14th December 1920 – 23rd July 1992
She described herself as `of the minstrel kind’, the best possible phrase to sum up a writer whose imagination was equally at home in the Bronze Age, in Roman-occupied Britain or in the eighteenth century. It was her novels of the Roman Empire, though, that made her famous – Eagle of the Ninth (1954), The Silver Branch (1957) and The Lantern Bearers which won her the Carnegie Medal in 1959. In 1978, rather to her amusement it’s said, she also won The Other Award for Song for a Dark Queen with its formidable heroine Boudicca bent on her Holy War against the invader.
Rosemary Sutcliff’s own story, which she recounted with characteristic modesty and humour in Blue Remembered Hills (1982), is hardly less heroic than the tales she told. Aged two, the daughter of a serving Naval officer, she contracted the progressively wasting Still’s disease and spent most of her life in a wheelchair – which in no way prevented her from becoming both an accomplished painter of miniatures and an expert chronicler of battles lost and won. By common consent her best book, for adults as much as children, is The Mark of the Horse Lord (1965) about a Roman gladiator turned Northern tribal chief, but with so many superb narratives to choose from most readers will have a personal favourite of their own.
In BfK 64 (Sept 90) Margaret Meek wrote of her: `those who care for the company children keep when they read will see the relation between the events of now and the stories Rosemary Sutcliff writes to make heroic readers. The conflict of the light and the dark is the stuff of legends of all ages.’ Of the minstrel kind, indeed. CP
1992 SIGNAL POETRY AWARD to
Shades of Green, edited by Anne Harvey, published by Julia MacRae Books, 185681 031 3, £14.99 Gerard Benson, winner of last year’s award, writes: `On the face of it, an anthology on the colour and concept of “green” might seem opportunistic and run-of-the-mill in the current climate of opinion… but Anne Harvey’s commitment is to language itself and to the language of poetry in particular. She knows about children. She is widely and eclectically read, and has an excellent eye and ear for what is real and valid in poetry.’ For a full report on the 130 books of poetry which were considered, see Signal, May 1992, available from Thimble Press, Lockwood, Station Road, South Woodchester, Stroud, Glos GL5 5EQ; Tel: 0453 87 3716.
Guidelines for School Libraries
Now available from the Library Association are their long-awaited guidelines on the necessary level of provision to both individual school libraries and the school library services.
The context, purpose and function of learning resources are fully considered along with their development, management and exploitation.
Available at £12.50 from Library Association Publishing Ltd, 7 Ridgmount Street, London WC1E 7AE.
The Pan Macmillan School Library Award
One of the judges, Keith Barker, reports
What makes an outstanding school library? This was the question which vexed the minds of the panel for this biennial award as we pored over the 100-odd entries from all parts of the UK.
We were confronted by a variety of presentations – some immediately appealing and attractive – produced in a variety of formats. We didn’t necessarily go for the ones where huge amounts of money had been thrown at the library: indeed, a secondary school on the shortlist included this remark: `we may not be a smart, modern school – we’re short of space and resources – but we’re rich in enthusiasm’. It was sad that, although there were more entries in the secondary category, this was where enthusiasm seemed most lacking, as if the further up the age-range children go, the less fun there seems to be in reading.
There was no shortage of fun from the infant and primary categories – St Michael’s School in Belfast and Maerdy Infants’ School in an ex-mining district of Wales won our hearts amid fierce competition. So did the justly famous Linden Lodge School – winner of the special school category.
In the secondary category, it was difficult to decide between Bournville School in Birmingham with its sparkling, brand-new library and Kingstone School in Barnsley – the overall Winner of the Award. Since receiving an HMI report some years ago, which castigated its provision, this library has put in a tremendous amount of work to turn things around and achieve success. Both schools shared important elements – they had charismatic teacher/librarians and splendid relationships with the local school library services. And school library services are, in general, under great threat! Need I say more?
Children’s Book Week
3 – 10 October 1992 Susan Harvey reports:
In a major national initiative to increase interest in reading for pleasure, the Daily Telegraph has this year joined forces with the Children’s Book Foundation to back the biggest ever Children’s Book Week in schools, libraries and bookshops all over the country. This year’s theme of “20 Writers to Read in `92” offers John Agard, Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Bernard Ashley, Quentin Blake, Anthony Browne, Gillian Cross, Anne Fine, Michael Foreman, Colin and Jacqui Hawkins, Jane Hissey, Shirley Hughes, Mick Inkpen, Gene Kemp, Dick King-Smith, Jill Murphy, Jan Pienkowski, Terry Pratchett, Michael Rosen, Tony Ross and Martin Waddell. Over 20,000 primary schools and every library authority has been mailed with a poster and free Daily Telegraph Children’s Book Week Handbook packed with ideas and advice, together with order forms for the striking posters, bookmarks and stickers, designed this year by Tony Ross. Friday, 2nd October has been chosen as launch day, and an exciting opening event and day of activity is promised in Covent Garden Market, London, to focus press attention on children’s books and reading. The Daily Telegraph is issuing a special free supplement devoted to children’s books on that day.
Return of the Book Bus…
Two years ago BfK lamented the closure of the Greenwich Book Bus, the mobile bookshop project which had operated a successful educational programme in London and Kent for more than a decade. Now, as part of their Children’s Book Week sponsorship, the Daily Telegraph has funded a whistle-stop tour by the bus, between mid-September and mid-October, on a schedule that includes Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Cardiff, Bristol, Kent, Norwich and Cheltenham. Various themes will be explored – including pirates, dinosaurs and the environment – through poetry, craft, storytelling, fiction and non-fiction.
For a timetable, write to Anne Sarrag, 66a Court Road, Eltham, London SE9 5NP.