Poet Jackie Kay who writes for children (Two’s Company and Three Has Gone) and adults (The Adoption Papers etc) has won The Guardian Fiction Award (for adults) with her first novel, Trumpet (Picador).
Ray Lonsdale of the Department of Library and Information Studies, University of Wales, is the new Chair of the Youth Libraries Group. Anne Everall of Birmingham Centre for the Child is Vice Chair.
Former YLG Chair Lesley Sim has been appointed Head of Services to Children and Young People for West Sussex County Libraries.
Margaret Conroy has been appointed Publishing Director at Hodder Children’s Books. She will continue to be responsible for audio and media publishing.
Cally Poplak has been appointed Editorial Director, Fiction, for Mammoth at Egmont Children’s Books. She succeeds Miriam Hodgson who has been appointed Executive Editor, Fiction.
Gavin Lang, Sales and Marketing Director of Scholastic Children’s Books, has not been recently appointed to his position as incorrectly reported in BfK No.113.
Contributors: BfK team, Keith Barker. Submissions welcome.
BFS BEST SELLER CHARTS
Top 5 Fiction Series for Younger Children
1 Giggle Club, Walker
2 Animal Ark Pets, Hodder
3 Sheltie, Puffin
4 Arthur, Red Fox
5 Home Farm Twins, Hodder
Top 5 Fiction Series for Older Children
1 Goosebumps, Scholastic
2 The Chronicles of Narnia, Collins
3 Animal Ark, Hodder
4 The Demon Headmaster, Puffin
5 Wicked!, Puffin
Animal stories clearly rule the roost! Four of these ten are specifically about animals, and another three have many animal characters in them. Worries about the dominance of horror fiction can be slightly allayed, since only Goosebumps falls into that category (although the series sales are still very large). The appearance of Wicked! could be temporary, since this is a one-off, six-part adventure by Paul Jennings and Morris Gleitzman.
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.
Classics in Short No.12 on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe omitted to acknowledge ‘Narnia: An Imaginary Land as Container of Moral and Emotional Adventure’ from Narratives of Love and Loss: Studies in Modern Children’s Fiction by Margaret and Michael Rustin (Verso 1987). Our apologies.
Tessa Chester, Curator, Children’s Book Collection, writes:
‘The Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood in London does not consist only of books published from 1780 to 1840 as stated in BfK 113. In fact the Renier Collection (more than 80,000 volumes) dates from 1585 to 1988 and is known as The Renier Collection of Historic and Contemporary Publications for Children. It covers virtually the entire range of material published for children and young people over the last four centuries. It is complemented by The Book Trust Collection of books published since 1983, which now consists of about 50,000 volumes and is growing rapidly. Copies of our ‘Occasional List on Moveable Books’ is still available, free of charge.’
Access is for reference purposes only and by appointment. Enquiries to the Curator of Children’s Books (tel: 0181 983 5217; fax: 0181 983 5225; e-mail: tessac@varn,ac.uk)
The Smarties Book Prize
The three ‘Gold’ winners are: for Five Years and Under – Cowboy Baby by Sue Heap (Walker); for Six to Eight Years – The Last Gold Diggers by Harry Horse (Puffin) and for Nine to Eleven Years – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K.Rowling (Bloomsbury).
The Kurt Maschler Award
Anthony Browne has won the 1998 Kurt Maschler Award for Voices in the Park (Doubleday) The judges were Louis Baum, Margaret Meek and Chris Powling. BfK 110’s ‘Editor’s Choice’ said of the prize winning picture book: ‘Browne’s surreal style becomes an extension of the text, a visual comment on his characters’ inner worlds…Browne leaves us much to chew over in this tour de force.’ The other titles on the shortlist were Quentin Blake’s The Green Ship and Zagazoo (Cape), Helen Cooper’s Pumpkin Soup (Doubleday), Adrian Mitchell and Emma Chichester Clark’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (Orchard) and Brian Wildsmith’s Exodus (Oxford).
The Whitbread Award
The shortlist for the 1998 children’s section is David Almond’s Skellig (Signature), James Riordan’s Sweet Clarinet (Oxford), J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Bloomsbury) and Robert Swindells’ Abomination (Doubleday). The winner, to be announced on January 26th, will receive £10,000.
The NASEN Award
This year’s award organised by NASEN (the National Association for Special Educational Needs) and the EPC (the Educational Publishers Council) has been won by Dick King-Smith for The Crowstarver (Doubleday) for its depiction of ‘a community at work, at play and in grief, where disability does not mean being an outsider’. The runner-up was Me and My Electric (Mammoth), a collection of stories by young disabled writers edited by Elizabeth Laird.
The Marsh Award
An award for children’s literature in translation which seeks to call attention to the ‘high quality and diversity’ of fiction available. The shortlist is Jostein Gaarder’s Hello? Is Anybody There? translated by James Anderson (Orion), Els de Groen’s No Roof in Bosnia translated by Patricia Crampton (Spindlewood), Gudrun Pausewang’s The Final Journey translated by Patricia Crampton (Viking/Puffin) and Wolfram Hänel’s Abby translated by Rosemary Lanning (North South Books). The translator of the winning book will receive a prize of £750.
The Angus Book Award
The shortlist for the 1999 Award which is chosen by 400 Angus school students who vote in a secret ballot is Tim Bowler’s River Boy (Oxford), Henrietta Branford’s Chance of Safety (Hodder), Melvin Burgess’s Tiger, Tiger (Andersen Press) and Michael Cronin’s Against the Day (Oxford). The winner will be announced in March. Robert Swindells’ won the 1998 Award with The Unbeliever (Puffin).
Yorkshire Children’s Book Cover Award
The 1998 award which was chosen from a shortlist drawn up by librarians, teachers and school students across Yorkshire has gone to Tony Ross for his jacket illustration for Michael Morpurgo’s Red Eyes at Night (Hodder). The runner up is an unknown illustrator (curiouser and curiouser! Ed) for her/his jacket illustration for Ann Pilling’s The Empty Frame (Collins).
The Mother Goose Award 1999
Publishers are invited to submit entries for this award for a first major illustrated book published between March 1st 1998 and February 28th 1999. Further details from Liz Flanagan at Books for Children, Brettenham House, Lancaster Place, London WC2E 7TL (tel: 0171 322 1422).
National Year of Reading
Sainsbury’s are sponsoring a national £6 million Bookstart campaign, giving away at least a million books over two years from January 1999. By the year 2000, every nine-month-old baby will receive a free book. Further information from Alex Strick, Book Trust (0181 516 2983).
Well Worth Reading (WWR) has announced details of three reading promotions with accompanying materials aimed at teenagers and adults designed to introduce readers in libraries and elsewhere to new writers and ways of looking at books. Made in Britain looks at fiction and poetry from Black and Asian British writers; Boox 4 is the latest edition of the magazine aimed at 13- to 16-year-olds and Shaken and Stirred is a thematic look at contemporary adult fiction. Punchy and accessible, these promotions are well worth checking out. Details from Miranda McKearney (fax: 01962 853747; email: email@example.com)
As part of the Royal Society for the Arts’ contribution to the Year, a lecture on The Changing Child and the Evolving Picture Book will be held on January 25th at 6pm at the RSA in London. It will be given by Dr Kimberley Reynolds of Roehampton Institute and Nicholas Tucker, Lecturer in Psychology and Children’s Literature at the University of Sussex. Reservation essential. Details from the Lecture Programme Office, 0171 930 5115.
Portsmouth School Library Service is backing a Portsmouth Booked! Campaign featuring posters to get people reading starring footballers World Cup hero Alan Ball and footballers Alan Knight, Adrian Whitbread, Andy Awford and John Durnin. Further details from Liz Stevenson, Norrish Central Library, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth PO1 2DX (01705 819311/7).
Year of Reading events are too numerous and frequent to cover fully in BfK. National Year of Reading updates are available from The National Year of Reading Team, National Literacy Trust, Swire House, 59 Buckingham House, London SW1E 6AJ (0171 828 2435).
The Children’s Laureate 1998
Twenty writers and illustrators have been nominated for this prestigious new venture (see BfK No.113) which had the backing of Poet Laureate Ted Hughes until his death. They are: Allan Ahlberg, Quentin Blake, Raymond Briggs, Anthony Browne, John Burningham, Charles Causley, Peter Dickinson, Anne Fine, Michael Foreman, Alan Garner, Shirley Hughes, Pat Hutchins, Dick King-Smith, Joan Lingard, Jan Mark, William Mayne, Michael Morpurgo, Philippa Pearce, Philip Pullman, Brian Wildsmith. The winner, who will be announced in May will receive £10,000 to celebrate a lifetime’s achievement in the field of children’s literature and to provide a platform to highlight the importance of children’s books.
Creative Writing Competition 1999
Open to students studying for first or second year of ‘A’ levels, GNVQs, BTEC or access courses in any London borough, this competition is linked to The Word: The London Festival of Literature which will take place in March 1999. Novelist Margaret Atwood and poet Simon Armitage have agreed to be judges. Entries may be a short story, three to six poems, or a short script up to 10 minutes in length. Further information from Julie McGrath (0171 753 5074; email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Professional storyteller Bob Hartman will be running practical workshops in February for teachers, parents, librarians and other carers who want to develop their storytelling skills. The venues are Oxford, Huddersfield, Manchester, Birmingham, Wimbourne and London. Details from Becca Wyatt (0171 603 1776 or 0976 365082).
Melvin Burgess’s controversial teenage novel (winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Fiction Award) has been adapted for television and will be transmitted from Friday, January 15th on BBC2.
Ladybird Job Losses
Following its decision to close Ladybird’s Loughborough printing and publishing operation and relocate to London, Penguin is to make 210 redundancies. 40 jobs will be created in London.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
The Children’s Laureate
The setting up of the Children’s Laureate has to be one of the most significant and exciting moves in the world of children’s books in recent years. The role will help to raise the profile of Children’s Literature and give it the vital focus that it needs.
However, I was somewhat shocked to observe that the shortlist of twenty nominees for the Children’s Laureate contained neither Jacqueline Wilson or Michael Rosen – two of our most popular contemporary authors – authors that mean a great deal to young readers. Jacqueline, for example – and I hope she won’t mind me advertising the fact – receives something in the region of 300 letters a week from children; and, apart from batches of letters from whole classes, Jacqueline actually responds individually to every single child. This, for me, is what a Children’s Laureate should be – not only an innovative, inspiring and popular writer – but someone who genuinely and passionately cares about their readers and children’s lives in general.
Clearly, the twenty nominees are all excellent writers/illustrators – but are they all known, read and enjoyed by children en masse?
I would like to suggest – and would be very keen to hear from others on this issue – that future Shortlists include nominations from young people too. And to this end, perhaps a number of schools from across the country could be selected. Children too often are excluded from discussions on their books, so why can’t we give them a voice on such an important issue as this?
29 Hartslock Court, Pangbourne, Berks RG8 7BJ
Books in Paperback
Having subscribed to Books for Keeps for more years than I care to remember, I wonder if you could answer a question for me about reviewing policy.
When you became editor the policy was changed to include hardback books in your reviews rather than paperbacks only. Since I only stock paperback books in the English Library here, I mostly ignore the hardback reviews and buy, and read, the paperbacks which are reviewed. Do you (or could you) repeat the review when the book then appears in paperback – or at least give a list of previously reviewed books now out in paperback? It’s OK for publishers and librarians I suppose, but English teachers such as myself are not aware of when books appear in paperback, and at the moment I’m missing gems simply because I don’t know they’re available.
I can see that printing reviews of hardbacks has made your magazine more interesting for librarians, but those of us with more modest budgets (or who don’t know children who still read hardback books) find it less useful than we used to.
European School, Bvd Konrad Adenauer, L1115 Luxembourg
We have been discussing a way of solving the problem you raise for some time. Space is the main difficulty. We will henceforth be including in each issue a list of previously reviewed titles (in hardback or trade paperback) that were awarded three or more stars and are now out in paperback. Ed.
The Broken Bridge
There are questions that need answering about Errol Lloyd’s review of Philip Pullman’s The Broken Bridge (BfK 113). I resisted the temptation to write earlier and add to the ‘head of steam’ generated by the white author/black central character issue (see letters BfK 105-107), but your review needs clarifying. What exactly are the ‘matters in the book which are likely to agitate the black reader?’
I am a black illustrator who had just finished working with Philip Pullman (Count Karlstein) when he asked me to read The Broken Bridge and comment on its truthfulness to the black experience in Britain. How refreshing it was to read a book without the usual stereotypes of location and background. I spent a good deal of time in rural Scotland when I first arrived in Britain, and Ginny’s experiences mirrored my own so closely it was uncanny. Your review supposes that black people have some sort of unusual dimension to their lives which this book does not address. Please tell me what this dimension is.
My own children live in a rural part of Sussex far removed from what reviewers and publishers like to think of as the ‘typical black British experience’. I can’t wait until they are old enough to read The Broken Bridge. And if my son decides to be a writer (which is looking likely) will he be allowed to write about white people?
Manor Buildings, Warminghurst, Ashington, Nr Pulborough, West Sussex RH20 3AW
There is an underlying mistaken assumption in Patrice Aggs’ letter that I am opposed to white writers writing about black characters. In BfK 113 I defended the right of any white writer with empathy, appropriate knowledge or after suitable research to tackle the subject, as these and not ethnicity, are the critical factors. I did, however, point to some pitfalls.
Below are some of the matters that agitated me (and I dare say a good many white readers as well). Speaking of her Haitian mother who abandoned her at one week old, but whom she mistakenly supposes to be dead, Ginny, the novel’s 16-year-old heroine, reflects:
‘…she was proud of her mother and the colour she had inherited and the exoticness in her blood. Her father was English, white, but her mother had come from Haiti, where they spoke French and Creole, so Ginny applied herself to French with love and ardour. It belonged to her in the way Welsh belonged to the other kids at school. Ginny had to learn Welsh too, and she did it conscientiously, but it felt cramped and alien. In French she was at home.’ (pp7-8)
A black person may occasionally be regarded as exotic to others, but rarely, if ever, to themselves. Also why deny her her Welsh mother-tongue? She grew up in Wales after all and Welsh would (exotica apart) have been her natural native tongue, or at the very least the English of her father.
Andy, the gay teenager, and only other developed black character in the book, is ‘mysterious, glamorous with a kind of evasive magic, half spirit half conman’ (p14). Adopted by a white couple, he has no idea who his natural parents (both African) are but that does not prevent him from speculating:
‘Hundred to one, you know what she is, my mother? She’s a prostitute. And my father, he’d be one of her customers. Then when I was born she ditched me somewhere, and the council shoved me off on them down there.’ (p52)
There is nothing in the text to challenge this speculation.
Ginny is on a quest to explore her black identity. One of her first revelations comes when having drawn the appropriate symbols on a tomb in a churchyard late at night, she evokes the spirit of Erzulie, one of the many voodoo deities, and her mind becomes filled with a tangle of thoughts:
‘I can understand mysteries. Like the broken bridge. I know the truth of that, because I’m the baby, I’m the father, I’m the thief. I understand the old monks who built this church, and Erzulie. I understand her and the hills too… And African-ness I’m beginning to understand being black… They’re not going to hide things from me. If they hid them in the light I’d never see them, but the dark is where I live, like Maman. I’m an artist, I’m a sorceress, I’m at home there…’ (p161)
The occasional spirit possession of Ginny remains unresolved at the end of the novel, and together with the absence of other balanced black characters, may give a distorted impression to the young reader, of what constitutes ‘African-ness’ or ‘blackness’.
Nowhere in my review do I suppose that black people have some sort of unusual dimension to their lives which The Broken Bridge does not represent. It is what is presented as usual that concerned me.
I do believe that the author was right to seek an opinion on his novel’s truthfulness to the black experience in Britain, but I feel sure, from the other positive aspects of the book, that he was seeking critical assessment and not unreserved praise.