NEW GOVERNMENT – – NEW INITIATIVES?
Books for Keeps invites Ross Shimmon, Chief Executive, The Library Association, to explain what he expects from New Labour:
‘Tony Blair, before the election, said that the top three priorities for a new Labour government would be ‘education, education, education’. This was, of course, against a background of growing concern about reading standards amongst school children and literacy levels generally. We at The Library Association believe that the vital role of school libraries and public libraries in any drive to improve reading and literacy levels needs to be recognised – not just in fine words, but in positive action. In our Library Manifesto published before the election we pressed for:
- a legal requirement on governors and local education authorities to provide high quality libraries in all our schools
- every secondary school to employ a chartered librarian
- local councils to prepare integrated plans for delivering good library services to children through their school libraries, schools library services and public libraries
Campaigns to raise reading standards and literacy levels will founder if children cannot get hold of a wide range ofbooks which amuse, interest, excite and inspire them. So, when we meet Chris Smith and Mark Fisher shortly we shall be asking them to implement these three planks in our manifesto.’
Children’s Book Week, 6-12 October 1997
A Full Children’s Book Week Pack for schools and libraries wishing to organise an event (price £16.50) and a Basic Pack for families, displays etc (price £8.00) are available from CBW Orders, Publicity Dept., Book Trust, Book House, 45 East Hill, London SW18 2QZ (Tel: 0181 870 9055).
Kaye Webb Collection
The new Centre for the Children’s Book (due to open in Newcastleupon-Tyne after the millennium) has acquired the Kaye Webb archive with money from the National Lottery heritage fund and The Friends of the National Library. The private collection of the respected Puffin editor who died last year, the archive includes manuscripts, artworks and Kaye’s personal correspondence with such writers as Roald Dahl.
Madeleine Lindley Ltd
Madeleine Lindley Ltd, a supplier of books to teachers and others, has moved to a newly built Book Centre where more than half of the 10,000 sq. ft Book Centre is allocated to children’s books (picture books, fiction, poetry, folktales, pop-ups and a large range of ‘big’ books). Information books and general reference sections are complemented by professional academic and resource books for teachers and a multimedia area previews book-related storytapes, videos and CD-roms. Staff are on hand to advise on specific titles for curriculum themes and topics and to help create book collections for library, curriculum and literacy projects. Staff will also prepare focused book collections for those teachers who are unable to visit. Madeleine Lindley Ltd, Broadgate, Broadway Business Park, Chadderton, Oldham, Greater Manchester OL9 9XA. Telephone: 0161-683 4400. Fax: 0161-682 6801. Email: email@example.com
The packager, Marshall Editions, relaunches itself this Autumn as Marshall Publishing bringing out titles under its own name. The company specialises in visual reference including children’s titles.
Books for Students – BEST SELLER CHARTS
Top 10 in Primary School Bookshops
January to May 1997
1. Shocker on Shock Street, RL Stine, Hippo
2. 101 Dalmatians Duo
3. Matilda, Roald Dahl, Puffin
4. 101 Dalmatians, Disney Read-To-Me, Ladybird
5. Fantastic Mr Fox, Roald Dahl, Puffin
6. Matilda’s Secret File, Sandy Ransford, Puffin
7. The Measly Middle Ages, Terry Deary, Hippo
8. Squirrels in the School, Lucy Daniels, Hodder
9. All Because of Jackson, Dick King-Smith, Young Corgi
10. Matilda Activity Book, Alison Graham, Puffin
The prolific Mr Stine continues to dominate the bestseller lists! This list of bestsellers also demonstrates the impact of the cinema, with tie-ins to both Matilda and 101 Dalmatians selling well in a variety of formats – the 101 Dalmatians Duo is a double pack of activity books exclusive to BfS.
Top 10 in Secondary School Bookshops
January to May 1997
1. Shocker on Shock Street, RL Stine, Hippo
2. The Measly Middle Ages, Terry Deary, Hippo
3. A Kestrel for a Knave, Barry Hines, Penguin
4. X-Files: Squeeze, Ellen Steiber, Voyager
5. X-Files: Humbug, Les Martin, Voyager
6. X-Files: Shapes, Ellen Steiber, Voyager
7. Maskerade, Terry Pratchett, Corgi
8. Backwards, Rob Grant, Penguin
9. The Puffin Book of Horror Stories, Anthony Horowitz (ed.)
10. Northern Lights, Philip Pullman, Scholastic
The whole horror genre clearly appeals to a broad range of ages; witness the same ‘Goosebumps’ title topping both primary and secondary sales. In a list otherwise over-run with the weird and wonderful, the likes of Northern Lights and A Kestrel for a Knave are holding their own.
These listings have 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.
Happy Birthday to Shirley Hughes who is 70 this year. An intimate chronicler of familiar childhood experience, her distinctive and accessible style has enormous appeal to young readers. She won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1977 with Dogger.
Judith Elkin has been appointed Dean of Faculty, Computing and Information Studies at the University of Central England in Birmingham. Professor Elkin was
formerly Head of the School of Information Studies. An authority on children’s books for the multi-racial society, she was the compiler of BfK‘s instant sell-out, A Multicultural Guide to Children’s Books 0-12.
Caroline Horn has been appointed children’s book correspondent at the Bookseller.
Managing director of the children’s division at HarperCollins, Colin Clarke has resigned. This follows hard on the heels of the departure (BfK 104) of creative director and deputy managing director, Ian Craig. Kate Harris, managing director of HarperCollins’ education division, has been appointed interim managing director. After the replacement of Random House’s managing director, Martina Challis (BfK 105) by commercial director, Ian Hudson, BfK wonders which children’s publisher will be next to replace its editorial grand fromage with a sales or educational one? Meanwhile authors and agents quake as Anthea Disney, Chief Executive of HarperCollins, cancels contracts with authors who have failed to deliver on time. No more dog-ate-my-ms excuses, guys!
Delia Huddy, formerly Senior Editor, Julia MacRae Books, has been appointed Publishing Director, Random House Children’s Books.
Pilar Jenkins, formerly Editorial Director, has been appointed Publishing Director, Red Fox.
Judith Evans, formerly Junior Editor at Reed Children’s Books, has been appointed Editor at Piccadilly Press.
Justin Somper, formerly Publicity Manager at Random House Children’s Books, has been appointed Publicity Director. He will coordinate publicity across the five Random House imprints – The Bodley Head, Hutchinson, Jonathan Cape, Julia MacRae and Red Fox.
Rights to Jo Rowling’s first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Bloomsbury; reviewed in BfK’s New Talent slot, page 27) have been snapped up for a satisfying $105,000 by Scholastic US.
Contributors: BfK team, Keith Barker. Submissions welcome.
Folk tale collector, Peter Schmitz, would like to hear from publishers and writers interested in tales from Uzbekistan, Turkestan and Kirgizstan. Contact him at Jurigovo nam.1, 841 05 Bratislava, Slovakia.
Reading Therapy for Children Vol. 2 compiled by librarian Elizabeth Schlenther is a supplement rather than a replacement for Reading Therapy for Children Vol. 1 which is unfortunately out of print. It is an excellent annotated guide to children’s books of interest to adults concerned with children’s emotional and physical health. Recommended books are listed under sections such as ‘Hospital Stories’, and ‘Health Problems and Disabilities’ and include books on many of the problems facing children today from bereavement to AIDS. Send a cheque for £12 (payable to The Community Care Network) to Anne Brimlow, CCN, Special Services, Southend Library, Victoria Avenue, Southend-on-Sea SS2 6EX.
Hadithi Nzuri (Swahili for ‘A Good Story’) is a well written and attractively produced annotated bibliography of about 200 children’s books for 5-12-year olds set in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Kenya and Peru. There is also a useful section on using the recommended titles within the English and geography curricula. £6.90 from ActionAid Education, Chataway House, Leach Road, Chard, Somerset TA20 1FA.
Kick-Start, compiled by Cornwall librarians Tricia Ellis and Rebecca Wright, is a guide to children’s books with high interest and low reading ability levels (given for each title) which will appeal to reluctant readers or late developing readers. £2.50 from The Publications Department, Cornwall Education Library Services, Unit 17 Threemilestone, Truro TR4 9LD.
The Carnegie Medal
The Library Association’s Carnegie Medal has been won by Melvin Burgess for Junk (Andersen Press/Penguin). Chair of judges, Lesley Sim, said, ‘Junk is an outstanding, ground breaking book, an extraordinary mixture of social commentary and gripping drama. It is superbly written, with a subtle character development achieved through a succession of first person accounts of an adventure that leads to addiction.’ Anne Fine‘s The Tulip Touch (Hamish Hamilton/Puffin) and Terry Pratchett’s Johnny and the Bomb (Corgi) were Highly Commended.
The Kate Greenaway Medal
The Library Associations Kate Greenaway Medal has been won by Helen Cooper for The Baby Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed (Doubleday). Lesley Sim commented, ‘Helen Cooper has created the ultimate reassuring bedtime picture book. With warm, subtle colours and lyrical text. she beautifully captures the surreal, twilight world of a sleepy child.’ Caroline Binch‘s Down by the River (Heinemann) was Highly Commended and Christina Balit‘s Ishtar and Tammuz (Frances Lincoln) was Commended.
The Signal Poetry Award 1997
The Signal Poetry Award for work published in 1996 has been awarded to an anthology, Stopping for Death: Poems of Death and Loss (Viking), edited by the poet Carol Ann Duffy. Judge, Brian Morse, said, ‘This immensely well-chosen set of poems seems intended for teenagers, although older junior children will certainly find much of value and interest among them… As in all good anthologies we enjoy once again familiar poems in an unfamiliar setting and learn about poems and poets we may never have met before.
…an excellent achievement.’
The Tir Na N-Og Awards
Awarded by the Welsh Books Council, there are three Tir Na N-Og Awards. The English Award was won by Sian Lewis and Jackie Morris for Cities in the Sea (Pont Books/Gomer Press), a retelling of a traditional Celtic tale. The Best Welsh Fiction of the Year was awarded to John Owen for Ydy Fe!, a teenage novel based in the Rhondda Valley. The prize for the best Welsh non-fiction title of the year was awarded to Gareth N Williams for Dirgelwch Loch Ness, a book about the mystery of the Loch Ness monster.
The Mary Vaughan Jones
Roger Boore, owner and founder of Gwasg y Dref Wen, a publishing house which specialises in children’s titles in Welsh, has been awarded the Mary Vaughan Jones award.
Rhone-Poulenc Junior Prize For Science Books
Two titles from Scholastic’s Horrible Science series have won this award which aims to improve public understanding of science and technology by encouraging popular science books for the non-specialist reader. They are Blood, Bones and Body Bits (on human biology) and Ugly Bugs (on the insect world) written by Nick Arnold and with illustrations by Tony de Saulles. The winning titles were chosen by students at 20 schools from a shortlist selected by the adult judges (see BfK 104).
Lancashire County Library Children’s Book Of The Year Award
In BfK 105 the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Children’s Book Award was described as the ‘only UK award that is chosen entirely by children’. Our apologies to the Lancashire County Library Children’s Book of the Year award which is also judged entirely by young readers, in this case from 14 Lancashire schools. This year’s award was won by Elizabeth Hawkins for her novel Sea of Peril (Orchard).
In its tenth year, the award was this year extended when all the previous winning titles were entered into a Books Across Europe competition. School children from Lancashire and from their exchange schools in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Russia voted for the winning book, Ian Strachan‘s The Boy in the Bubble (Methuen). The chair of judges was Hazel Townson.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
White Author/Black Characters
I am responding to Jean Ure’s letter (July BfK) about publishers’ suggestions that in her proposed book, she would be well advised to change her black characters to white ones. She should do that because: ‘A white writer writing about black people is a bad idea’.
So an honest approach to share a different experience through the printed word is again to be dragged onto sidelines, highjacked and dressed in masks and costumes as more acceptable and marketable. How will that do more than celebrate the already well celebrated, even in the spirit of others? Fortunately, in spite of these helpless ongoing apartheid practices, the spirit of the human family continues to sweep away obstacles and find healthy and honest new vehicles of change and development. And it seems to me that however imperceptible, black and white people are in a continued renewing state of expanded consciousness with each other.
It is understood that every tribe sees itself as God’s chosen yet finds itself drawn to mix with different others. Is it that we do sense a security in a balanced, deepened and expansive self, with everybody having a little bit of everybody? If so, strangely, this British editor, who would only consider taking on a book if its black characters were made white, may never have been touched by any common humanity in any black person’s experience in a written text, and simply wants to keep the world like that.
Authentic Voice, Strong Plot?
I am responding to lean Ure’s letter as I am one of the editors to whom she proposed her novel about a Black family. I happen to believe that if the narrator’s voice is right and there is a strong story to be told, there is no reason why an author should not write from whatever point of view he or she chooses. I am about to publish a brilliant book by Henrietta Branford, about the Peasants’ Revolt, told from the point of view of a DOG! I certainly did not decline Jean’s novel on the grounds that she is a White author writing about Black people, although I did indeed ask the question, Why do you want to write -no, ‘yearn’ to write – about Black people?’ What I hoped for was a passionate plea for a great story to be told, for something to be said of moral, spiritual or just human value. I did not get an answer that satisfied me – and if I question the motive, I am bound to question the author’s ability to satisfy those two criteria: authentic voice and strong plot. Just knowing the Black people across the road doesn’t provide the understanding necessary to transcend cultures, the ear to translate a Black patois. So I am suspicious: What is the point the author wants to make?
‘Blackness’ or ‘Whiteness’ has never been an issue for Walker in considering a text or pictures for publication. We have published John Agard, Patrice Aggs, James Berry, Virginia Hamilton, Rita Phillips Mitchell and Grace Nichols, all of whose books are about Black people and have Black faces on their covers. We have, moreover, published books about Black people written or illustrated by White people: Handa’s Surprise by White author/artist Eileen Browne; the Gemma books by Jan Ormerod and, of course, So Much, Trish Cooke’s great Caribbean text illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. So Much won many prizes and was universally praised by reviewers, yet world-wide sales are around 25,000 copies, whereas Farmer Duck has sold three times that number. But we would never have published any of these books any other way. Now that’s RESPECT!
Editorial Director, Walker Books, 87 Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5HJ
Do What You Gotta Do
The letter from Jean Ure got my blood boiling. Jean Ure, in my opinion, here’s what you should do. Don’t talk to any more editors. Forget about the book they want you to write. Write the book you want to write.
To hell with all this political correctness and timidity. I don’t mean it isn’t a good thing that we’ve become a lot more sensitive to a lot of things than we used to be. Yes, there are issues to be aware of, to think deeply about and act upon. But if you really know this particular family, understand them and respect them, why shouldn’t you try to write about them? Then after you’ve written it, the rest of the world – editors, reviewers, librarians, teachers, booksellers and readers – will be the judge of your efforts. But first you have to write it. As they say here in the States, you gotta do what you gotta do.
I have subscribed to Books for Keeps for several years now and still look forward to the next issue, pouncing on it and devouring it when I find it on my doormat. It has given me a huge amount of information as well as thought-provoking articles. Last but not least, the reviews in each issue have saved me so much time in my job as English and Library Co-ordinator; the books I have purchased on the basis of the reviews have proved very popular.
In order to repay some of the pleasure that you have brought to me, I felt I should share with you some of the results of work inspired in part by Books for Keeps.
Many years ago, there was an article that included an idea from a fellow teacher; a Reader Award Scheme that rewarded children for increasing their experience of a wider range of books. It seemed such a marvellous idea that I decided to design my own criteria for a three-level scheme, starting with a bronze award then going through silver and gold. The tasks started off simply and teachers could give credit for achievement according to each individual pupil’s ability There was a range of tasks to complete, including reviews, quiz sheets and talks about a range of material such as picture books, poetry, fiction and non-fiction. The tasks and the expectations become increasingly challenging for the pupil as she or he progresses through the awards and demand reading from a wider range of subjects and authors. I designed certificates for the scheme and launched it during a Book Week (on a voluntary basis), then sat back
waiting for the weeks to roll by when I would see the first certificate presented.
Where teachers were enthusiastic, surprise, surprise! so were the children in those classes! The first certificate was awarded, with a great deal of praise and in a blaze of glory, by the head in front of the whole school, to a Year 5 girl.
Many more followed; gradually those teachers who hadn’t taken the scheme on board realised that there were benefits to be had and pupils were asking to become involved. As the terms passed, children were inspired and worked like Trojans to get their silver certificate and eventually, gold! Each time a ‘first’ came up the headteacher made a really big deal and helped raise the profile of the scheme to such an extent that I had to design a new level, platinum! That too was achieved and I considered that by now these pupils were well on their way to becoming hooked on books.
Meanwhile, we grew out of our ‘small but beautiful’ library; a fundraising scheme was set in motion to enable us to increase our shelf space. We had Silent Saturdays, Buy a Brick, Fetes and Fairs until we had enough money to get started on the project. The new library was officially opened last term and we haven’t looked back!
Suddenly a new, refreshed interest in the Reader Award Scheme has taken place and I am delighted to say, I find myself writing out around ten certificates, of one level or another, every week. It is immensely satisfying to see so many young people getting so much pleasure from books.
English and Library Coordinator, King Alfred’s Middle School, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 6PZ