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Hop it, Potter

Guardian Culture 28th April 2009

Classic children's books such as Just William and Mary Poppins have beaten modern titles including the Harry Potter series to be named the best children's stories of all time.

The five children's laureates were asked to pick their favourite children's book and plumped almost overwhelmingly for older books, with only five of the 35 titles selected less than 20 years old. None of the laureates - Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen - chose JK Rowling's Harry Potter.

Instead, timeless classics such as Richmal Crompton's chronicle of the adventures of a mischievous little boy with a heart of gold, Just William, and Rudyard Kipling's unforgettable Just So Stories were selected.

William, said Fine, who was laureate between 2001 and 2003, is "every child's perfect imaginary companion: lippy, irrepressible and inventive to an almost pathological degree".

The 1930s were the most popular decade for the laureates, with seven titles making the list, from TH White's story of a young King Arthur, The Sword in the Stone, to Noel Streatfeild's tale of three orphaned girls, Ballet Shoes, and PL Travers's classic Mary Poppins.

Oliver Twist was the oldest title selected, first published in 1838, but a fifth of the books chosen were published in the 19th century, including two by Robert Louis Stevenson: A Child's Garden of Verses and Treasure Island.

Stevenson and E Nesbit were the most popular authors among the laureates, both receiving two picks apiece - Nesbit for Five Children and It, chosen by Blake, and The Railway Children, chosen by Wilson.

Each laureate chose seven titles, which will be on display at Waterstone's stores until 3 June. The promotion is part of the 10th anniversary celebrations for the children's laureateship.

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