NYR impacts on parents
A survey to mark the end of the National Year of Reading reveals that 70% of parents with children aged 5-10 and 80% of those with children under five now read to them every day.
Authors Bite Back
A new imprint, Barn Owl Books has been launched by children’s writer Ann Jungman. Described at the launch party as a way for authors to ‘bite back’ at mainstream publishers who allow their titles to go out of print, the imprint will republish ‘worthwhile’ children’s titles. Barn Owl’s first four books are Jacqueline Wilson’s Jimmy Jelly , a ‘charming story for first readers’; Gwen Grant’s Private – Keep Out! about a working class girl growing up after the war; Michael Rosen’s You’re Thinking about Doughnuts , a ‘gripping read for confident readers’ and Adèle Geras’ Voyage , the story of Russian migrants leaving for the USA in 1905. The books are distributed by Roundabout.
Another author who has bitten back is John Rowe Townsend. Following demand for his much acclaimed but OP novel Noah’s Castle , he has reprinted it himself. Available from Green Bay Publications, 72 Water Lane, Histon, Cambridge CB4 4LR at £4.95.
Meanwhile former Associate Publisher at Penguin Children’s Books, Jane Nissen is launching her own imprint, Jane Nissen Books. Her first titles will appear early in 2000. She will be bringing ‘forgotten classics’ back into print in paperback using the original illustrations. They will be distributed by Ragged Bears.
Curiouser and curiouser…
The principal geologist at the British Geological Survey, Tony Cooper, has claimed that a geological phenomenon which causes the ground to open up may be the inspiration for the rabbit hole down which Alice began her adventures in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland . Lewis Carroll grew up in an area of Yorkshire famous for its dramatic subsidence caused by the highly soluble rock gypsum which is dissolved under the Ripon area at a rate of up to a foot a year. Carroll’s father was Canon Dodgson of Ripon and it seems likely that young Dodgson would have known about the dramatic subsidence (a hole 20 metres deep and 35 metres wide) that occurred in 1834 at a house called Ure Lodge, where a contemporary of his father, Canon Badcock, lived. Badcock was also the father of Mary on whose photograph the illustrations of Alice were based.
From September 2000 the new National Curriculum will contain an eclectic list of recommended non-fiction authors for 11-14 year olds. Students will be encouraged to range a texts, including autobiography, travel writing, essays and reportage. The men listed include Winston Churchill, James Cameron, Alistair Cooke, Samuel Johnson, Lord Byron, William Cobbett, Laurie Lee and John Berger. Women listed include Vera Brittain, Beatrice Webb, Dorothy Wordsworth and Rachel Carson (the author of Silent Spring on the dangers of pesticides in farming). The list has been attacked by the former Conservative Education spokesperson, David Willetts, as a ‘ludicrous exercise’. He added ‘It sounds as if there is political bias in the choices.’ Willetts’ list of non-fiction authors would have included Roger Scruton, Freidrich Hayek (an economist) and Margaret Thatcher.
The children’s non-fiction publisher, Wayland, has been bought by Hodder Headline (now part of W H Smith). It will become part of Hodder Children’s Books and its titles will be more actively promoted in the trade. Wayland Managing Director, Roberta Bailey, becomes Director of Hodder Wayland. As a result of the acquisition, Hodder Children’s Books will have its own specialist children’s sales force.
Stories from behind bars
In an imaginative scheme at Winchester Prison, fathers serving long gaol sentences are being encouraged to record bedtime stories on tape for their children. A grant from British Telecom was used to buy books and tape recorders for the prisoners to use.
New lists for Egmont
Egmont Children’s Books has launched two new lists. The Mammoth Irish list is aimed at the Irish market, featuring Egmont’s existing Irish writers and illustrators, some new talent and titles with Irish settings. The World Mammoth list will launch in June 2000 with titles in translation.
BfS PREDICTIONS CHART
To mark our last issue of this century, BfS have come up with ten contemporary novels that they think might still be read in 100 years’ time. In alphabetical order:
Bill’s New Frock , Anne Fine, Puffin
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , Roald Dahl, Puffin
The Diary of Anne Frank , Anne Frank, Puffin
Goodnight Mr Tom , Michelle Magorian, Puffin
The Hobbit , J R R Tolkien, HarperCollins
The Iron Man , Ted Hughes, Faber
Northern Lights , Philip Pullman, Scholastic
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe , C S Lewis, Collins
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone , J K Rowling, Bloomsbury
The Very Hungry Caterpillar , Eric Carle, Puffin
Any list like this can only be subjective – there would be, of course, still much room for debate about individual titles and authors even if the list were fifty books long! But the above at least represents a selection of titles likely to last for quite some time to come.
This listing has been specially compiled for BfK by Books for Students . Books for Students is a major specialist supply company to schools and libraries.
Klaus Flugge , Publisher at Andersen Press, renowned for his generosity and dedication, has been voted this year’s winner of the prestigious Eleanor Farjeon Award. This is only the second time a publisher has been bestowed this honour, following Kaye Webb, founder of the Puffin Book Club who received the Award in 1970. Following periods working in Germany, New York and the London office of Abelard-Schuman, Klaus set up his own publishing company, Andersen Press, in 1976, named in tribute to the greatest of storytellers. Since then, Klaus has put together a vibrant and dynamic list that has few equals. The authors and illustrators he has worked with form a rollcall of honour and include such names as David McKee, Michael Foreman, Melvin Burgess, Satoshi Kitamura and many others.
Jane Winterbotham has been appointed Publishing Director at Walker Books. She was formerly Managing Director of Egmont Children’s Books.
Congratulations to Christina Dyer , currently Service Adviser for Children’s, Youth and Community Services with Leicestershire Libraries and Information Services, who will be taking up a new post from November 1st. She will be moving to work for Nottingham City Council Leisure and Community Services as Service Manager for Children’s and Community Libraries. She will be responsible for children’s services across the authority and services through 19 community libraries. Special responsibilities will include Lifelong Learning, Literacy and Stock Management.
Dr Bob McKee is the new Chief Executive of the Library Association. He was formerly Assistant Chief Executive with Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and a member of the Library and Information Commission.
Ingrid Selberg has been appointed Managing Director and Publisher of Pleasant, the Publishing division of the US toy company Mattel. Pleasant is to be launched in the UK, France and Germany.
Kate Agnew , manager of Heffers Children’s Bookshop in Cambridge, has left the company to pursue a writing career. She plans to work part-time as a bookseller.
Pilar Jenkins has been appointed Managing Director of the publishing division at Hit Entertainment. She was previously Publishing Director at Random House Children’s Books with special responsibility for the Red Fox paperback list.
David Morton , Operations Director at Daisy & Tom, has left the company as part of an internal cost saving exercise.
The children’s fiction packagers, Working Partners (creators of Animal Ark for Hodder Children’s Books) has appointed Rehana Ahmed as editor. She was formerly at Macmillan Children’s Books.
Contributors: BfK team, Anne Marley. Submissions welcome.
Sainsbury’s Baby Book Award
Helen Oxenbury’s Tickle, Tickle (Walker Books) is the winner of the first Sainsbury’s Baby Book Award. The judges felt it to be ‘a book which babies and parents alike would be sure to enjoy. It has sturdy pages, plenty of positive multicultural images of babies and a lively rhyming text.’ The shortlisted titles were Steve Bland’s Woof! (Campbell Books), Lucy Cousins’ Humpty Dumpty and Other Nursery Rhymes (Campbell Books), Debbie MacKinnon and Anthea Sieveking’s Find my Cake (Frances Lincoln), Jan Ormerod’s Peek-a-Boo! (Bodley Head) and Nick Sharratt’s A Bear with a Pear (Campbell Books). The Chair of judges was Wendy Cooling.
The Baby Book Award complements Sainsbury’s £6 million sponsorship of the Bookstart programme which aims to provide parents of every 7-9 month old baby in the UK with a Bookstart pack containing free baby books, advice, information and a library invitation. Sainsbury’s Communications Director, Dominic Fry, revealed (to applause) at the Baby Book Award launch that his company decided to sponsor Bookstart rather than the Millennium Dome.
The NASEN Special Educational Needs Book Award
The shortlisted titles for the 1999 award are Benjamin Zephaniah’s Face (Bloomsbury), James Riordan’s Sweet Clarinet (Oxford University Press), Wendy Orr’s Fighting Back (Orchard), Andrew Matthews’ Stiks and Stoans (Mammoth), Rachel Anderson’s Big Ben (Mammoth), the ‘Think About’ series (Belitha), Clare Oliver’s Animals as Carers (Franklin Watts) and Jen Green’s I’m Special (Wayland).
The judges for the next Smarties prize are authors Sue Heap and Terence Blacker, librarian Trish Botten and associate editor of She magazine Liz Gregory. Julia Eccleshare, Children’s Books Editor at The Guardian , is Chair of judges.
The Illustration Cupboard (a company specialising in the sale of artworks by children’s book illustrators) is holding a Christmas Exhibition from 15-21 November at the Contemporary Art Gallery, 59 Ebury Street, London SW1. Artists represented include Angela Barrett, Fiona French, Satoshi Kitamura, Brian Wildsmith and Babette Cole. Prices start at £100. The company is also open every day of the year for viewing by appointment. Enquiries to John Huddy on 0171 610 5481; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cracking Children’s Books: an introduction to writing books for children of all ages takes place on Tuesday, 23 November at 7pm at The Amadeus Centre, 50 Shirland Road, London W9. Speakers include authors Malorie Blackman and Kara May, publishers Alison Stanley, Margaret Conroy and Janice Thomson, and television producer Peter Murphy. Details from the Writers Guild of Great Britain, 430 Edgware Road, London W2 1EH.
Now We Are Nine , a conference on teaching reading in support of the National Reading Campaign, takes place on Saturday, 13 November at Bovington Middle School, Wareham, Dorset. It aims to explore recent good practice and to provide an opportunity to hear distinguished authors (Anne Fine, Pete Johnson, Robin Jarvis etc) talk about their work. Other participants include Ted Wragg and Morag Styles. Details from DSEC, The Old Rectory, Winterborne Monkton, Dorchester DT2 9PS (tel: 01305 261213).
The Eileen Wallace Research Fellowship in Children’s Literature invites proposals for research and scholarship using the resources of New Brunswick’s Children’s Literature Collection. Application forms are available from the Office of the Dean of Education, University of New Brunswick, PO Box 4400, Fredericton, NB, Canada E3B 5A3. Deadline for applications is 1 March of any year, with fellowship to be awarded after 1 July of the same year.
The Ezra Jack Keats/de Grummond Children’s Literature Research Fellowship Program awards grants to scholars engaged in research projects based substantially on the holdings of the de Grummond Collection. The collection contains books and original materials that focus on American and British children’s literature dating from 1530 to the present. Information on the collection can be found at http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum. Applications must be submitted by 10 January 2000. Further information and application form from Dee Jones, de Grummond Collection, Box 5148, The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39406 5148, USA.
Janetta Otter-Barry, Editorial Director of Children’s Books at Frances Lincoln, writes:
Lucy Keeling, who died from cancer on Tuesday, 8 June 1999, was the commissioning editor for children’s non-fiction at Frances Lincoln. She joined the fledgling children’s department in 1988, and played a key role in the development of the list, working with authors such as Laurence Anholt, Meredith Hooper, Jakki Wood, Steve Weatherill, Debbie MacKinnon and Anthea Sieveking, and latterly, Kathy Henderson, Opal Dunn and Jacqueline Mitton.
Lucy was a fine editor. Her knowledge of the children’s book market was extensive, her projects received immense care and attention to detail, and she guided her authors with sensitivity and quiet assurance. Her gentleness and generosity endeared her to all, and she had a special gift for helping and training the younger editors.
Lucy was fiercely loyal to the company, and I personally owe her my deep gratitude for an enriching ten-year working relationship which I had hoped would long continue. She will be greatly missed as a colleague and a friend.
Children’s Laureate folders containing Literacy Hour and other teaching notes using Quentin Blake’s books as a starting point are available to teachers from Lois Beeson, Children’s Laureate Administrator, 18 Grosvenor Road, Portswood, Southampton SO17 1RT (tel: 01703 555057).
Aimed at young readers, AuthorZone is a snappy, full colour introduction to 50 top children’s authors and illustrators who have all written their own brief biographies and filled in a questionnaire. £4.95 from Peters Bookselling Services, 120 Bromsgrove Street, Birmingham B5 6RJ (tel: 0121 666 6646).
Books to Enjoy: With Boys in Mind (0 900641 96 7) by Wendy Cooling is an annotated bibliography of titles for 8-15 year olds, ‘the result of talking to many boys’. £5 (£4 to SLA members) inc. p & p from The School Library Association, Liden Library, Barrington Close, Liden, Swindon SN3 6HF.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
The Carnegie/Greenaway Medals
Your editorial that centred on the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals ( BfK 117 ) raised several points to which I should like to respond.
To limit a writer or illustrator to winning the medals only once would surely be restrictive. Such a constraint would mean that any significant literary or artistic development by an individual, no matter how well established, could not be recognised and rewarded. I do not believe that the writers and illustrators would wish this, let alone their publishers. As you will be aware the medals are made to those titles which are deemed to be ‘the best’ books. If your recommendation were to be implemented then clearly through exclusion a title would not necessarily be the best.
Whilst the panel of judges work to a set of agreed criteria that embrace literary and illustrative matters, we should remember that they are first and foremost librarians. As such they are able to bring into play their experience (and it is not an inconsiderable experience), and skills as mediators of children’s literature. Frequently as part of our debate, the way young people have responded to a specific title, individually or as part of a group, will be raised and discussed. The response of the child and the sensibilities of young people are critical elements of our deliberations.
With respect to your views about the decisions made by judges on past winners, and the titles which you believed were worthy of consideration; well, they are your own subjective views, and since everyone is entitled to his or her view, I would not wish to comment on them.
The criteria for judging these awards are, of course, not sacrosanct, and the national Youth Libraries Group committee is alive to the continuing need to re-evaluate the judging process and the administration of the awards.
Since their inception, there has been a tradition of criticism levelled at these and, I may say, other book awards. I do think, however, that we should acknowledge the tremendous contribution that they do make to promoting the prodigious talent in the field of British children’s literature and also the place of children’s writing and illustration within society as a whole.
Chair, National Youth Libraries Group
For a year or two I have been wondering if I am the only person who feels that the Kate Greenaway award has lost its way; your editorial at least reassured me that I wasn’t alone. As you point out, a prize is created with a purpose in mind; to reward, enlighten, encourage in a specific way; if it doesn’t do this, there is no point in it. This year the KG award jury persists in its habit of giving the medal to a recent winner, and throws away another opportunity to do its work of raising the awareness of children’s illustration and bringing its merits to the attention of the public. But it does worse than that. The message that it gives to the public, to publishers, to illustrators, is that, in the eyes of an influential body, there are currently two or three illustrators whose work is so significantly above the rest that they have repeatedly to be given the award. This must be discouraging to publishers and dampening to any ideas they have of enterprise and innovation; and disillusioning to illustrators, who know that this is not the reality. Illustration in this country is in a healthy state; you mentioned in your editorial a number of potentially prize-winning artists, and it would take about five minutes to add ten more to that list.
Part of the problem no doubt comes from an anomaly: that this is a prize for art given by a jury of librarians. There is no reason why this should matter one bit if the jury continued to arrive at interesting decisions that fulfil the purpose of the award; but where the jury seems unable to make these decisions, or to hold on to a few decisions that it feels to be ‘safe’, all kinds of doubts start to rise to the surface.
There is clearly a need for something to be done to restore the credibility of the award. There seem to me to be a number of possibilities. If the award wants to go on fulfilling its original ambitions the most effective method would be to appoint a jury who between them had the necessary knowledge of illustration, of children, and of publishing, and leave them, in the full awareness of the context and aspirations of the award, to get on with the job. If possible they should be from the ranks of librarians, though not necessarily; five would be plenty.
Alternatively, the award could become (what it now seems more to resemble) a sort of poll of librarians’ favourite picturebooks; in which case there should be one librarian, one vote. Such an award is for popularity, not necessarily for distinction or merit. There is also the possibility of a vote by children in libraries; the results of such an investigation (like that conducted by the Roehampton Institute) cannot fail to be interesting, but this is perhaps not the award the Youth Libraries Association should be concerning itself with. Or it may be possible that there is some quite new interpretation; in which case one might do worse than look north, to the good sense of the Scottish Arts Council awards which establish five winners, and get rid of the patronising business of runners-up and Highly Commended at a stroke.
Quentin Blake , Children’s Laureate
Your remarks on the subject of awards, the Carnegie and Greenaway in particular, set me thinking.
On one hand, prizes surely ‘belong’ to those who award them. If the Library Association, or Whitbread, or for that matter the Amalgamated Society of Chicken-Sexers, decide to sponsor a children’s book award, then the decision their judges come to is entirely a matter for them, and the most that the rest of us are entitled to say is ‘Oh’.
On the other hand, the world of children’s books is a small and open one, and the award of a prize – especially one of the major ones – has an effect on many more people than the winner alone. So perhaps prizes ‘belong’ to all of us, and we should all have a say in how they’re awarded.
The problem with that, though, is that if we all agreed on the criteria and we all approved the panel of judges, the result would be safe choices every time. One of the great things an award can do is recognise the unusual, the offbeat, the kind of book that deserves attention of a sort that commercial activity alone would never get it. Maybe judges do need to make annoying or eccentric choices from time to time.
But I think we do need a debate, if only to clarify the issue. When some voices are calling for Harry Potter to get the Carnegie Medal on the grounds that it’s hugely popular, and others are arguing for The Kin on the grounds that it’s a work of great scope and ambition, then it’s clear that we’re all arguing from different premises. We might never actually agree: but let’s be clear what we’re arguing about.
Awards are invariably set up to fulfil particular functions and they are thus an important part of critical discourse around children’s books. They are, or should be, as Quentin Blake points out, about a great deal more than personal preferences.
The Carnegie Medal has been described in the YLG’s press releases and at the presentation itself as ‘the Booker of the playground’. If this is indeed the function of this award, then it is a literary award and titles should be nominated and discussed according to literary criteria. As Philip Pullman says: ‘let’s be clear what we are arguing about’.
The judging of children’s books is of course complicated by the fact that such books are mediated to children by adults. An understanding of the issues involved in such gatekeeping is a must for a judging panel and librarians are better qualified than some who sit on them to weigh up the various considerations. Popularity is not, however, a literary or an artistic criterion. A novel of scope and ambition may not be ‘hugely popular’ as Pullman puts it, but it may be a work of literary merit that will reward rereading and be read, remembered and enjoyed in years to come.
If the Carnegie and Greenaway are ‘literary’ prizes (a shorthand way of describing the Greenaway, I know), the impact of the YLG’s choices both on the current state of the ‘world of children’s books’ and on the careers of the winners is surely intrinsic to the raison d’être of the awards and should form part of the panel’s discussions. (To put an off the boil Cormier on the Carnegie shortlist, as happened this year, seems even stranger than shortlisting him in the first place.)
To reiterate what I actually said in my editorial in BfK 117 on the Carnegie/Greenaway being awarded to previous winners: I proposed that their books should be ineligible for, say, ten years after a win and that it should then be ‘stringently determined whether the work can be seen to have grown in some way or taken new directions’. That would have ruled out Pumpkin Pie , for example, and afforded an opportunity for one of the many fine illustrators as yet unrecognised by the Greenaway to be thus honoured. Ed.