Collins & Brown has formed a Children’s Books division bringing together Belitha Press, David Bennett Books and Pavilion children’s books which will retain their imprint identities.
Goosebumps author, R L Stine, is the children’s author whose books are most borrowed in Britain from public libraries according to a survey by the Registrar of Public Lending.
Talking Books is a conference on Saturday 22 May for anyone interested in children’s literature with talks, seminars and discussions about books and how to encourage young people to become readers. Speakers include Jacqueline Wilson, Celia Rees, Brian Moses, Ian Beck and David Fickling. Details from the Reading and Language Information Centre, The University of Reading, Bulmershe Court, Earley, Reading RG6 1HY (Tel: 01189 318820; Fax: 01189 316801).
Miriam Hodgson of Egmont Children’s Books has been named Editor of the Year at the 10th annual British Book Awards.
Linda Banner, Associate Director of Marketing for Watts Publishing, and Kate Agnew, Manager of Heffers’ Children’s Bookshop, have jointly won a Nibbies Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the National Year of Reading at the 10th annual British Book Awards.
Nick Arnold of the Horrible Science series is to chair the Junior Panel of the 1999 Rhône-Poulenc Science Book prize.
Roy Blatchford, the first Director of Reading is Fundamental, has moved back to secondary Headship with the task of establishing a new school in Milton Keynes. Roy is also a regular BfK reviewer. His successor at RIF is Alan MacKenzie.
Scholastic Children’s Books are pleased to announce the appointment of Robert Walster as Art Director and Katherine Thornton as Publishing Administration Manager. Robert was previously Art Director with the Watts Publishing Group and Katherine was at Egmont Children’s Books.
Contributors: BfK team. Submissions welcome.
Teachers are invited to send for an entry form and teacher’s pack for Cambridge Young Writers’ Award for autobiographical writing organised by Cambridge University Press and Cambridge University. The closing date is 31st May 1999 and the competition is open to each age group from Years 2/3, 4, 5 and 6. Details from Rosemary Hayes, Durhams Farmhouse, Butcher’s Hill, Ickleton, Saffron Walden, Essex CB10 1SR (tel/fax: 01799 531192, e-mail: (email@example.com).
Beverley Mathias writes:
Thank you for the prominent piece about REACH (BfK No.115). Your journal seems to reach most staff rooms these days. Unfortunately the Helpline number quoted is wrong as BT gave us an incorrect number. The new (and correct) number is 0845 604 0414.
What’s Best for Your Child?: A Guide to Choosing Books for children is a jolly information leaflet aimed at parents and other carers and full of practical tips. Single copies are available on receipt of a stamped A4 envelope from Scottish Book Trust, Scottish Book Centre, 137 Dundee Street, Edinburgh EH11 1BG.
Guardian Children’s Fiction Award
Susan Price’s The Sterkarm Handshake (Scholastic) has won the 1999 Guardian Children’s Fiction Award. Chair of judges, Julia Eccleshare, described it as ‘an adventure story firmly rooted in the traditions of both sci-fi and the border ballads’. Shortlisted titles were Tanith Lee’s Law of the Wolf Tower (Hodder Children’s Books), J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Bloomsbury), Morris Gleitzman’s Bumface (Puffin) and David Almond’s Skellig (Hodder Signature).
The TES Senior Information Book Award
Michael Leapman’s Witnesses to War (reviewed BfK 111) is the winner of the Times Educational Supplement Senior Information Book Award. The judges’ comment on this collection of personal histories of children who attracted the attention of the Nazis was that it was ‘an important, accessible and necessary book about evil’. Shortlisted titles were Nature Encyclopedia (Dorling Kindersley with the Natural History Museum) and Andrew Langley’s Castle at War (Dorling Kindersley). The judges were John D. Clare, Lynne Marjoram and Mark Williamson.
The TES Junior Information Book Award
Neil Marshall’s Letters to Henrietta (Cambridge University Press) is the winner of the Times Educational Supplement Junior Information Book Award. A celebration of the vanishing art of letter writing which includes despatches from the front in the First World War, it tells ‘a research story as well as a history story…fascinating and very touching’. Shortlisted titles were Clive Gifford’s Cycling – All You Need to Know (Hodder Activators) and Karen Hartley and Chris Macro’s Snail (Heinemann Bug Books). The judges were Mary Jane Drummond, Paul Noble and Michael Thorn.
The Angus Book Award
Tim Bowler’s River Boy (Oxford) is the winner of the 1999 Angus Book Award which is voted for by third-year pupils from Angus’s secondary schools. He received a trophy (a miniature replica of the Aberlemno Pictish stone) and a small cash prize.
BfS BEST SELLER CHARTS
Top 10 Picture Books
September 1998 – March 1999
1 Giggle Club: The Teeny Tiny Woman, Arthur Robins, Walker, £1.99
2 Giggle Club: One Day in the Jungle, Colin West, Walker, £1.99
3 Giggle Club: Turnover Tuesday, Phyllis Root, Walker, £1.99
4 We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen, Walker, £4.99
5 Teletubbies: Dipsy’s Hat, BBC, £1.99
6 The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle, Puffin, £4.99
7 Teletubbies: Po’s Blowy Day, BBC, £1.99
8 Giggle Club: Yum, Yum, Yummy, Martin Waddell, Walker, £1.99
9 Arthur Writes a Story, Marc Brown, Red Fox, £2.50
10 Giggle Club: Contrary Mary, Anita Jeram, Walker, £1.99
What’s most clear from any listing of strong picture book sellers at the moment is that price is a big influence on sales, especially when it comes to children choosing their own books and/or buying them with their own pocket money! Only two of the books on this list are at what is now the ‘standard’ picture book price point of £4.99. Walker Books’ Giggle Club series continues to be very popular.
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.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
In his article on ‘Biblical Books for Children’ (BfK No.115), Ralph Gower sneers at the ‘inaccurate and distorted text’ of my Noah Makes a Boat in which ‘Noah got his plans by observing nature – in fact God gave Noah the plans.’ And this raises an interesting question about the nature of story. Jesus told stories as a means of showing the truth of a message in a more understandable, entertaining, interesting, exciting and memorable way than simply telling could ever achieve. Jesus did that because he was a brilliant teacher, and teachers today use stories for the same reason. Any children’s author is part teacher, speaking from one generation to another and attempting to equip children emotionally for life. Story is not something set in stone. Stories have always been changed and adapted to suit an audience, just as they are received differently by every member of an audience according to their need. Ralph Gower is right to say that my Noah story is not exactly the Noah story from the Old Testament. But does he – alarmingly – believe literally everything in the Old Testament!? My aim in writing Noah Makes a Boat was to create a story about invention and design, a story about where ideas come from. I hoped that it would particularly appeal to those small boys who tend to weary of ‘soppy stories’ and move across to books about how things work. As any teacher of small children knows, the best way to introduce new ideas to that age group is to start from a familiar base (in this case, the Noah story), then carry children from there into new territory. Modern children generally have too much of a sense that authority (God, the state, ‘Them’) will provide plans for life and their job is simply to accept or grumble, but not to influence things for themselves. I want children to look at the world and make it a better place, and I think Jesus might have agreed with me! I stand by my ‘distortion’ of the story. There is no danger of it ever replacing the many straight tellings of the tale.
45 Elms Road, South Knighton, Leicester LE2 3JD
Decimation of the backlist
I was interested to read your January editorial (BfK No.114), in which you express concern about the short lives of so many books. I’d like to add a few comments on how this can affect authors – particularly, I think, those who write for older readers.
Every financial consideration seems to deter authors from writing longer, serious fiction. Short books for young children sell more copies, are borrowed more frequently from libraries, are more readily sold for translation, and stay in print far longer. I began by writing young adult fiction and intend to continue, but I have to accept that a book which takes a year or more to write, often involving detailed research, will earn less, sell fewer copies and have a shorter life than a ‘first reader’ written in maybe a week or two. The average high-street bookshop devotes most of its teenage section to mass-market series, TV tie-ins, embossed titles and blood-spattered covers, with serious fiction not considered worthy of shelf space. Under these circumstances, it would hardly be surprising if disappointed writers decided to concentrate on short, younger books or quick-sell, easy-read series.
The decimation of backlists has implications for schools, too. A school may have invested in a class set, only to find that within a year – or even less – it’s impossible to replace lost or damaged copies, so the diminished set becomes unusable with a whole class. This gives a disincentive to hard-pressed teachers to bother keeping up with new fiction. Often, when I visit secondary schools, I’m asked to talk about my First World War trilogy, which – though as relevant as ever to children studying that period for National Curriculum History – is now out of print. This poses a dilemma – should I spend my time talking about books which my listeners won’t be able to obtain? Or should I concentrate on my newer books?
There are some positive developments, though, to add to BfK’s important work in bringing books and readers together. Internet bookshops such as Amazon, Blackwells and The Internet Bookshop do catalogue backlist titles, which may encourage publishers to make them available for longer. There are publishers – notably, at present, Hodder, with its Signature series – who are willing to invest in quality fiction for older readers. It’s vastly encouraging that a book like Skellig, by David Almond, can be so successfully promoted and so swiftly recognised as extraordinary.
11 De Quincey Close, Brackley, Northamptonshire, NN13 6LG
Expressing the visual
I agree pretty much with everything you write in your editorial on the standard of reviews of illustrated books (BfK No.115). As a student on one of the children’s literature courses you mention I have attended three courses on Visual Texts. Two were sorely lacking but one looked at the picture book as a form in itself, ie that a visual text works only as a combination of the written and the illustrated. As you well know, there are always, except in the case of wordless picture books, two narratives at play, and it is the combination of these which produces the finished article. My point, however, is that the general public would have a problem with this concept. It’s not your regular ‘reading and writing’ kind of thing and I suspect that many reviewers probably have little experience of this themselves or have spent little time with children actually reading picture books to see this at work. I have tried to explain the idea of ‘gaps’ in the text to our customers but it has resulted in blank looks.
This also raises the question of whether what we actually need is not a language ‘to express the visual’ but a language to express how the written and the visual work together to bring meaning.
Daisy & Tom, 181 King’s Road, London SW3 5EB
I read your March ’99 editorial with interest, anxiety and dismay. You quote an illustrator describing the librarian’s discussions at a Kate Greenaway Medal meeting as ‘terrible’. Presumably this was not first hand observations at the judging panel, where authors and illustrators for obvious reasons are not present?*
You also comment that ‘prizes are increasingly tending to go to cosy and less challenging illustration by people who do commercially successful books but sometimes cannot actually draw’. I would not see recent winners of the Kate Greenaway award (Greg Rogers or P.J. Lynch) as producing books either cosy in subject matter or as illustrators who cannot draw.
You may be interested to learn that at Leicestershire’s Carnegie and Greenaway discussion event this year we focused on illustration. Michael Foreman, Colin McNaughton and Klaus Flugge joined us in discussing various issues including can librarians judge a prize for illustration, high art versus popular appeal, what wins prizes. It was a very lively and successful event and if you were to contact Michael, Colin or Klaus I believe they would comment on the professional and informed levels of expertise, enthusiasm and critical acumen demonstrated by the librarians present.
Past Chair YLG and Past Chair Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Judges Panel (1995)
Head of Children’s and Young People’s Services, Leicestershire Libraries and Information Services, firstname.lastname@example.org
* No doubt it was at one of the branch meetings such as you go on to describe. Ed.
The Children’s Laureate
James Carter’s letter about the Children’s Laureate (BfK No.114) raises a number of interesting points about the honour and its purpose.
Our stated mission is that the honour should acknowledge and celebrate a ‘lifetime’s achievement’. There are many authors who are, without doubt, serious contenders but who have a way to go before they can be evaluated for a lifetime’s work. Since the honour is biennial and not a lifetime’s post, we trust that many on this long list, and many more not listed this time, will be future appointments.
The absence of certain writers from the long list disappointed even members of the steering committee. However, this only strengthens the resolve which led to the establishment of the honour in the first place – to acknowledge and honour the many gifted writers and illustrators, not all of whom could possibly fit on the first long list of 20.
A shadowing scheme with 24 schools around the UK in this first year has been set up. We are also considering other ways in which children may be involved in future.
Administrator, The Children’s Laureate
18 Grosvenor Road, Portswood, Southampton SO17 1RT
Illustrated Books in France
A colleague in our library has just shown me Quentin Blake’s article on picture books in France (BfK No.113). As European picture books are very dear to my heart and I thoroughly endorse everything Blake says about French picture books, I wonder whether your readers might be interested to know about a project which I have developed. It has been funded by the EU, expressively to help European children to understand more about each other through picture books. The participants in the project come from the 15 EU member states, and are all passionate about children’s literature in their own countries. Together we have created a European Picture Book Collection (EPBC) with books in their original languages, tapes of the stories and a teachers’ resource book. In fact, the project won a European award in 1997 for ‘Innovative Reading Promotion in Europe’ which was presented in Brussels by the International Reading Association.
So far, two European conferences have been held in relation to this initiative. The first in Douai, France, to set up the network; the second in Austria to report back on early developments. The papers which were presented at these two events are available from The Publications Unit at Kingston University. The EPBC is currently being trialled in a number of EU countries, and the results will be presented in Hungary in the year 2000. Further information about the project can be found on the internet: (http://members.tripod.com/penni cotton).
I’d like to thank Quentin Blake for bringing into focus the important role that picture books can play in helping young Europeans to understand more about each other.
Dr Penni Cotton
School of Education, Kingston University, Kingston Hill, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey KT2 7LB
Letters may be shortened for space reasons.