerer. In this fascinating study, Lerer pays tribute to extraordinary authors such as Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss, and makes you yearn to rediscover those eye-opening classics. My only regret is that there are not more illustrations (the few we are treated to, such as the one below, are really great) and that none is in color; it seems to me that the imaginary universe of many authors has been enhanced by illustrators (I would hate to read Roald Dahl without Quentin Blake's sharp drawings), or in cases such as Sendak's, are an intrinsic part of the book.
The books that illuminated my childhood were, among others: the Noddy series by Enid Blyton, which got me hooked on reading, Odette Joyeux's La Porte Ouverte, chronicling the live of a little girl learning ballet at the Opéra de Paris, anything by Roald Dahl and later anything by Judy Blume, the Nancy Drew novels, Martine Petit Rat de l'Opéra (which I blogged about here), Kessel's Afghan tale Les Cavaliers, Pipi Longstocking, and more.
Christmas present tip: a beautiful copy of a classic children's book is always an enchanting present...