LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Issues with reviews
I am sorry that your reviewer, Jill Bennett, had her ‘credulity stretched to breaking point’ after reading Sam Stars at Shakespeare’s Globe (BfK No. 161).
The reader is told quite clearly at the beginning of the book that Shakespeare takes on Sam because Sam reminds him of his own son, Hamnet, who had recently died. He uses this death to teach Sam how to show emotion for his role as Juliet. My aim is to show Shakespeare as a human being as well as a playwright, not to ‘impart an Elizabethan history lesson’.
I urge Jill Bennett to read the book again with this in mind and try to see the emotion behind the man.
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire
I took issue with Susan Goodsall’s review ( BfK No 161) of a new series of books published by Bloomsbury for the 8-10 age group. The first book about Araminta Spook entitled, My Haunted House, and the second book, The Sword in the Grotto.
I have read both these books to girls and they were greatly enjoyed time and time again. Susan Goodsall mentions in her review the books are unlikely to attract much interest from boys. My question would be, why should they? There is no reason any book has to be unisex. She also has problems with the first person narrative. As writer Jacqueline Wilson has proved time and again, young girl readers love books written in the first person narrative; this criticism is also unfair.
It appears Susan Goodsall works for children’s websites; she would be advised to read more children’s books for this age range for girls before she earns the right to review.
Claire Gray Ronan
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire
Eleanor Farjeon Award
Congratulations to Wendy Cooling who is the winner of this year’s prestigious Eleanor Farjeon Award which recognises a lifetime of achievement in children’s books. Cooling has been a teacher, the Head of Children’s Book Foundation and was integral in the development of the Bookstart programme. She is now a well-known freelance children’s book consultant. The Unicorn Theatre, Random House Children’s Books Managing Director Philippa Dickinson and illustrator Brian Wildsmith were also on this year’s shortlist.
Jacqueline Wilson’s autobiography, Jacky Daydream (Doubleday) will be published in March. Unusually, it is aimed at younger readers. It covers her life up to the age of 12 and describes growing up in a family of limited means where parents were often squabbling – themes that often crop up in her fiction. It also traces the genesis of her desire to be a writer. At the end of each chapter the reader is asked how a theme from that chapter has been developed in one of Wilson’s novels.
Hilda van Stockum
Kate Paice writes…
Hilda van Stockum, internationally noted author and illustrator of such children’s classics as The Mitchells , The Winged Watchman and A Day on Skates , for which she took Newbery honors, died at 98 on All Saints Day, 1 November, in Berkhamsted, UK, after a stroke.
Van Stockum was known for her warm and vivid, but realistic depictions of family life, often in the face of difficulty or danger. Her most famous book, The Winged Watchman (1962), tells the story of two young boys living in a windmill who help the Dutch resistance during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.
In addition to writing and illustrating her own books, van Stockum translated and illustrated editions of many other authors, including editions of Afke’s Ten, Hans Brinker, Little Women and Little Men, and Willow Brook Farm. She was a charter member of the Children’s Book Guild and was the only person to have served as its president for two consecutive terms.
While van Stockum was best known as a writer, she was also a painter of some note, showing frequently in galleries in Dublin, Geneva, Ottawa, and Washington, DC. She was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Hibernian Academy and her work appears in major collections of 20th-century Irish artists. In 1993 her still life, ‘Pears in a Copper Pot’, was chosen to appear on an Irish postage stamp as part of Ireland’s Europa series honoring contemporary art.
Van Stockum’s books, which are set in Holland, Ireland, Canada, Kenya, and the United States, were published by Harper & Brothers, Viking, and Farrar Straus. Many of van Stockum’s works remain in print by Bethlehem Books and have a strong following among home-schoolers in the US.
18 August 1949 – 17 November 2006
Gilly Vincent writes…
My first task as a literary agent was to help pack mugs (hand mapped by Maggie with her Redan Street office prominent). The mugs were a tenth anniversary gift for clients and publishers – ‘so much more useful than a desk set’, she said. She had an instinct for being right.
Maggie Noach was arguably one of the best literary agents for writers for young people; her clients included David Almond and Anthony Horowitz, both of whose enormous talents she immediately recognized. She chose her clients deftly and her enthusiasm and determination on behalf of her writers earned her their devotion and publishers’ admiration.
Maggie’s world was chaotic, idiosyncratic, untidy. My organized neatness fought a battle against yards of faxes abandoned on the office floor, a mildly crazed dog and a demanding toddler. I learnt to conduct vital dollar telephone conversations while assisting a dolls’ tea party – the work experience was excellent. Like her family, friends, clients, publishers and her brilliant associate, Jill Hughes, I became part of Maggie’s world.
I spoke to Maggie only three days before her death; a conversation filled with warmth and humour. She died unexpectedly and now she is gone leaving those of us who were part of her world bereft.