More Records for Harry IV
J K Rowling’s recently published Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Bloomsbury) had a record number of copies printed for its first run – 2.25 million. Bloomsbury has also become the first publisher to exceed the general retail market shares of Penguin, HarperCollins and Random House on the publication of Goblet of Fire.
The National Reading Campaign is focusing attention on projects targeted at reluctant male readers of all ages, linked particularly with sport and other leisure interests. The idea is to find ways of promoting positive role models. Details from Genevieve Clarke, National Literacy Trust, Swire House, 59 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AJ (tel: 020 7828 2435).
Newcastle Millennium Project
The Centre for the Children’s Book is collaborating with the Dodgy Clutch Theatre Company on a year long millennium project based in and around Newcastle upon Tyne. Funded by Seamus Heaney, the project will celebrate and reinstate folktales by focusing on their retelling through time and the art of storytelling – oral and written. The Centre for the Children’s Book has also received a Year of the Artist Grant which is funding the creation of a book made from recycled materials by a local artist and printmaker. Further information from Elizabeth Hammill or Caroline Paul at The Centre for the Children’s Book (tel: 0191 240 3811, fax: 0191 274 7595).
Orion Children’s Books in substantial rights sale
Fiona Kennedy of Orion Children’s Books has sold the US rights to Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Arthurian trilogy to Scholastic, the US publisher of Harry Potter, for a significant six figure sum. Scholastic is positioning The Seeing Stone, the first in the trilogy, as their key children’s fiction title for 2001.
Right to Read
Young people in care often do not have access to books, or the opportunity to share books with adults. Their education can be disrupted by moving placement, and this can seriously affect their achievements. Right to Read is working in partnership with five local authorities; Blackburn with Darwen, Islington, Kirklees, St Helens and Somerset to raise awareness of the vital role carers can play. Right to Read is a joint initiative between The Who Cares? Trust, the National Literacy Association and The Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Further information from Jane Pickerden or Frances Aston (tel: 020 7251 3117, fax: 020 7251 3123).
Reading Ahead!, the 10th annual Dorset Teaching Reading Conference will take place on Saturday 11 November at Bovington Middle School, Wareham, Dorset. Speakers include Martin Coles, Gillian Cross and Jeremy Strong. Details from Philip Browne, The Dorset School Effectiveness Centre, Bovington Middle School, Bovington, Wareham BH20 6NU (tel: 01929 405059; email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Best of Carnegie/The Best of Kate Greenaway are two full colour leaflets which fold out into an attractive A2 size poster. They feature the book jackets and other details of the books nominated for these two prestigious awards. Sold in multiples of 50 for £5 (£6 for non-LA members) from The Norfolk Children’s Book Centre (tel: 01263 761402; email: email@example.com).
100 Best Books 2000 is an annotated list of recommended paperbacks published in 1999 for children from babies to teenagers at £3.00. Materials (posters, bookmarks, stickers) for National Children’s Book Week 2000 (2-8 October) can also be ordered. Details from Book Trust, 45 East Hill, London SW18 2QZ.
Beginning with Books, Scottish Book Trust’s lively pamphlet aimed at helping parents and other carers share books with their children, is now also available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Gaelic, Hindi, Punjabi, Scots, Urdu and Welsh. Prices and details from Scottish Book Trust, 137 Dundee Street, Edinburgh EH11 1BG.
The Carnegie Medal
This year’s medal has been won by Aidan Chambers’ Postcards from No Man’s Land (The Bodley Head). The judges described it as ‘exceptional – a book that poses crucial questions and doesn’t patronise by giving easy answers.’ David Almond’s Kit’s Wilderness (Hodder) and Jacqueline Wilson’s The Illustrated Mum (Yearling) were highly commended and Jenny Nimmo’s The Rinaldi Ring (Mammoth) was commended.
The Kate Greenaway Medal
This year’s medal has been won by Helen Oxenbury’s new illustrated version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Walker). The judges described it as ‘both contemporary and accessible. What she has done is create a new Alice for a new millennium.’ Oxenbury also received the £5,000 Colin Mears Award which she donated to the library agency Launchpad. Lauren Child’s Clarice Bean, That’s Me! (Orchard) and Chris Riddell’s Castle Diary (Walker) were highly commended and Kevin Hawkes’ Weslandia (Walker) was commended.
The Keith Barker Millennium Children’s Book Awards
C S Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was named Children’s Book of the Century in this newly established award to commemorate librarian and children’s book specialist Keith Barker.
Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year Award 2000
This award, judged by 350 school students in Lancashire High schools, has been won by Tim Bowler’s Shadows (OUP).
Many congratulations to J K Rowling who has received the OBE for services to children’s literature in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Ron Heapy of Oxford University Press is to be a part-time consultant at OUP following his retirement.
Philippa Dickinson, publisher of Transworld Children’s Books and chair of the Publishers Association, has been made Chair of Random House Children’s Books.
Christina Patterson has been appointed director of the Poetry Society. She previously ran the Poetry Places scheme for the Poetry Society and has worked as a literary consultant and journalist.
Rob Jones has been appointed to the post of Young People’s Services for the Isle of Wight with responsibility for children’s and schools’ services, starting in September. For the last few years, he has been the Librarian and ICT Manager at Carisbrooke High School and has had a high profile nationally on many issues to do with ICT. He will continue to be the Moderator for the RM/OU Learning Schools Program, looking after the Conference and Website for school librarians who are involved with that particular NOF-funded ICT training provider.
Karen Bedwell, who has been Marketing Manager at The Library Association for the last five years, will be starting a new job at the London School of Economics in October. This is a newly created post of Communications Manager at the British Library of Political and Economic Science at LSE. At The Library Association, Karen was closely involved with the promotion of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals.
Chris Firth has been awarded an Arts Council Writer’s Award for Literature for Young People. He was presented with a cheque for £7,000 by Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion.
Alison Braithwaite has been appointed Head of Marketing at Walker Books. She was previously at Egmont Children’s Books.
Contributors: BfK team, Anne Marley. Submissions welcome.
In BfK No.122 in the article ‘Books with a Mathematical Focus’ we gave the wrong publishing details for Prue Theobalds’ Ten Tired Teddies. It is published by Uplands Books at £3.99 (ISBN 0 9512246 4 6).
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
But is it literature? cont.
Jean Ure ( BfK No.123, Letters) is right about the changes in the shortlists for children’s book awards, but I think she muddies the water by dragging in the idea of ‘literature’. If we assume that the adult book system and the children’s book system have much in common then we are making a lot of difficulties for ourselves.
Harry Potter, she declares confidently, is not literature – fun, popular, well-crafted, but not literature. But just let’s look at the Whitbread in those terms: two books of fantasy competing. One is long, complex, subtle, highly allusive to past genres, deeply political, reflecting the preoccupations of contemporary culture (surveillance, levels of gaming), while absorbing elemental motivations – and not flinching from disturbing emotions. It is also highly imaginative, intricate, and demonstrably absorbing. The other is a slight, thin, crude fantasy with a plot that no publisher would glance at – and so unoriginal that hundreds of thousands of university students (such as myself) have already translated it. So, which wins?
There’s no point in arguing whether one is literature or one is better than the other. The decision was made religiously: that is in terms of faith and belief – not in terms of rational argument. It is not arguable.
Thus the real reason why Harry Potter didn’t get the Whitbread was that if it had, too many people would have had to think. And when Harry Potter doesn’t win the Carnegie this year – which, on past form at least, it won’t – I wonder if it will be for the same reason.
If we are looking for Jean Ure’s ‘literature’, then the Carnegie should go to (logically, without argument) to Aidan Chambers, with David Almond as runner up. They represent a certain kind of book. If Chambers won, we would be sending the message to the outside world – ‘You lot might think that Harry Potter is children’s books: here is something else, something very interesting, which can be valued as well.’ Which is a pretty good message, in many ways.
But, as Jean pointed out, there has been a change in shortlists, and that change reflects the huge change in the children’s novel over the last thirty years. What does Jacqueline Wilson have in common with Philippa Pearce? They occupy different worlds, different ways of seeing the world, different modes of reading, different relations with the media. Giving Wilson the medal would acknowledge this change: it would say – we have our own, different, absolutely and necessarily different standards, and we’re prepared to stick by them.
The fact that these books appear on the shortlists for the ‘posh’ medals seems to me to be totally positive – if it’s done for positive reasons. But we mustn’t look sideways: giving the Carnegie to Wilson would not be the equivalent of giving the Booker to Bridget Jones’s Diary: we would not be apparently dumbing down or giving in to the popular. Sometimes it looks like it, of course: if BfK readers, back in November 1999 (BfK No.119) voted Dahl as ‘outstanding 20th century children’s writer’, why didn’t TLS readers vote Geoffrey Archer as ‘outstanding 20th century adult writer’. They seem to be about as equivalent as you can get, in writing terms. But the situation is much more complicated.
The advantage of giving Rowling the Carnegie might be that we can get it both ways: a book that speaks to children over the heads of adults, and that can, if we really, really have to, sustain some ‘literature-speak’. We should, anyway be delighted at one of the implications of Harry’s success: like Dahl, Rowling is pretty tough on all those couch potato TV-watchers who are obviously buying the books. Giving TV to children is something that adults do to children – as Dahl said, ‘A child can’t spoil herself, you know.’ Maybe this is more child-power at work, and we should celebrate it, and forget about that ghost – somebody else’s idea of literature.
Professor Peter Hunt
The answer to Jean Ure’s anguished query as to why books that cannot even pretend to be literature are turning up so frequently now on even the prestigious prize short-lists is right there in Books for Keeps’ own editor’s article only a page earlier.
‘Almond won the Carnegie last year for Skellig. Had he not, Kit’s Wilderness would be vying for my vote for this year’s Medal.’ And, a paragraph later: ‘Thank goodness only one book on this year’s Greenaway shortlist is from a previous winner.’
What does this tell us? That it is now something other than the book that’s being judged. And once you start down that path, you might as well give up bothering writing better novels and just try and live long enough to get your turn.
The latest Harry Potter book was actively displayed in all our local bookshops, but nowhere could I see a copy of the Carnegie Medal winner, Postcards from No Man’s Land. Even W H Smith and Waterstones had omitted Aidan Chambers’ work. Waterstones checked for me which revealed it was not in stock and would have to be specially ordered.
Investigation at my library revealed that in the whole of Trafford, only two copies of Postcards from No Man’s Land were available, suggesting that in Trafford at least, this book was not expected to be in demand.
I wonder who chose the thirteen librarians to be the final arbiters of the Carnegie award, and what effort was made to find the reaction of potential readers. For me, as someone interested in writing for children, the theme of the winning book is disturbing. I understand it is involved with sexually explicit matters, euthanasia, violence, cancer and more doom and gloom.
Why is it that the Harry Potter books, criticised for their lack of a literary style (whatever that is), are so successful? Why have children been sleeping out in order to be first in the queue when the bookstores opened their doors? Is it because J K Rowling is actually writing a story that children – and adults – want to read?
Aidan Chambers is reported as saying that his books have not been good sellers, and I wonder why his publishers continue to print stories that obviously have a limited appeal. Recently I tried out a story on many local primary schools to get a reaction before trying to find a publisher, and think that this avenue is being ignored by both writers and publishers. It seems to me that children are being fed a diet of literature that ‘those in the know’ have decided they need, rather that finding out what children actually want to read.
In the end, I suggest, those same readers will vote with their pockets, and the pleasure in some quarters that has seen the modest Miss Rowling defeated in this recent award will not dampen the enthusiasm of her readers when Harry 5 is published.
Letters may be shortened for space reasons.