So. Which books should our kids be reading for the GCSE syllabus in the UK?

Our esteemed Education Secretary is scrapping some of the best books written in English. Why? Because they’ve been penned by foreigners.

According to Michael Gove’s scheme, some of the most stunning sentences ever composed in the English language by Arthur Miller, Harper Lee and John Steinbeck will be banished from the inquiring minds and sweaty schoolbags of UK teenagers.

Aged 12 I remember reading the brilliant ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at school. Themes of bravery, betrayal, racism and murder written by a woman. BUT, an American woman.

Aged 13 we read ‘Lolita’. Single theme – grooming. I don’t mean of the horsey kind. Our English teacher had us take turns reading aloud in class – the more nubile of us adolescents were given extra opportunities. (It was altogether a more ‘touchy-feely’ time, though the Queen wasn’t yet doing her whizzy medal-stripping at quite the same rate as she is these days).

But goodness this wouldn’t happen today – giving a class of Year 8 girls pornography under the guise of good writing I mean. Because it was written by a foreigner. Yes, another one!

Vladimir Nabokov was Russian! Naughty naughty.

Let’s all bore our children to death with Thomas Hardy instead, at least he’s English (waits for hate mail).

Ok, Lolita wasn’t that great an example was it, but to follow this weird Govian scheme to its obvious conclusion, what will be missing if non-UK authors are banned from the Nursery and Classroom?


Let’s see ..


Asterix               …   …   … A.Uderzo –  French with Italian parents

…   …   …   …   …   …   …  R.Goscinny – French with Polish parents

Biff, Chip & Kipper …  …     Alex Brychta (illustrator) – Czech 

Le Petit Prince …    …  …    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – French

Matilda etc…   …   …   …    Roald Dahl – Norwegian 

Miffi …   …   …   …   …       Dick Bruna – Dutch

Pippi Longstocking     …     Astrid Lindgren – Swedish

Peter and the Wolf      …     Sergei Prokofiev – Russian

Snow White etc     …   …     The Brothers Grimm – German 

The Giggler Treatment        Roddy Doyle – Irish

The Little Mermaid etc …    Hans Christian Andersen – Danish

Tiger who came to Tea …    Judith Kerr – German refugee

Tintin …   …   …   …   …     Hergé (Georges Remi) – Belgian



Maybe just a small glimpse into our Libraries of the future (if there are any left) after the Government accelerates its xenophobic campaign.

Won’t UKIP be a refreshing change. What will their recommended reading be like I wonder? Not much, judging from the content of their blog. It was last updated in 2009, so maybe they’re a bit short of things to say. Yes, that must be it.

I mean just how can you think of standing as an MEP WITHOUT A BLOG?

But they weren’t the only party without one.



How can you do anything without a Blog I’m beginning to think.

If you’ve just been elected an MEP for this country, a quick thought on the European Union. Will things fall apart? (Oops sorry Michael, shouldn’t quote Yeats – he’s Irish of course). Well, our nearest and dearest in the North are considering what’s sure to be a messy divorce, leaving me wondering what the country will look like in a few years, and what my postal address will be.

United Kingdom?

I’ve been discussing this with my son and we’ve got this far:-


If Scotland leaves,

Cornwall goes the same way

Wales is strictly for the Welsh

And I can’t afford to get to Northern Ireland …


We’re no longer United

We don’t have a King

All that’s left will be

a little country called




Sounds a bit short doesn’t it, so let’s go with

‘New Queensland’ shall we?



Here’s a map for UKIP supporters. One of them, Mr Creosote lookalike, David Coburn, has just been elected as an MEP for Scotland which could be difficult for him come September. If they break away from the Union, he’ll be representing a foreign country and have to boot himself out. Bit of an own goal there Nigel. Suggest you put that in your e-ciggie and smoke it.

Therefore, with no further ado, and depending of course on the outcome of Mr Salmond’s Referendum, I will bid my Scottish friends a fond farewell in one of our ancestral languages which, despite being written less than 80 years ago, I think deserves minority status – Elvish. The lyrics say it all …


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    1. Thanks Sarah. I know, it’s a bit depressing isn’t it … mind you there is some excellent home grown talent, though sadly it’s rare enough for us to see some of the other amazing children’s literature produced around the world. Thank goodness for the internet!

    1. Ta very much Tracy. Well he really is. Are they all living in some rose-tinted Little Englander view of the world? Watch out for return to caning, John & Janet and dunces hats. x

    1. Might have to close your eyes when I do my next post then 😉 Couple of years ago I campaigned for him to get the same recognition as Roderick Hunt who wrote the books (about 500 to date). I found that he had received an MBE and not Alex Brychta – a lowly illustrator like myself – so raised awareness of the situation and collected lots testimonial letters to send to Downing Street. Pleased to say he got his just deserts and was the proud recipient of a gong from Her Madge the following year. Being a refugee from the Czech Republic when the Russian tanks rolled in as a young boy, he was delighted to get this recognition and kindly came to talk to my son’s school as a thank you. We loved his Time Chronicle series, did you ever read them? and he explained about the hidden glasses in some of the pictures. I do know that the books elicit reactions as strongly as Marmite does! x

  1. I can’t actually quite believe my ears/eyes at times, Gove really does come out with some nonsense. Absolutely love your map, as a Scot who hasn’t quite decided whether her head or heart should lead her vote (not that I’m allowed to vote, being non-resident, don’t get me started on that!) this made me chuckle. Although, the UKIP thing is putting my heart ahead at the moment… Absolutely love your point about said UKIP MEP, ha! definitely an own goal 🙂 #loudnproud

    1. Glad you like the map, Sara. I have to thank my 9 year old for the ‘New Queensland’ idea. I’m fascinated to see what happens in September though can well imagine your frustration at being disenfranchised. Thanks for writing x

  2. A superb blog post Jo that encompasses many of my own thoughts. Firstly, I would rather my children read Steinbeck than Chaucer. The former will inspire them, the latter bore them. Let them develop a love of the language first and then study the difficult bits.

    As for the UK breaking up, the thought terrifies me. It’s not so much an independent Scotland that worries me, but an independent England. It’s a frightening prospect and I wouldn’t want my children to grow up in such a place.

    1. Yes yes absolutely! Inspiration first! As to England on its own, I agree it would be very uncomfortable on many levels. Think I’d start looking at Canadian property prices. Thanks, John x

  3. Glad it is not just me totally perplexed by the way things are going. I did read the other day that Gove has declared he never said he wanted those books off the curriculum….hmm…I guess time will tell.

    1. I wonder if he backtracked or was misquoted. Either way, if the message is seeping out that we’re shrinking inwards, there are sinister implications.

  4. Ok, now I’m waking the kids up because I am laughing so loud. (NO! “loudLY”, might get kicked out of education if I use Americanisms…) Love your map. And love the Elvish.

    1. You’re right Judith, why use a perfectly good adverb when a shorter adjective will do. Mind you, I wouldn’t mind losing a few Americanisms like ‘like, like, like etc). So pleased you got the Elvish too 🙂

  5. Please send Gove over here to France so my children will be spared the hassle of having to read Shakespeare in French! Don’t get me wrong, Shakespeare is great but NOT in French! I’m also of to find my copy of To Kill a Mocking Bird and of Mice and Men ready for the boys to read soon!

    1. Now that IS fascinating! Can’t they read Shakespeare in English? Though I don’t think the Académie française would approve of that. However, have just heard they’ve allowed ‘selfie’,’hashtag’, and ‘troll’, on the basis they aren’t really ‘Anglicisms’, more ‘Californianisms’ as they originated in Silicon Valley (!) Hope your boys enjoy the books. x

    1. I actually am a politician. In my own home. Two votes for me and one for the others on all decisions – it’s really the only way to get things done xx

    1. Good for you, Alison! It’s starting to feel like this country is battening down the hatches. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were some my favourite characters growing up too as well as Little Women. Think my life would have been much poorer without them. Oh, and Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz of course. X

  6. A fabulous post Jo and you’ve given us lots to think about as always.
    I was super cross to find that Gove had axed To Kill a Mockingbird from the GCSE syllabus, it is one of the best books ever & both of my daughters loved it.
    To be fair, I wish he’d axe Biff, Chip & Kipper: these books were the bane of my life when my two were in primary school & almost put them off reading for life!

    1. Thanks Izzie. Do read what i replied to Amy (Ransom) above as I campaigned for him to get an MBE – which he did. I don’t know anyone who has neutral views about Biff, Chip and Kipper. Must do a post on it very soon! x

  7. Grate post that had me chuckling all the way through. Cannot believe the idiocy thinking of removing those books from the syllabus! This Gove guy scares me and as for the proposed break up, I’m definitely against that and will be looking for another country too

    1. Thanks Mari! Perhaps there’ll be enough of us Bloggers out there to start anew somewhere. We just need The Mayflower stacked with orange crates full of nappies, a good WP/Blogger technician and a few barrels of gin. And it must be somewhere warm. You in?

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