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Monday, 3 January, 2000, 13:58 GMT
Fright for Famous Five

Children prefer horror author Time for Stine: Children prefer the horror author

"Gosh, it's so jolly unfair," said George furiously, hands on hips.

"After all we've done. Years of fighting crime, having adventures and drinking lashings of ginger pop."

"I know George, old thing," said Julian wearily. "And to think it's other children, not grown ups, who have rejected us."

The Famous Five have been consigned to the last century, their creator Enid Blyton toppled from grace after dominating children's reading lists for decades of the 1900s.

Instead young readers in the UK are turning to an American author, RL Stine.

Stine, whose books mix horror with a dash of comedy, has toppled a whole shelf of traditional favourites to lead a survey of young people's book borrowing tastes.

Children's Choice
1. RL Stine
2. Terry Deary
3. Roald Dahl
4. Jacqueline Wilson
5. Terry Pratchett
38. Sue Townsend
42. JRR Tolkien
59. Enid Blyton
104. Charles Dickens

The list of authors who have felt the sting in Stine's tale reads like a Who's Who of children's writers.

In the poll, Terry Deary, who writes the irreverent Horrible Histories, was placed just ahead of Roald Dahl, who was third. Sci-fi author Terry Pratchett came fifth.

Way down the list, Sue Townsend, creator of Adrian Mole, ranks just 38th.

Survey shows Noddy the door Move over Noddy
Fantasy author JRR Tolkien, whose Lord of the Rings was voted book of the century two years ago, scraped onto the list in 42nd place.

Enid Blyton was 59th and CS Lewis 66th.

A prolific author, Robert Lawrence Stine writes two books a month, one for younger readers and one for older children. He often works on both books at once.

His readers, mostly aged seven to 11, put just as much energy into buying them - 1.75m copies a month.

Stine started writing when he was nine. He tapped out stories and jokes on an old typewriter and handed them out at school.

"The teacher would grab them and take them away but I kept doing it," Stine recalls.

He later wrote for his high school newspaper in Columbus, Ohio. After graduating from Ohio State University, he moved to New York City.

"I write six days a week," Stine says. "I treat it like a job. I sit down around 9am and set a goal for myself. When I have finished my goal for the day, I am finished."

Inspiration from life

He keeps a tribal mask and a skeleton hanging in his writing studio to provide eerie surroundings. His ideas come from a mixture of memory and imagination.

Author writes two books at once Stine: Two books at once
"I've never turned into a bee, I've never been chased by a mummy or met a ghost. But many of the ideas in my books are suggested by real life.

"For example, one Hallowe'en my son, Matt, put a mask on and then had trouble pulling it off. That gave me the idea for The Haunted Mask."

The humour comes from previous jobs. He was Jovial Bob, author of such works as 101 Silly Monster Jokes and Bozos on Patrol, and editor of Bananas magazine.

The authors' league table was compiled by tracking the movements of every book in 100 UK school libraries over a year - a total of 250,000 borrowings.

"These are not just the books and authors teachers think children should be reading, they're the ones pupils actually want to read," said Greg Hadfield, chairman of Schoolsnet, the website which compiled the survey.

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22 Nov 99 |  UK
Happy 50th birthday Noddy

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