No Longer Sidelined…
Further evidence that children’s fiction is now considered to be on a par with fiction for adults and that both children and adults consider themselves readers comes from the top ten titles voted for by the public in the BBC’s Big Read. The search for ‘the nation’s best-loved novel’ put Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ in third place (after Lord of the Rings (yawn) and Pride and Prejudice) and J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in fifth place. A A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh came in at no. 7 and C S Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at no. 9.
Congratulations to Valerie Coghlan and Siobhán Parkinson (joint editors of Inis; Valerie is also a BfK reviewer) who have been appointed editors of IBBY’s quarterly journal, Bookbird. Between them they read English, Irish, French, German and Danish fluently and can work in Spanish, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish.
Quentin Blake writes…
The American illustrator William Steig has died at the age of 95. Like a number of other children’s book illustrators he began his professional life working for magazines, most notably for The New Yorker. Many of his drawings were of the working class in the Bronx, where the Steig family lived, and of the dreams and idiosyncracies of the Small Fry who were their children. Later The New Yorker enabled him, as it had Saul Steinberg, to leave jokes and explore a poetic fantasy world of clowns and moons and portly divas. It wasn’t until the age of 60 that Steig turned his attention to children’s books and, though in general this might seem like leaving things a bit late, he had before him a whole career of 35 years of writing and drawing, working continuously up to the time of his death. Steig’s books might be as different as Dr de Soto and Shrek but they were all distinctive in words and pictures. If the stories were of a traditional kind that encompassed magic and folktale, nevertheless he treated them in ways that were unpredictable and unlike that of any other writer. With undue modesty he described himself as ‘not really an illustrator’ but the understated quality of his drawing had its own authority, and it will be a long time before the dry humour of Steig’s work loses its savour. I am sure that his fellow illustrators will be well to the fore amongst those to salute the passing of a distinguished artist.
The author and creator of the highly popular Flat Stanley series died in New York City at the age of 77. Born and raised in New York, Brown seemed committed early to a theatrical career. An actor in his teens, he went on to Hollywood to become an associate of independent producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr, and later a story consultant for Pennebaker Productions. Brown then moved back to New York, where he served on the editorial staffs of The New Yorker, Life, The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire. His own stories were published in these and other magazines. In 1964, Brown created the classic children’s book Flat Stanley, which was inspired by a chance bedtime conversation with his sons J.C. and Tony.
Encouraged to write both by her father (the poet Conrad Aiken) and her stepfather (the novelist Martin Armstrong), Joan Aiken soon abandoned an office job to become a full-time writer. She began by writing for children’s radio and a story for Jackanory, Arabel’s Raven, spawned a popular series about sensible Arabel and her unpredictable raven. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, a dramatic ‘historical’ adventure, was the first Aiken novel set in an atmospheric invented past full of quirky characters. Other titles followed as well as her acclaimed short stories, poetry and plays.
Salford Children’s Book Award
Georgia Byng’s Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism is the winner of the inaugural Salford Children’s Book Award, chosen by young readers from Salford schools.
The Whitbread Awards
The Whitbread Book of the Year has been won by Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Cape/David Fickling) which also won the Whitbread Novel Award. This title had previously been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The Whitbread Children’s Book Award was won by David Almond’s The Fire-Eaters (Hodder).
The V & A Illustration Awards 2003
The overall winner of The V & A Illustration Awards is Nick Maland for You’ve Got Dragons by Kathryn Cave (Hodder). The 2nd Prize was won by Claudio Muñoz for Nightwalk by Jill Newsome (Andersen). Simon Bartram was Commended for The Man on the Moon (Templar). The awards were judged by Emma Chichester Clark, Nigel Suckling and Ingram Pinn.
Blue Peter Book of the Year Award
The Blue Peter Book of the Year Award has been won by Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines (Scholastic) which also won ‘The Book I Couldn’t Put Down’ category. ‘The Best Book with Facts’ category was won by Richard Platt and Chris Riddell’s Pirate Diary (Walker) and the ‘Best Book to Read Aloud’ was won by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Room on the Broom (Macmillan).
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Only today did I get round to reading your editorial on A Little Piece of Ground in detail (BfK No 143) and I do hope I am in time to correct a misunderstanding.
It reads as though Jews for Justice for Palestinians were involved in the requests for A Little Piece of Ground to be withdrawn – I can assure you that no member of our organisation would ever suggest that a book be censored – the destruction of books has bad conations in Jewish history! The view expressed in The Guardian that I thought that Liz Laird’s book was biased, was a personal view but one, I suspect, Liz would agree with. Recently at the IBBY Conference Liz made a very spirited defence of the book, suggesting that by giving only one viewpoint in the book, it had an added impact and passion. Myself, I still regret that no background for the Israeli behaviour, appalling as it is, was given. As Michael Rosen says in his excellent review, that would have made more sense of the situations described. However, Liz has written a fiction and is not obligated to give a lesson in history or politics though I feel some passing mention of the brave and growing peace movement in Israel, would have given a glimmer of optimism to the book and some faint hope of a resolution.
Jews for Justice for Palestinians, 157 Fortis Green Road, London N10 3LH