People are always publishing “Best” lists, and today Scholastic has announced its “100 Greatest Books for Children,” as compiled by its magazine Parent and Child. Such lists are always a little bit suspect and a lot bit controversial, and this one will be no different, I’m sure. (“Captain Underpants” at #97? Really, Scholastic? Might that have anything to do with the fact that you publish it?) By contrast, I hasten to assure you, the lists I’m on (the N.Y. T. “10 Best” and Dillon’s “Best of the Century”) were all exceptionally well compiled, and not at all self-serving or controversial.
But there’s something else interesting about Scholastic’s list (or anyone else’s “Best” children’s book lists): the disproportionately large number of Maine books included there. In fact, the top two places–“Charlotte’s Web” and “Good Night Moon”–are both held by authors that Maine has a strong claim to. E. B. White fled New York City as a young man to live in Brooklin. Margaret Wise Brown bought a summer house (the only house she ever owned) on Vinalhaven Island, where she did much of her writing.
Brown is also the author of #32, Runaway Bunny. The #25 book is “The Giver,” by Lois Lowry, who lived in Falmouth for many years. And #87 is the Newbery-honor winner”Rules” by Cynthia Lord of Brunswick.
Thus 5 of the 100 books are by Mainers. Considering that the list draws from books published not just in the US but in the UK as well, that’s a pretty heavy percentage for our little state (population 1 million) versus the rest of the English-writing world (population 370 million).
Even stranger, three of the five books were written by neighbors of mine (I have a house on Vinalhaven near Brown’s, and in Falmouth near Lowry’s).
Can anyone explain this? Does it have something to do with the magnetic pull of the ocean? Or of my magnetic personality?