Earlier this year, Hodder Children’s Books launched a digital only list, featuring top works of speculative fiction. Called Hodder Silver, the list now features 21 books, by authors such as Jean Ure, Jan Mark and Adele Geras.
Editorial director Jon Appleton introduces the list and some of the wonderful books that it features.
We all know that it’s getting harder to find books – the stories are out there (perhaps more than ever), but who guides us to them? And then, how do we choose?
Publishers and authors use all known forms of social media to entice readers. There are many perceptive, generous bloggers out there (and some razor-sharp critics, too). But if you browse on the internet, you’ll find that as much space is given to old books as well as new titles. And isn’t it true that despite the lure of shiny new covers, sometimes an old favourite is the only title you want to read?
We launched Hodder Silver because we realized readers in their 20s and 30s and 40s were reminiscing about books from the 70s and 80s – the end of the last golden age of children’s books. They wanted to recapture that early passion for a story that hooks you. They’d lost their beloved childhood copies but they’d buy them again, and they’d buy e-books because that’s where so much of their reading was taking place. It occurred to us that if we brought these brilliant titles back into print they’d also be available for today’s young readers for the first time. How could we resist?
As the acquiring editor, it was my privilege to leap on Nicholas’s Fisk’s wonderful Starstormers quintet and Jean Ure’s chilling Plague trilogy. Jan Mark remains my all-time favourite children’s author and so I gleefully seized upon her early work, The Ennead, Divide and Rule and Aquarius. I remembered reading, much later, Louise Lawrence’s Llandor trilogy and felt it perfectly captured the way we read in the 90s when computer games were stirring as a rival force to books. There was something playful about this threat which echoed the rumbling rise of technology in so many other wonderful novels I’d read. So they joined the list, too. Robert Swindells began life as a Hodder Children’s author so he was a must – and we’d published Judy Allen too and her books are timeless. Do you remember Catweazle? It’s as good as Harry Potter. And it’s now on Silver. So is Adèle Geras’s Troy, one of the jewels in our crown.
An indulgence, you might say? Gratifyingly, readers’ responses are chiming with our own. And re-reading these ‘old’ books is excellent training for anyone looking to commission the new. Is it as good? Will it last the test of time? Where will this author be in 5, 10, 20 years’ time?
But more than simply churning out titles, the list has presented a modest way to present an overview of the history of children’s books. Behind Hodder Silver is the amazing legacy of Kaye Webb, the famous Puffin supremo, who revolutionised paperback publishing. She gave new life to many hardback titles that might have faded away, and published some books which had been rejected by everyone else. She gave children a voice through the Puffin Club and through events. She brought children face to face with authors for the first time. And, no doubt, authors face to face with each other, as colleagues and friends. (Happily, several of our Silver authors are mates or have been influenced by others on the list.)
Hopefully, Silver will endure as more than another list. We’d love to acquire more titles. In the meantime, please visit our blog where we’re dipping in and out of the past as we celebrate the list. There’s a
free sampler available, too.