Giant space turtle is a reading must

16th September 2005 at 01:00
Top authors recommend what every child should read. Adam Luck reports

Resting on four elephants supported by a giant turtle hurtling through space, Discworld appears to be light years away from the world of AS Byatt.

But that has not stopped the grand dame of English letters from nominating Terry Pratchett and his imaginary universe as the piece of literature children must read.

Dame Antonia's nomination springs from a TES survey that asked some of Britain's leading literary lights which great works the nation's pupils must read.

Andrew Motion, the poet laureate, Jacqueline Wilson, the children's laureate, Michael Morpurgo, her predecessor, and authors Beryl Bainbridge and Philip Pullman nominated nursery rhymes, Rudyard Kipling, Siegfried Sassoon, Charles Dickens and even French novelist Jean Giono.

AS Byatt, best-known for Possession: A Romance, said: "Terry Pratchett tells a rattling good story in a way that gives people like me enormous pleasure but also gets 12-year-old nerds to read. Almost every child should be told to read him, not in class, but secretly."

Andrew Motion chose Dickens, "partly because the themes are to do with elsewhere, people moving between countries".

Dickens and Great Expectations was also Jacqueline Wilson's choice. She said: "Any Jane Austen for the writer's style - so superb. But it would be Dickens for the crackle, vitality and joy."

Dame Beryl Bainbridge, whose novels The Dressmaker and Young Adolf centre on wartime scenes, nominates the nation's war poets and Siegfried Sassoon in particular. "It was poems that got one going, particularly Wordsworth, Shakespeare and Tennyson. I did not understand a word at the time but if you look at them later you do understand."

His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman nominates fairy tales and nursery rhymes: "They are a necessity. They nourish the emotions as well as the intellect and emotion. Any child that misses out on their Cinderella and Little Bo Beep will be missing out on a great deal of enjoyment."

Michael Morpurgo, the distinguished children's writer, nominates French writer Jean Giono, a First World War veteran who won acclaim for The Man Who Planted Trees. He said: "It's about a shepherd in the mountains of Provence. It's a beautifully observed piece of writing."

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