Harry Potter? Pigs Might Fly!

CAROLINE CULOT Have you heard about the smelly dog, sad shark and the pigs that could fly?Well, apparently nearly 10,000 Norfolk children have - and they voted for them in a county library book poll.


Have you heard about the smelly dog, sad shark and the pigs that could fly?

Well, apparently nearly 10,000 Norfolk children have - and they voted for them in a county library book poll. And for once, Harry Potter and Horrid Henry were not to be seen in the literary rankings, which were topped instead by a collection of animals including Smelly Bill the dog, Gilbert the Great shark and a Killer Gorilla.

A record breaking 9,300 children cast their votes for the Norfolk County Council library service children's book award, an annual event to inspire youngsters to get reading and then vote for their favourite book.

The children choose from about 20 books selected by the council's librarians - including more unusual and newly published books rather than renowned favourites like Harry Potter and Co.

However, librarians were still quite surprised by the results - which showed the top book for children aged eight to nine (school year four) was Pigs Might Fly, by Jonathan Emmett, a colourful adventure giving a new take on the Three Little Pigs fairy story.

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And for children up to the age of seven, the overall winner was Smelly Bill, a picture book about a naughty and dirty dog.

The older children voted when librarians visited a selection of eight schools around the county and the younger children had visits at nursery schools and playgroups, as well as being able to register their vote online in libraries.

Dorne Fraser, Young People's Reading and Learning Librarian, said: “It always surprises us what the children pick - I think the older children really liked the humour in Pigs Might Fly and got all the jokes about pigs and ham.

“However, they also liked Ice Bear - they liked the cute pictures of the Mum and the baby polar bear but also the one when it's eating the dead seal!

“As for Smelly Bill, the younger ones really enjoyed the pictures and the dog, which is really like a naughty little boy who gets the better of an adult - I think they liked that.”

This year the librarians made a conscious decision to encourage the older children to look at picture books as well as the younger ones.

Ms Fraser said: “I think some of the teachers thought some of the books had too many pictures but we are saying that picture books are OK. In the book Slam, for example, (which came second for the eight to nines) there aren't a lot of words but it's about learning to look at pictures.

“We also wanted them to engage in titles they didn't know so we didn't promote Harry Potter or Horrid Henry but a different range of books.”

Jennifer Holland, Head of Libraries, said: “If we can encourage children to get the book habit at a young age they're well on their way to becoming lifelong readers. The awards help us to keep touch with children's preferences and ensure our stock reflects popular taste.”

The results of the book poll will be officially announced at a ceremony on Wednesday, at North Walsham Community Centre when children who took part in the voting will get the chance to meet some of their favourite authors - including Jane Clarke, Jonathan Emmett and Adam Stower.


For the eight to nine year-olds:

t 1 Pigs Might Fly, by Jonathan Emmett and Steve Cox. This is a colourful tale giving a new twist on the traditional Three Little Pigs story. This time the pigs decide to try to outwit the Big Bad Wolf by winning the 'Pie in the Sky Air Race'. Each pig builds a plane, out of straw, sticks and metal. Of course, the pigs have the last laugh.

t 2 Slam by Adam Stower. This is a book largely made up of pictures showing how a boy, listening to his headphones, comes out of his house and bangs the door - only to cause all kinds of disastrous consequences.

t 3 Ice Bear by Nicola Davies and Gary Blythe. An emotive, atmospheric book with illustrations and a non-fiction content as well, that describes the life of the polar bear as a powerful hunter, tender mother and gentle playmate.

For children up to seven:

t 1 Smelly Bill by Daniel Postgate. A lovely picture story about a naughty, dirty dog who gets a visit by a fastidious aunt who tries to clean him up - only with hilarious consequences.

t 2 Killer Gorilla by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross. A mouse is scared by a gorilla and runs into different countries to escape, only to find at the end he was not a monster after all.

t 3 Gilbert the Great by Jane Clarke and Charles Fuge. A lovely illustrated book about two unlikely friends - a shark and a little fish who have lots of fun together until the fish goes missing. However, the shark manages eventually to find another little fish as a new friend.