THE 1990 ELEANOR FARJEON AWARD
given by the Children’s Book Circle and sponsored by Books for Children goes to
The Farjeon, as it is often affectionately called, is, for my money, the Award of the year because it almost always goes to a single individual: someone who has changed our perceptions about children’s books and made a unique contribution. It was therefore a delight to hear that Jill Bennett was this year’s recipient.
She is probably best known for her Learning to Read with Picture Books (Thimble Press, 0 903355 28 0, £3.00) first published in 1979, which quickly became an inspirational source for teachers and parents, encouraging them to use the picture book to help beginning readers on their first steps to literacy. In her down-to-earth, wholly practical manner, Jill has gently persuaded, and continues to persuade, countless numbers to incorporate real books of the highest quality into their reading strategies with confidence and security. She has both widened our understanding of the notion that learning to read can be achieved with enormous pleasure and reward, and increased our awareness of the huge potential of good picture books.
I first met Jill in the early seventies when she was a not so long established, class teacher at Sparrow Farm Infant School in Hounslow ‘persuading’ Penguin to part with some Picture Puffins for use with her class. Even the Great Bird couldn’t resist and hadn’t the faintest idea to what good use she was putting them, nor how beneficial it would eventually be to the sales of its Picture offspring. The next indelible memory of Jill is in the late summer of 1975 at a packed meeting called by Anne Wood (another Farjeon winner) and NATE, and attended by a galaxy of publishers, booksellers, librarians and others trying to further the cause of the school bookshop movement. With several other willing hands that evening, she helped directly in the birth of the School Bookshop Association and went on to become one of its most influential Directors for over twelve years.
Besides being a dedicated class teacher and deputy head, Jill has continued to write other Guides, teachers notes, articles on various aspects of reading and books, and a number of poetry anthologies and story collections. She was the Children’s Literary Editor of Child Education for ten years, and acts in an advisory capacity to several children’s publishers, conference organisers and the BBC.
Last and best of all, naturally, Jill has reviewed and regularly contributed from the beginning to that well-known magazine you are reading this very moment. Our congratulations.
THE CARNEGIE MEDAL
Another triumph for Anne Fine – Goggle-eyes (Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 12617 7, £7.99) has won this year’s Carnegie Medal awarded by the Library Association for 1990’s ‘outstanding work of fiction’.
Liz Wilson, Chairperson of YLG, writes ‘Goggle-eyes was a clear winner from the very beginning of the selection panel’s meetings. Kitty and Helen, sitting in the lost property cupboard, obviously reminded everyone of themselves at some point in the growing-up process. This had to be the book – we all arrived prepared to debate, but it became celebration.’ See BfK 62 (May 1990), page 31, for Stephanie Nettell’s account of Goggle-eyes, which also won this year’s Guardian Award.
Bill’s New Frock, Anne Fine, Methuen, 0 416 12152 7, £5.95; 0 7497 0305 9, £ 1.99 pbk
The Charlie Barber Treatment, Carole Lloyd, Julia MacRae, 0 86203 390 X, £8.95
The Trial of Anna Colman, Vivien Alcock, Methuen, 0 416 13952 3, £7.95
The Kate Greenaway Award
That Michael Foreman’s War Boy (Pavilion, 1 85145 353 9, £9.99) won the Library Association’s top prize for illustration will also come as no surprise to BfK readers. See BfK 60 (January 1990), pages 3 and 16-17, for our salute to this outstanding work of non-fiction. `This is a scrapbook with humour and atmosphere,’ reports Liz Wilson, ‘often depicting the “normality” of wartime. The thoughtful presentation and arrangement used a variety of techniques made into a harmonious whole, including water-colour landscapes, diagrams and painted reproductions of photographs. An inspired hook, one to savour over the years.’
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (by Michael Rosen), Helen Oxenbury, Walker, 0 7445 1135 6, £9.95
Captain Teachum’s Buried Treasure (by Peter Carter), Korky Paul, Oxford, 0 19 279869 3, £5.95
Easter, Jan Pienkowski, Heinemann, 0 434 95659 7, £6.95
St George and the Dragon (retold by Geraldine McCaughrean), Nicki Palin, Oxford, 019 279793 X, £5.95
The Children’s Book Award
Robert Swindells’ novel Room 13 (Doubleday, 0 385 26967 6, £7.95) about an eerie school trip to Whitby has won the Children’s Book Award organised by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups. No fewer than 7,500 children from all over Britain were the actual testers – the winning book emerging from 534 titles submitted by publishers. A former teacher, Robert Swindells becomes the second author to win the Award twice (the other is Roald Dahl) and received the handsome trophy, a silver-and-wood model of an oak tree, valued at £7,000.
The runners-up were:
Blitzcat, Robert Westall, Macmillan, 0 333 47499 6, £3.99
The Blue Balloon, Mick Inkpen, Hodder and Stoughton, (l 340 50125 1, £5.95
Darkling, K M Peyton, Doubleday, 0 385 26963 3, £7.95
Dodos Are Forever, Dick King-Smith, Viking Kestrel, 0 670 826812, £6.99
Tug of War, Joan Lingard, Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 12816 1, £8.50
Lucy M. Boston
Born 10th December 1892; died 25th May 1990
Lucy Boston’s actual address was The Manor, Hemingford Grey, Huntingdon, said to be the oldest continuously inhabited dwelling in the country. Its name in her books was Green Knowe. The six novels she wrote about the house she bought in 1935 made her home famous a place so steeped in the past readers can never tell if it’s the long dead children who are the ghosts or the youngsters who encounter them. In 1961 A Stranger at Green Knowe, the fourth in the series, won the Carnegie Medal. It tells of Ping, a Chinese boy, who befriends an escaped gorilla – offering a refuge at Green Knowe that ends in death rather than the recapture neither can bear to contemplate. The book’s `green” theme certainly carries an extra resonance today though some would argue that the lack of a magical element makes it untypical of the series as a whole.
Lucy Boston came late to authorship following boarding-school, finishing school, university and a number of years abroad before her return to England, and purchase of The Manor, after her marriage was dissolved. She wrote’ two adult novels, a play and two volumes of autobiography as well as a number of books for younger children. But with her very first book – The Children of Green Knowe (1955) – she found a subject, characters and setting that suited her perfectly. `So you’ve come back,’ says Mrs Oldknow to her great grandson Tolly when they meet for the first time at green Knowe. `I wondered whose face it would be of all the faces that have lived in this house. They always come back.’ So they do – not least in The Stones of Green Knowe (1976) which brings together children from various centuries in a haunting climactic scene. `All my water,’ Lucy Boston once said, `is drawn from one well … I am obsessed by my house.’ Her obsession overcame difficulties with both plots and characterisation, as the subtlety and power with which she depicted the past-in-the-present brought a new seriousness and honesty to children’s books. Hers, quite simply, are the gentlest ghost stories ever written.
The Great Book Invasion
William the Conqueror in 1066 – East Sussex Library Service in 1990
A series of day events for families aimed at bringing books alive and making reading fun. The Great Book Invasion takes place on five Wednesdays during the Summer holidays at a different castle each week.
Authors provisionally expected are:
Hastings – Jane Hissey, Peter Eldin and Colin West
Bodiam – Authors/illustrators from the `Firefly’ list, Wild Rumpus Theatre Group
Pevensey – John Ryan and other Puffin authors
Lewes – Colin West and authors/ illustrators from the Walker Books list
Hove – Gillian Clements, Simon James
Supporting activities include a bouncing castle, the chance to meet favourite book characters from Peter Rabbit to The BFG, T-shirts and a 20-page fun book to be available from the beginning of July.
For further information, contact Dina Thorpe or Marion Goldsmith on 0273 481530 or 481814.
THE SCIENCE BOOK PRIZES 1990
Professor Charles Taylor, chairperson of a jury which included Dr Mary Archer and Professor John Durant of Imperial College, announced the 1990 Awards at the Science Museum on 16th May:
In the general category:
The Emperor’s New Mind by Roger Penrose, Oxford University Press, 0 19 851973 7, £20.00
In the under-14 age group:
The Starting Point Science series –
What Makes a Flower Grow?, 0 7460 0271 8 hbk; 0 7460 0275 0 pbk
What Makes It Rain?, 0 7460 0270 X hbk; 0 7460 0274 2 pbk
What’s Under the Ground?, 0 7460 0272 6 hbk; 0 7460 0357 9 pbk
Where Does Electricity Come From?, 0 7460 0273 4 hbk; 0 7460 0358 7 pbk
All by Susan Mayes and published by Usborne, hardbacks £2.95 each, paperbacks £1.75 each
The discretionary prize to the under-8 age group:
The Giant Book of Space by Ian Ridpath, Hamlyn, 0 600 55525 9, £10.95
Roger Penrose and Susan Mayes were each presented with a certificate and cheque for £1000 and Ian Ridpath a certificate and cheque for £500. Professor Taylor said of the winning books: `The Emperor’s New Mind is an elegant and distinguished work that brings a difficult subject to a wider audience… Susan Mayes’ Starting Point Science series was a clear favourite of the jury for the under-14 prize and for its delightful illustrations and simplicity of text.’
And now the Bad News
Did you see the reports, last month, that total spending on books and equipment for 5-11 year-olds now runs individually to less than the weekly cost of three Mars bars? What, then, are the statistics for the school system as a whole? The following paragraph comes from a recent press release by The Publisher’s Association. We’d like to have offered our own gloss but words fail even BfK when faced with facts like these:
School book sales in the United Kingdom fell by
£4 million in cash from £109.1 million to £105.1 million to the beginning of September 1989 as against the previous year. The number of books purchased fell by 2 million from 32.6 million to 30.6 million. On average, every class of 20 children lost six books. Throughout the 1980s, the number of books bought by British state schools has fallen by 35 percent.
Depressing, yes? Especially since, with LMS already upon us, it’s not hard to guess what the Official Alibi will be…
Kick Off for a Greener Planet
Tuesday 24th July 1990, 10.30 am to 4.00 pm
A fun day for children and adults is being organised by Hertfordshire Library Service at Watford Football Club. There will be stalls and talks by a wide range of environmental groups, a bookshop, theatre, puppet shows, craft activities and games. There will also be a tour of the ground and an opportunity to meet some of the football players.
For details, contact Catherine Blanshard on 0923 227937.