The Nation’s Favourite Children’s Book
The Nation’s Favourite Children’s Book poll organised by Waterstone’s and BBC 1’s Bookworm programme has been won by Roald Dahl’s Matilda (Cape). More than 10,000 people voted by phoning the BBC poll or at Waterstone’s branches and more than 1,000 different books were voted for. Nearly every book was for readers of between 8 and 12 and there was a strong emphasis on early 20th-century classics. Apart from picture books, the obvious lacuna was contemporary fiction. Only one title published after 1990 got into the top 10 – Jacqueline Wilson’s Double Act (Doubleday) which came in at No.10 after Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, The Hobbit, Winnie-the-Pooh, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, The Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine. In a letter to the Bookseller, author Alison Prince spoke for many concerned about contemporary fiction when she wrote: ‘publishers are now following a policy of short print-runs that sell out fast and are not reissued …’ and ‘a classic book is only classic because it can always be bought. In the plethora of constantly changing, shortlived output, no new classics can establish themselves.’
The Nation’s Favourite MODERN Children’s Author
Perhaps in part reacting to the findings of the Waterstone’s/Bookworm poll, the popular (and soon to be axed) Radio 4 children’s book programme Treasure Islands has launched its own poll to discover the nation’s favourite modern children’s author. BfK readers, young and old, are invited to add their nomination. You can vote for any author who has had a book published in the last 10 years by ringing 0171 765 1174 or you can E-mail your vote to Treasure.Islands@bbc.co.uk. You will also find voting forms at most main branch public libraries. Voting ends on 15 November and the top ten most popular authors will be announced on the last Treasure Islands programme to be broadcast on Radio 4 on Wednesday, 17 December at 2.45pm.
End of Walker Own-Brand at Sainsbury
The giant supermarket Sainsbury has ended its own-brand arrangement with Walker Books and is thought to be cutting back its children’s range. Walker had more than 100 Sainsbury’s titles on an annual basis. Eight staff from various departments have been made redundant at Walker following the loss of this account.
Book Clubs Merge
Scholastic and Red House Book Clubs have merged with the dropping of the Scholastic name. As predicted in BfK 103, the chances for publishers other than Scholastic to have titles listed have diminished. While the number of books included in the new Red House School Book Club catalogues will rise from around 1,680 to 1,920, the slots available to other publishers will remain the same. The number of Scholastic titles on offer could be double the number previously offered through the Scholastic club.
Happy birthday to Charles Causley who is 80 this year. The much loved poet, whose work is informed by traditional songs and ballads, is a household name to three generations of school children. His Collected Poems 1951-1997 has just been published by Macmillan.
Joanna Carey, the Guardian’s children’s books editor, is stepping down after five years’ highly creative service. She is handing over to Julia Eccleshare, formerly children’s book correspondent for the Bookseller and a frequent contributor to BfK. Joanna will continue to contribute occasional reviews and pieces on children’s books to Education Guardian as well as pursuing her own illustrating and writing career.
In a surprise move, Lindsey Fraser has resigned from her post as Executive Director, Book Trust Scotland. What ever next? Watch this space …
Grace Kempster, Chief Librarian of Leeds, has been appointed Head of Libraries, Heritage, Arts and Culture for Essex.
Rachel Hickman has been appointed Marketing Director at Element Books for Children. She was formerly Senior Marketing Manager, Children’s Books at HarperCollins. Incidentally, following yet another reorganisation, HarperCollins children’s marketing and publicity department is now part of a collective group marketing and publicity department rather than integrated within the children’s division. Can this be good news for its children’s list?
Diana Olivant has been appointed Marketing Director at Ladybird Books. She was formerly Business Development Manager at Sara Lee Knit Products.
Rona Selby, Head of Children’s Publishing at the BBC (the list includes tie-in publishing for Noddy, Pingu, Wallace and Gromit and Teletubbies), has been made redundant following an ‘internal reorganisation’.
Contributors: BfK team, Keith Barker. Submissions welcome.
Books for Students
BEST SELLER CHART
TOP 10 NON-FICTION TITLES
JANUARY TO OCTOBER 1997
1. Create Your Own Cartoon Stickers, Henderson
2. Horrible Histories: The Terrible Tudors, Terry Deary, Hippo
3. Horrible Histories: The Groovy Greeks, Terry Deary, Hippo
4. Horrible Histories: The Awesome Egyptians, Terry Deary, Hippo
5. Horrible Histories: The Vile Victorians, Terry Deary, Hippo
6. Horrible Histories: The Rotten Romans, Terry Deary, Hippo
7. Funfax Organiser, Henderson
8. Where’s Wally? Simply Sensational Activity Book, Walker
9. Spy File, Henderson
10. Horrible Histories: The Blitzed Bits, Terry Deary, Hippo
Deary’s Horrible Histories continue to go from strength to strength while Henderson’s activity packs and interactive data files (ring binders with section dividers, storage for Funfax books, stickers etc.) vie in the popularity stakes. In both cases, the emphasis is on jokes and fun as well as information.
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.
Roy Gerrard (1935-1997)
Chris Kloet writes:
Roy Gerrard, artist and children’s book creator, who lived in Buxton, Derbyshire, died on 5 August while cycling in the Cheshire countryside. Born in Atherton, Lancashire, he attended Salford School of Art and began painting his tradesmark small, intricate (in his words ‘remorselessly whimsical’) watercolours after a climbing accident in 1972. His painting became obsessive and he later admitted wryly: ‘my contact with the real world seems to be rather fleeting … I spend most of my time deep in my own imagination …’ In 1979 he gave up painting to teach full time, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and in galleries in Britain and America. Roy Gerrard’s twelve, inimitable picture books were published by Victor Gollancz and his exquisitely detailed pictures and droll, jaunty verse won him a wide audience, particularly in America. His last book, The Roman Twins, will be published in 1998 by Hamish Hamilton.
Faith Jaques (1923-1997)
The illustrator, Faith Jaques, who died on 23 July, had strong views on both the role and the importance of illustration. She believed that in fiction the words mattered most and her job was to catch ‘the mood and flavour’ of the text. Particularly memorable are her empathetic illustrations to Nina Bawden’s Carrie’s War and to the first English edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Her pen and ink drawings are easily recognisable for their closely worked linear style and characteristic treatment of facial detail. Towards the end of her career, she illustrated her own picture books about Tilly the doll and The Orchard Book of Nursery Rhymes which is recently reissued in a gift edition. Jaques was a leading figure in campaigns to ensure that artists are included alongside authors in royalty agreements and have continuing rights in their artwork. She was also involved in negotiating the inclusion of illustrators in the campaign to establish Public Lending Right.
The Eleanor Farjeon Award
The Eleanor Farjeon Award has been awarded to poet, author and broadcaster, Michael Rosen. It is awarded annually by the Children’s Book Circle for an outstanding contribution to the world of children’s books. Co-chair of the CBC committee, Anne Marley, said: ‘Michael has long been a champion of children’s books and we are delighted that this has been recognised by our members.’
Young Telegraph/Fully Booked Book Award
The Ghost Dog by Pete Johnson (Corgi Yearling) is the winner of the Young Telegraph/Fully Booked Book Award which aims to find the best children’s paperback published in the last twelve months.
TSB Birmingham Children’s Book Awards 1997
The 7-11 age category for this award was won by Goosebumps – The Wailing Special by R L Stine (Hippo) and the 12-16 age category by Gudrun Pausewang’s The Final Journey (Puffin). Chosen and judged entirely by children from Birmingham schools, the choice of Pausewang’s powerful novel about the Holocaust is doubly interesting as it is a book in translation.
The Nottinghamshire Children’s Book Award 1997
Jointly organised by Nottinghamshire Libraries and Dillons, the 0-7 age group for this annual award was won by I Don’t Want to Go to Bed by Julie Sykes and Tim Warnes (Magi Books) and the 8-12 age group was won by Tony Mitton’s Royal Raps (Orchard Books). Shortlists of eight titles in each category were voted on by local schoolchildren.
The Kurt Maschler Award
Titles shortlisted for this year’s award (the winner is announced on 16 December) are The Swan’s Stories retold by Brian Alderson and illustrated by Chris Riddell (Walker), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Ted Dewan (Doubleday), Walk with a Wolf by Janni Howker and illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies (Walker), Thud! by Nick Butterworth (Collins), Lady Muck by William Mayne and illustrated by Jonathan Heale (Heinemann) and Ginger by Charlotte Voake (Walker).
The Threshold Prize
Based on a similar venture started in Northern Ireland in 1987, The Threshold Prize aims to encourage creative writing by children. In a pilot scheme in Somerset, eleven primary schools participated in a programme of writers’ workshops for children and teachers. A collection of the award-winning poems and stories has been published. The Trustees of the Prize are keen to hear from organisations in the UK carrying out similar work. Write c/o Pynes Farm House, Pitney, Langport, Somerset TA10 9AG.
The Federation of Children’s Book Groups Conference
The Federation of Children’s Book Groups 30th Annual Conference, ‘Books for Ever …’, will take place at the Ripon Campus of The University of Ripon & York St. John on the weekend of 17-19 April 1998. The Conference is open to parents and interested individuals, as well as those who have a professional link with children’s books. The authors and illustrators speaking or giving seminars include Joan Aiken, Jez Alborough, Quentin Blake, Val Bierman, Ann Coburn, Helen Cresswell, Julia Jarman, George Layton, Michela Morgan, Sue Neale, Philippa Pearce, Gervase Phinn, Jane Ray, Kate Thompson and Pat Thomson. For Programme and Booking Form, please send an SAE to: FCBG Conference ’98, 9 Westroyd, Pudsey, West Yorkshire LS28 8HZ or telephone 01132 579950 (booking and information) or 01423 563561 (other enquiries).
Practical Ways to Teach Reading for Information (Reading and Language Information Centre, 0 7049 1069 1) by David Wray and Maureen Lewis outlines a series of useful teaching strategies which teachers may use to help children read information or non-fiction texts. £4.50 inc. postage from the Reading and Language Information Centre, The University of Reading, Bulmershe Court, Earley, Reading RG6 1HY.
Radical Reading 2 is a zappy full colour leaflet aimed directly at 11-15-year-olds to encourage them to read and enjoy books. It comes with a RR2 resource pack which includes a complete bibliography and order form, suggestions for development work etc. 50 copies cost £5 plus £3.50 p&p. Check prices for larger orders. From Book Trust Scotland, The Scottish Book Centre, 137 Dundee Street, Edinburgh EH11 1BG.
Managing the Internet in the School Library by Elspeth Scott (0 900641 81 9) and Managing Behaviour in the Secondary School Library by Claire Drury (0 900641 83 5) are the latest guidelines from The School Library Association. £5 each (£4 to SLA members) inc. p&p from The School Library Association, Liden Library, Barrington Close, Liden, Swindon SN3 6HF.
Inspecting School Libraries: Exemplar Questions for OFSTED, HMI and LEA Inspectors by Graham Small (0 9531356 0 8) is available from Innovation in Education, 75 Franche Court Road, London SW17 0JX at £5.95.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
White Author/Black Characters Cont.
One of the reactions from publishers encountered by Jean Ure (BfK 105) does seem to have particular relevance, namely, ‘what do you know about black people?’
In Britain, though racism is alive and kicking in subtle forms, mixed neighbourhoods are the norm, and mixed couples and social mixing generally, are very much on the increase, which makes it easier for the white writer, potentially at any rate, to gain insights into patterns of black culture, style etc. as a source of fiction.
There are pitfalls however. Language for instance can also prove a barrier and is shot through with subtle power relations. How familiar will the white writer be with the speech patterns within the black community particularly of black youth? On what occasions would a black person use standard English and when dialect? Even if the white writer feels confident on this score, will he/she write from a committed black perspective? Would he/she suppress issues of racism for instance (assuming it cropped up naturally in the context of the story) or apply the soft pedal? Will the story convey false optimism about the future prospects of black Britons etc.? Will the black character’s cultural heritage be devalued? (An example I can think of is the black characters in EastEnders who seem to live out their lives in a sort of cultural vacuum, the scripts denying them specific cultural differences.)
If the white writer feels secure in these matters, has a story to tell and produces convincing fiction, then it is difficult to see why his/her ethnic origin should be a barrier. The issue is essentially one of familiarity with one’s subject matter whether that be a particular ethnic group or historical period or geographical setting etc. In the final analysis even the black writer when writing about black life and characters must be prepared to carry out research, as language and cultural expressions are dynamic and under constant transformation.
Finally, Jean Ure’s experience and her reaction may represent a false picture. After all there is a discernible trend for publishers to use white illustrators for black books, in preference, it may seem, to black ones and there is no shortage of picture books and even teenage novels featuring black main characters written by white authors. To get a true picture one may need to contemplate the response of publishers to her book proposal had she been black. Ultimately it may boil down to an ambivalent attitude by publishers to black fiction, regardless of the writer’s ethnicity, and that may be the issue that needs to be addressed.
Giving Prominence to Black Writers
It is the responsibility of all writers to represent British society as being multi-racial and culturally diverse.
However, the real dilemma, in my view, is this: over the last twenty years or more, the voices of white authors have been dominant, and attempts by African-Caribbean and Asian writers to present our own communities have been marginalized by booksellers, publishers and critics alike. Multi-cultural children’s books by white authors such as Bernard Ashley, Ruth Thomas and Marjorie Darke have frequently appeared in bookshops such as W H Smith. However, finding the work of Black authors in mainstream bookshops is far more of a problem; only Malorie Blackman’s novels are consistently available. In general, books by Black writers are perceived as being irrelevant in areas other than those with high Asian or African-Caribbean populations. ‘We don’t need these books, there are no Black children here,’ is the usual response.
It is important that white writers should represent a Britain that nurtures Black children as well as white. Otherwise, the message is that white is the norm and other racial groups are exterior to this and of secondary status. However, it is also of vital importance that the work of Black writers (who have direct experience of racial issues) should be given at least the same prominence as that of their white counterparts.
The Department of English and History, The Manchester Metropolitan University, Geoffrey Manton Building, Rosamond St West, Manchester M15 6LL.
The Test is in the Reading
Jean Ure writes that editors have warned her off writing about a black family. It’s worth disentangling the issues: a writer’s freedom of exploration/expression and the continued existence of racism in this society.
My South African fiction is umbilically linked to my rejection of the mental as well as physical segregation imposed by apartheid and racism. I have deliberately chosen to explore for myself – and my readers – experiences of the child I was not. As a white South African child I always had two mothers – one white and one black. My home was never destroyed by the state’s bulldozers. I was never a street-child of Jo’burg. For Journey to Jo’burg I dug the mines of memory (turning it inside out). For Chain of Fire I immersed myself in the equivalent of historical research, exiled not by time but by a tyrannical state. For No Turning Back, I returned freely to research freely – as writers do. And I was free to take my final draft back to those amongst whom it was researched. As Jean knows, the test of any book is in the reading. My most rigorous, vigorous test for Journey to Jo’burg came when it was unbanned in SA in 1991 and workshopped by a group of very articulate young black South Africans. It survived, their major comment being that their workshop should have been taking place alongside white students. My hope is they go on to tell and write their own stories – which leads to the second issue.
The publishers’ final objection to Jean is that ‘Black faces on covers do not sellbooks.’ I have frequently been told by librarians in predominantly white areas that many white children do not believe that they will ‘naturally’ relate to books with main black characters. Some European publishers apparently ‘whiten’ faces. How do book buyers choose stock in the white hinterlands? How many black book buyers, publishers, editors, writers, illustrators, etc. are there? Who can deny the deep recesses of racism in our public and private cellars? To cave in to racially-defined economies of the book-place is a depressing step into those same old cellars. To challenge the boundaries of imagination – one’s own and others – at least marks a search for other futures.