National Year of Reading
* The DfEE has backed an initiative to send a free Schools pack devised by the Poetry Society to 40,000 schools and libraries in the UK in time for National Poetry Day on October 5th. The Pack features 13 specially commissioned poems by contemporary poets including Jo Shapcott, Wendy Cope, Michael Rosen and Linton Kwesi Johnson. Details from The Poetry Society (0171 240 4810).
* Random House Children’s Books are marking the National Year of Reading by launching Red Fox Reading Gangs throughout the UK. Aimed at children between 4 and 12, the Gangs offer ways for teachers, librarians and booksellers to encourage children to read books and enjoy them. Details from Red Fox Reading Gang, P.O. Box 1375, London SW1 2SA.
* Books for Keeps ‘Good Reads’ column which features reviews by young people of books they recommend, has inspired Hitchin Boys School to publish a guide to around 50 fiction titles, chosen and reviewed by a team of reviewers aged from 11-14. Really Riveting Reads: Reviews by Boys for Boys is available at £3.50 (inc. p & p) from Mrs P. Thornhill, Hitchin Boys School, Grammar School Walk, Hitchin, Herts SG5 1JB.
* Celebrating the Year of Reading is a conference organised by the Reading and Language Information Centre, The University of Reading, on Saturday 10th October. Speakers include John Stannard (Director of the National Literacy Strategy), Grace Kempster (Head of Libraries, Essex), Sue Ellis (CLPE) and children’s authors Chris Powling and Bernard Ashley. Details from the Reading and Language Centre (0118 931 8820).
Levinson finds a home
Levinson Children’s Books has been relaunched as part of the David & Charles group. Managing director Neil Page sees the list as one that will ‘fit perfectly into the David & Charles portfolio’.
Children’s Division for Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster has launched a UK children’s division which will publish its first titles next Spring. Martina Challis, formerly of Random House Children’s Books, has been appointed Director of Children’s Publishing with a brief to build a global list from the year 2000. The focus will be on picture books, fiction, novelty and media tie-ins.
Harry Potter’s hardback sales
The sequel to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has hit the No.1 slot in the UK hardback bestseller list according to Booktrack. In response to the popularity of the Harry Potter books, Bloomsbury Children’s Books has launched The Harry Potter Fan Club. Details from Rosamund Walker at Bloomsbury (0171 494 6058).
BBC Worldwide launches new series
BBC Wordwide, publishers of the teen magazine, Girl Talk, are to launch two new series, ‘Best Friends’ and ‘Pet Hotel’, publishing a new title each month at only £2.99.
Fantasy writer Terry Pratchett received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Ian Craig, formerly Associate Publisher at Jonathan Cape, has been appointed Head of Publishing for Random House Children’s Books.
Anne Marley, Chair of the Children’s Book Circle, is standing down. Her successors as joint chairpersons are Naomi Cooper (Transworld) and Charlie Sharp (Walker Books).
Justin Somper, formerly publicity director at Random House Children’s Books, is now a marketing and publicity freelance (0181 341 2414).
Alan Durant has been appointed ‘virtual’ writer in residence at Gors Junior School, Swansea. Students will e-mail him with their ideas for stories and characters. The scheme is supported by the Welsh Arts Council.
Richard Scrivener has been promoted to Publishing Director, media and popular non-fiction at Penguin Children’s Books.
The Carnegie Medal
The Carnegie Medal has been won by River Boy by Tim Bowler (OUP). A surprise choice (BfK’s panel of experts backed Henrietta Branford’s Fire, Bed and Bone), the book was described by the judges as ‘a moving rite of passage novel which skilfully blends fantasy and reality’. Chair of judges, Tricia Kings said, ‘It’s a novel that grows on you ... but above all, it is a book that leaves something with you.’
The Kate Greenaway Medal
The Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration went to P.J. Lynch for When Jessie Came Across the Sea (Walker Books). The judges said, ‘a limited palate is combined with an imaginative use of light and tellingly illuminates people’s feelings’.
The Children’s Book Award
Run by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, The Children’s Book Award has been won by Joanne Rowling for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Bloomsbury). This is Rowling’s third major award. The Picture Book Category was won by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz for The Lion Who Wanted to Love (Orchard Books). The Shorter Novel category was won by Robert Swindells for Nightmare Stairs (Doubleday). The Longer Novel category and Overall Winner was Joanne Rowling.
The Signal Poetry Award 1998
The award, for work published during 1997, has gone to Roger McGough’s Bad Cats Bad (Viking). The judges, Canadians Bob Barton and Lissa Paul, commented that McGough had won the award again (his Sky in the Pie was a previous winner) ‘because his poems range in idiom and form, and connect with the traditions of English poetry without being reverential or nostalgic’.
The Bisto Book of the Year
The Bisto Book of the Year award has been won by Gerard Whelan for Dream Invader (O’Brien Press). The judges described the book as ‘a richly original and skilfully crafted story which blends elements of fantasy and folklore with moments of true horror.’ The Bisto Merit Awards went to Soinbhe Lally for The Hungry Wind (Poolbeg Press), P.J. Lynch for When Jessie Came Across the Sea (Poolbeg Press/Walker Books), Sibhan Parkinson for Four Kids, Three Cats, Two Cows, One Witch (O’Brien Press). The Bisto Eilis Dillon Award went to Ed Miliano for It’s a Jungle Out There (Wolfhound Press).
Arts Council of England Writers’ Awards 1998
David Almond, whose first children’s novel Skellig was published recently (reviewed BfK 111), has been awarded £7,000. He is currently working on a new children’s novel to be published in May 1999.
The children’s part of the Cheltenham Festival of Literature will this year have over 60 events for young readers. Visiting authors and illustrators include Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson, Anne Fine, Joanne Rowling, Quentin Blake and Marcia Williams. From 9th-18th October. Details from 0171 439 1783.
The Puffin Literacy Hour Booklist is an annotated list of Puffin titles arranged by reading expert Wendy Cooling in terms of year and term suitability. Puffin are also publishing Puffin Literacy “Bites”, a series of laminated A2 posters featuring extracts from best-selling fiction and poetry titles and designed to be used with older children (Years 3-6) in the same way that Big Books are used for younger age groups. Each Year Group set of posters comes with accompanying notes. Available by phoning the Puffin Schools Line (0500 807 981). The booklist is free; the poster pack is £6 inc. p & p.
Can Read, Won’t Read is an information leaflet aimed at parents, carers and teachers offering advice for the child that can, but won’t read. With an introduction from Gary Lineker, the leaflet is available at £15 for a pack of 25. From Peters Library Service, 120 Bromsgrove Street, Birmingham B5 6RL (tel: 0121 666 6646).
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Time Left for Reading cont.
Jeff Hynds’ views on reading (‘Will There Be Any Time Left for Reading?’ BfK 110) usually have me gleefully punching the sky in agreement. I like his humorous, iconoclastic approach and his refusal to climb on bandwagons. A soulmate! So I was with him for most of his article in the May edition, particularly on the pointlessness of skills-first literacy teaching. Try solving a fussy child’s eating problems by serving the food in separate spoonfuls of component parts!
I was also with him in his concern about the prescriptive nature of the strategy, and then – gulp – he asked for more! More prescription and of the worst kind, of books and authors.
I want to argue with three of his reasons. First, that it is difficult for teachers to choose from the large number of children’s books available. True, but no more so post-Project than prior, surely? If lack of confidence or time makes teachers reluctant to choose they can turn to people like Jeff and me for advice as they have in the past. And many teachers want to maintain what independence and choice is still theirs, and to have their professionalism trusted, difficult or not. Just some possible bad results of prescribing books are that teachers read fewer books, fewer titles are published or promoted, and children’s choice is narrowed.
Second, that teachers aren’t told which authors are ‘significant’, and that their opinions ‘vary widely’. Good. Whose diktat on significance would be imposed? Much safer to allow the individuality of teachers, schools and pupils to determine what is to count as significant. Friction arising from differing choices encourages discussion, sharpens criticism and widens book availability.
And third, ‘that there is no reference to picture books at all!’ But that’s great! I’ve interpreted that as meaning that picture books can legitimately be included in at least every one of the nineteen ‘Fiction and Poetry’ boxes of the Summary of the Range of Work.
Children’s Fiction Consultant and Bookseller, The Mobile Bookshop, 10 Primrose Terrace, Gravesend, Kent DA12 1JN (tel: 01474 325594)
Books for Students
BEST SELLER CHART
TOP 10 NON-FICTION BOOKS
1. How to Handle Your Brother/Sister, Roy Apps, Hippo, £2.99
2. Frank Rodgers’ Cartoon Tips, Frank Rodgers, Hippo, £3.50
3. Creepy Creatures, Autumn, £1.99
4. I Can Draw Animals, R Gibson, Usborne, £3.99
5. Horrible Histories: the Angry Aztecs, Terry Deary, Hippo, £3.99
6. The Utterly Nutty History of Footy, Martin Chatterton, Puffin, £3.99
7. Ugly Bugs Sticker Book, Autumn, £2.50
8. Horrible Histories: The Terrible Tudors, Terry Deary, Hippo, £3.99
9. Horrible Histories: The Vile Victorians, Terry Deary, Hippo, £3.99
10. Horrible Science: Disgusting Digestion, Nick Arnold, Hippo, £3.99
Terry Deary, as you might expect, emerges as the single most popular author in this category, although it’s good to see that children are buying widely enough to avoid Horrible Histories dominating the list. However, the perennial appeal of all things yukky is evident – see items 3, 7 and 10 as well as the Deary titles!
This listing has been specially compiled for BfK by Books for Students from their sales data. Books for Students Ltd is a major specialist supply company to schools and libraries.