Over the years, BBC Culture has conducted major polls of film and TV critics, experts and industry figures from around the world to decide on the greatest films and TV shows in a particular category: you may have seen our 100 greatest TV shows of the 21st Century in 2021, for example, or our 100 greatest films directed by women list in 2019. However, for this year’s poll, we felt we needed to finally turn our attention to another art form so deeply embedded in all our lives – books. And there is no variety of books more embedded in them than children’s literature – after all, whatever our pastimes as we grow older, many of us share in the joy of reading at a young age, in and out of school.
It also felt like just the moment to survey children’s books because of the recent conversation around how they are sorely undervalued compared to adult literature. In an interview last year, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce powerfully lamented the current lack of conversation around children’s books. “There’s not the critical discussion there needs to be, around [them] at all,” he said – a view backed up just last week by The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson on the same show.
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