David Bennett Books Limited
Now – in these days of cutbacks and commercial re-thinks – for the good news: two publishing ventures well worth noting.
First, a new list from David Bennett – formerly of Usborne, Collins, Walker and, most recently, Kingfisher but now going it alone with a mixture of hardbacks and paperbacks, picture books, storybooks and non-fiction. Already the flair that went into the innovative Sainsbury’s Children’s Books and inspired the world-wide success of Martin Handford’s Wally books looks much in evidence. `I hope we can all look forward to a happy and prosperous future,’ says DB to his prospective customers `and that you will enjoy not only the books in this catalogue but also those still to come.’ Not much doubt about that, says BfK.
Not much doubt, either, about the success of a new paperback list from Orchard Books, part of the Watts Group. Backing up authors and illustrators of the calibre of Ian Beck, Rose Impey, Sheila Lavelle, Shoo Rayner and Jack Prelutsky comes a novel use of fly-leaves. Each book offers a gloss on the text it contains which goes well beyond the usual author-notes – questions are asked, facts are reinforced, jokes are cracked, maps are drawn, all in splendid kid’s-eye-catching profusion. Already children prefer paperbacks to hardbacks, that we know. This lively initiative seems set to capitalise on that.
From Penguin comes the third edition of the Equality Street Multi-Cultural Booklist compiled by Susan Adler. It includes books which show oppression and resistance to oppression; books set in multi-ethnic Britain; and poems and stories from around the world.
For further information contact Alison Marshall on 071416 3000, ext 2433, at Penguin Children’s Books, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ.
7th October 1929 – 15th April 1993
A belated BfK tribute, this.
Robert Westall died suddenly just after our last issue had gone to press. Unusually, though, for a children’s author, his passing was widely noted in the national press – as we’d hope, but not necessarily expect. He won the Carnegie Medal with his first book, The Machine Gunners (1979), won it again with The Scarecrows (1981), carried off the overall Smarties Prize with Blitzcat (1989) and the Guardian Award with The Kingdom by the Sea (1991) as well as a number of other major prizes. Given such success, critics were surprisingly divided by the tough, gritty writing of this art-teacher turned antiques dealer from Tyneside who lost his only son, Chris, in a tragic motorbike accident in 1978. It wasn’t this that led to his preoccupation with ghosts and hauntings, however. `Perhaps I use the supernatural as a viewpoint to comment on the inner world of psychology,’ he commented. `Is the supernatural psychology without psychologists?’ He was also interested in cats. A black, battered and rather special one is at the centre of his latest book, Size Twelve, which Steve Rosson reviews on page 8 of this issue. It’s a typical Westall tale: gripping, uncompromising and totally individual. He’ll be much missed. CP
Ten Years Of Letterbox
Is it really ten years since the founding of Letterbox Library – the co-operative children’s bookclub that specialises in anti-sexist, anti-racist books? True, but hard to believe. The latest newsletter is as fresh as ever, lays out its literary and picturebook wares with clarity and flair, and offers a rare combination of supplier-and- consultant. Celebrations this month include the launch of a special South Africa edition with, in the autumn, the promise of a special new prize. Another Other Award? Very welcome it’ll be, too, since the demise of the original Other Award in 1988. Everyone at BfK sends congratulations and good wishes for the next ten years.
For details contact The Letterbox Library, Unit 2D, Leroy House, 436 Essex Road, London N1 3QP (tel: 071226 1633).
The Library Association 1993 Carnegie Medal goes to Anne Fine for Flour Babies, published by Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 13252 5, £8.99.
and the Kate Greenaway Medal goes to Anthony Browne for Zoo, published by Julia MacRae, 1 85681 232 4, £8.99.
The Children’s Book Award for 1993 has been won by The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson, published by Doubleday (0 385 40175 2, £8.99), with the paperback due in August this year.
The Macmillan Prize for a Children’s Picture Book was awarded this year to a student from Liverpool John Moores University, Joanne Kouyoumdjian, for Look Out, Look Out, Mad Animals About. (Look out for the publication of this title on the Macmillan list sometime in the future.)
The Signal Poetry Award for work published during 1992 has been given to Two’s Company by Jackie Kay, ill. Shirley Tourret, published by Blackie (0 216 93317 X, £5.99 pbk).
The Copus Science Book Prize (Junior Category) has been awarded to Mighty Microbes by Thompson Yardley, published by Cassell (0 304 32692 5, £3.99 pbk).
And CONGRATULATIONS to Judith Elkin, well-known for her work in the world of children’s books, especially multi-cultural concerns, who has been awarded a personal chair at the School of Information Studies, University of Birmingham. It’s something BfK feels especially pleased about as Judith has worked with us for many years. Well done, Professor!
Also Puffin’s Liz Attenborough receives our Salute for being honoured as one of only six publishers to be included in a weighty volume called The Best of British Women (by Martin Miller in association with Reed International). Deserved recognition for her committed work with children’s books over so many years.
For The Staffroom Bookshelf
Into the Box of Delights, Anna Home, BBC, 0 563 360615, £ 15.99
More than a nostalgia trip (though it’s certainly that, too) this History of Children’s Television could hardly be more timely in its reminder of the quality, and commitment, we can no longer take for granted in these de-regulated days. The text plods a bit because Anna Home is no writer. What she is, though, as one of the begetters of Playschool, Jackanory and Grange Hill amongst other innovations, is a tele-person to her fingertips. When she pleads, in her final chapter, for the protection of distinct and distinguished programmes for children, it’s impossible to doubt her authority.
Audacious Kids, Jerry Griswold, Oxford, 0 19 505888 7, £22.50
If you distrust Grand Theory or regard Children’s Literature as perfect material on which to exercise the latest critical fad, this text is to be avoided at all costs. Jerry Griswold focuses on the era from 1865 to 1914 in America when ‘the majors wrote for minors’ and `Children’s Books was not some satellite department, but at the very center of publishing houses’. Hence it’s no accident, he claims, that the work for juveniles of such writers as Mark Twain, Louisa M Alcott, Frank L Baum, Frances Hodgson Burnett and Edgar Rice Burrows represents a kind of National Coming of Age.
His evaluation of twelve classic texts and conclusion that they all tell the same story – of a child who is ‘orphaned, makes a journey, is adopted by harassing adults, triumphs over them, and comes into his or her own’ – is hardly less audacious than the kids he describes. But even where a particular judgement, or the thrust of his argument, had me lifting a sceptical eyebrow, I was also beaming with pleasure – and itching to re-read the texts he examines. Audacious Kids is the kind of book that gets critics a good name.