Libraries report an upturn in children's borrowing as JK Rowling stays on top. Robert Boyland reports
DEATH, disease and revolting facts are a big draw for children but when it comes to fiction, Harry Potter still rules their imaginary world.
Data from Public Lending Right on the most popular books in the UK's libraries shows that pupils love the Vile Victorians, Terrible Tudors and Smashing Saxons.
But JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the most borrowed title from UK libraries, and her books have notched up more than 500,000 loans and account for half the top 10 children's fiction books.
Jacqueline Wilson grabs the other five fiction positions with titles such as Lizzie Zipmouth, The Suitcase Kid and Glubbslyme, which features a 300-year-old magical toad.
The Suitcase Kid, number nine in the PLR fiction chart, is now used as a set text for national transitional work for 10 to 11-year-olds between key stage 2 and key stage 3.
Chris Hepburn, literacy co-ordinator at John of Rolleston primary, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire said Ms Wilson's books were extremely popular at the school. "They are relatively easy to read but address issues such as stepfamilies and bullying which children can identify with," she said.
"Most children can relate to Ms Wilson's or JK Rowling's books at some level, and these are still all over the shelves at high school."
Of the non-fiction books, Terry Deary's Horrible Histories series make up seven of the top 10 titles. Straight in at number one is Vile Victorians, which provides gory facts on villains and causes of death during the period and even information on when the first public lavatory was flushed.
His Smashing Saxons reveals that farmers used to give cow pats as presents and that wearing a pig on your head was considered lucky. It also divulges foul facts on diseases.
Anne Sarrage, children's development specialist at The Reading Agency, said Terry Deary's books were not just sensationalism, they provided a springboard for reading more traditional history texts.
"They are quite anarchic and horrible and there is a lot of gruesome fascination to start with. But that locks children in and they start to imagine what it was like to live during those times."
There are signs that children are using libraries more. Jim Parker, the PLR's registrar, points to a rise in the number of children's fantasy books borrowed, from an estimated 100,000 in 2001 to 400,000 in 2002.
"This is good when you consider the distractions available to youngsters like computer games and other things these days."
TOP 10 TITLES
(July 2001 - June 2002)
1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, JK Rowling
2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, JK Rowling (paperback)
3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, JK Rowling (hardback)
6. Lizzie Zipmouth, Jacqueline Wilson
7. The Story of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
8. The Illustrated Mum, Jacqueline Wilson
9. The Suitcase Kid, Jacqueline Wilson
10. Glubbslyme,Jacqueline Wilson
1. The Vile Victorians,Terry Deary
2. Kipper's A-Z, Mick Inkpen
3. The Smashing Saxons, Terry Deary
4. Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt,George Hart
5. The Woeful Second World War, Terry Deary
6. The Terrible Tudors,Terry Deary
7. The Measly Middle Ages, Terry Deary
8. The Awesome Egyptians, Terry Deary
9. The Frightful First World War, Terry Deary
10. Eyewitness: World War II,Simon Adams
1. Green Eggs and Ham,Dr Seuss
2. The Cat in the Hat,Dr Seuss
3. Fox in Socks,Dr Seuss
4. Commotion in the Ocean, Giles Andreae
5. Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes, Roald Dahl
6. The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, Dr Seuss
7. Foot Book, Dr Seuss
8. Pat the Cat,Colin amp; Jacqui Hawkins
9. Hop on Pop, Dr Seuss
10. The Snow Storm,Heather Amery
1. Elmer Again, David McKee
2. Kipper and the Egg,Mick Inkpen
3. The Selfish Crocodile, Faustin Charles
4. Kipper's Sticky Paws,Mick Inkpen
5. Mr Wolf's Pancakes,Jan Fearnley
6. Elmer in the Snow,David McKee
7. Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp,Carol Diggory Shields
8. Tell me Something Happy Before I Go to Sleep,Joyce Dunbar
9. Bear, Mick Inkpen
10. Elmer, David McKee