Graphic novelists honoured
The front cover of The Royal Society of Literature’s annual magazine for 2006 will be devoted to two graphic novelists. Posy Simmonds and Raymond Briggs were both made Fellows of the Society this year, the first in their genre to receive the honour. They are designing a cover for the journal together, which will mark the arrival of graphic novels as a respected literary form.
Raymond Briggs commented: ‘On the continent, graphic novels have been as accepted as films or books for many years, but England has had a snobby attitude towards them. They’ve always been seen as something just for children. When my Father Christmas was published in 1973, many people didn’t consider a strip cartoon to be a real book at all.’
World Book Day 2006
World Book Day will be Thursday 2 March. £1 World Book Day Book Tokens will be given out to every school child at schools across the country, thanks to National Book Tokens, principal sponsor of World Book Day 2006, and to participating booksellers who redeem the tokens at their own expense. Pre-school organisations will also receive £1 World Book Day Book Tokens. Six specially produced World Book Day £1 books for six different age ranges by leading children’s authors – over a million in print – can be exchanged for the £1 World Book Day Book Token. Schools and pre-school organisations should register on www.worldbookday.com to receive £1 World Book Day Book Tokens (while stocks last) and for information about local events.
The Blue Peter Book Award 2005
Michael Morpurgo has won the 2005 Blue Peter Book Award for Private Peaceful (HarperCollins). The book won both the ‘Book I Couldn’t Put Down’ category and the overall prize. ‘The Best Book with Facts’ category was won by Explorers Wanted! At the North Pole by Simon Chapman (Egmont) and ‘The Best Illustrated Book to Read Aloud’ category was won by The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler (Macmillan).
New Author Prize 2005
Debbie Thomas has won Little Tiger Press’s 2005 Search for a Story New Author Prize with her story, Noah’s Ocean Commotion .
Alan Durant, author of over 50 books, is running a residential writers’ course in northern France next April (2006). The course on writing for children of all ages will offer the opportunity to develop techniques and share ideas, during one-to-one tutorials and group workshops, with plenty of time for writing in a relaxed holiday atmosphere and lovely rural setting. The course runs from 7-12 April 2006. Cost £375 to cover fees, accommodation and all meals. For further details, email email@example.com or phone 07944 374734 or visit www.alandurant.co.uk
The exhibition, ‘Quentin Blake et les Demoiselles des Bords de Seine’ , presents Blake’s selection of works by famous and lesser-known artists, all from the collection at the Petit Palais in Paris, exploring the mystery, image and reality of Parisian women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris until 12 February 2006. Tél:+33 1 44 51 19 31 ; Metro: Champs-Elysées Clemenceau. Frances Lincoln are publishing a book to accompany the exhibition.
10 December 1938 – 14 November 2005
Julia Eccleshare writes…
As fiction editor at first Methuen and later Egmont, Miriam Hodgson was one of the most successful and best-loved children’s books editors of the past twenty years. She believed strongly in the value of an editor although she was always extremely modest about her own part in developing her authors and their books. Miriam’s input was both personal and professional: her infectious humour and her natural warmth as well as her perceptive editorial hand lay behind many of the prize-winning books of the last two decades. Jamila Gavin, Michelle Magorian, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo and Jenny Nimmo are just some of the authors whom Miriam coaxed and inspired during her career.
Miriam believed that an editor’s relationship with an author was a long one: there was no one book deal in Miriam’s eyes. She was always encouraging, often writing ‘lovely’ in the margin during a first reading. Authors whose work was guided by her felt that she allowed their voices to ‘sing’ better than they had ever dreamed they could. Above all, she understood their fledgling characters and gave them credible substance. She was always optimistic about and ambitious for children’s books and she knew both how a book could be made better and how to get her authors to do it.
Miriam officially retired in 1999 though she was still editing both formally and informally until she died. She won the Eleanor Farjeon Award in 2003 for her distinguished contribution to children’s books. She is survived by her husband Julian Hodgson and her daughter Elinor.
1934 – 2005
Aidan Chambers writes…
If, as is often said, good editors are neither seen nor heard in public or on the page, Delia Huddy was one of the best. More importantly, and a greater sign of a good editor, her aim was always to help the writer produce the book s/he wanted to write rather than the book Delia would have written. For she was herself a fine writer whose work as an editor prevented her from achieving all she could have done. But because she understood the writer’s needs, especially at difficult times, she knew how to encourage, sustain and be an optimistic support through all the process of writing and publication.
Selfless and without a hint of egotism, Delia rarely talked about herself. Born in 1934 in Leicester, her father a teacher who stimulated her love of literature, she gained an honours degree in English at Kings College, London. She began in publishing as one of ‘Grace’s Girls’, the American Grace Hogarth, who founded Constable Young Books, which eventually became Penguin’s Kestrel Books. After marriage and three children, working freelance from home till her two daughters and son were well into school, she joined Julia MacRae at Hamish Hamilton, and went with her when Julia MacRae Books was founded in 1979. After JMB moved to Random House, Delia edited across the RH imprints, looking after established authors, like Raymond Briggs and Joan Aiken, and nurturing new writers, among them Jonathan Stroud, who became successful in her safe hands.
Delia was one of the last of the well-trained humanist editors who energised British children’s books in the 1960s. Her unexpected death was a deep personal and professional sadness to so many that the church was full for her funeral in August at St James’s, Piccadilly. To me she was above all a perfect friend.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
I was delighted to see Jeff Hynds’ article ( BfK No. 154) in praise of using picture books to encourage children to read, rather than first using ‘synthetic phonics’ (which the Government’s DfES may take up). But I was dismayed at one of the samples chosen, Our Cat Henry Comes to the Swings :
Text reads: ‘…we meet the Labrador. Big eyes. Big paws.’
Picture shows: a dog with tiny eyes and small paws.
Very confusing for a child learning to read. Don’t let the DfES see it!
Eileen Browne (author/illustrator), 13 Frensham Way, Pewsey, Wilts SN9 5HA
Jeff Hynds writes… I was very pleased to have Eileen Browne’s supportive comments on my article. However, I was puzzled to read her criticism of one of the samples chosen. As far as I can see, the dog’s eyes and paws in the illustration are appreciably bigger than the cat’s. At least they would seem so to the cat, which is the point of this little episode. The words are, in a sense, voicing the cat’s inner alarm, as well as preparing the way for the play on words that follows. I don’t think any child would be ‘confused’ by the comparative sizes, but might, hopefully, find the play on words a bit of a poser!
Giving Mayne to children
Michele Elliott’s entire professional life has focused on abused children, so it is perhaps understandable that she chooses to take the line she does about William Mayne’s work. But the idea floated by Peter Hunt ( BfK No. 155) that there might be an intrinsic ethical issue in giving his books to children is deeply worrying.
A book stands by itself, and only its actual content can damage a child. To believe anything else is as irrational as believing in magic. If we see nothing pernicious in it, it should stay on the shelves, regardless of the qualities of its author.
By the same token, if we fear child readers can’t handle the content of, say, A History of Vile Tortures , we shouldn’t let the fact that the author is (so far as we know) a saint, lead us to hand it over anyway.
Re. last month’s Letter: the good professor is talking nonsense. Come now, Peter, there is no logic in your anxieties! A book, whether for child or adult, is solely words on a page combined with the effect of those words on a reader: no work of art changes from one moment to the next because of some revelation about its creator’s personal tastes or shopping habits, morals or crimes – unless the purpose of the work was to advocate and impose the like on its audience.
In what conceivable way could our children be affected by Mayne’s books differently from the children of last year or 20 years ago? Mayne’s fiction doesn’t proselytise, it’s not out to send any messages, and what’s more, his books, I would say, are totally asexual: the ‘innocence’ of his young readers is in no danger unless some interfering, slightly hysterical adult corrupts it. Do we deprive children of the pleasures of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Peter Pan because some of their elders now harbour suspicions about the Rev. Dodgson or Barrie? Do you yourself insist on knowing all about a writer before you risk an opinion of their work? That would knock out, say for a start, Homer – and goodness knows what nasty habits those Greeks and Romans had. Are you really ‘in your books’? Do we know if we’d have liked Shakespeare if we’d met him? Does it matter?
Reffley Farmhouse, Reffley Lane, King’s Lynn PE30 3EH
The publication date of Sue Ellis’s article ‘Phonics is just the icing on the cake’ ( Times Educational Supplement ) referred to on p.3 of BfK No. 155 is 11.10.05.