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I firmly believe that what we read as children has a long-lasting effect on our attitudes... sometimes lasting a lifetime.
So don't just rush into a bookstore and buy that latest best-seller (juvenile) for that child-of-a-friend (or your own) whose birthday catches you unawares.

Cases in point:
a) I personally think that the Harry Potter series (at least the first 2, after which I gave up in disgust) encourages a conservative think-pattern, a glorification of "Us against Them" (am I really the only person who is bothered by the fact that EVERONE in Harry's team at school is basically decent, whereas their grand rival team ["Slythering"?] doesn't contain a SINGLE person with any redeeming features?!), and the GLEE of beating the Others.
And then we wonder how it's possible for Bush, Blair, Howard, Aznar, etc., to convince hundreds of thousands of people that "God is on our side: This is a HOLY war!"
b) If you look closely at The Lord Of The Rings, you'll find that it's chockfull of racism/xenophobia (all the evil beings are dark-skinned, come from the East and South... and bring elephants!), warrior-glorification, sexism (none of the female characters are allowed to be adventurous with the ONE exception... and she's allowed to do so only to fulfill that prophesy about "No man can kill the leader of The Dark Riders", an oh-so-clever literary practical joke. After she's done so, does she want to continue as a hero? No, she wants to nurse her lover back to health! PLEASE NOTE that I think that nurses are better heroes than warriors. But you have to admit that there's sexist stereotyping going on here...), and the glorification of ONE culture (Tolkien was a well-known Albion-The-Pure adherant).

So, enough criticising, already! What do I think are good books?
Well, I'm hoping for some in-put from the rest of you, but a FEW of my nominations are
1) Lewis Carroll's Alice books; Alice' Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass - brave, questioning girl-hero; both books poke fun at cant, bigotry, warfare-as-solution.
2) The Bear And His Brothers by Hans Baumann (Oxford University Press, 1962). This original version is to be MUCH preferred to his 1991 re-working Mischa And His Brothers! If you can't find it, let me know: I've done my own translation from the German.
3) Momo by Michael Ende. (If you've read The Neverending Story and become bored, please give Momo a try: it's far superior!)
4) Fungus The Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs. Fungus is slimy, disgusting, and just downright nasty. But he loves his wife and children... and we come to love him, somehow. A great, very funny book, that helps to break down prejudices against those who have a different way of living from us.
5) Most of the stories in the Jack Zipes compilation Don't Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and Europe
6) All false modesty aside, my own stories: Jimm's Fairy Tales. I take traditional stories, such as Hansel And Gretel and tell them from another point of view (in the cited case, the Witch is the hero who rescues the children from starvation in the woods, but is misunderstood and used as a scare-tactic by parents to make children behave. ["If you don't behave, the wicked witch will come out of the woods and EAT you!" Any comparison to the all-evil Muslim World is purely...])

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‎"Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, at any table, when man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life?"
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