Special Deal for BfK Readers
Following our January editorial (BfK No.96) which featured John Rowe Townsend’s celebration of the life and work of John Newbery, Trade & Plumb-Cake Forever, Huzza!, Colt Books Ltd are making a SPECIAL OFFER to BfK readers:
Until 30 September 1996, Trade & Plumb-Cake for Ever, Huzza! will cost £15.00 plus £1.50 p&p;p (UK only) – a saving of over £9.00. Send payment to Colt Books Ltd, PO Box 443, Cambridge CB2 2HL or ring 01223 357047 with credit card details.
Dilly on Tour
Dilly the Dinosaur (see this month’s Authorgraph on Tony Bradman) will be on a nationwide tour in September this year. His itinerary is still to be decided, but if you want further information, contact Emma Cairns-Smith at Reed Books, Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, London SW3 6RB.
Anybody interested in Slovak Fairy Tales?
For some months now we’ve been in correspondence with Peter Schmitz who lives in Bratislava and who has been telling us about the rich Slovak tradition of fairy tales, sagas, myths and legends. Peter is determined this wonderful tradition should have a wider audience. Can BfK help, he asks?
‘Just tell your readers about me and perhaps a few will be interested enough to make contact.’
Peter is a passionate aficionado of his country’s literary heritage and a witty and wholly engaging correspondent to boot. If you’re interested, especially if you are a publisher or bookseller, write to: Peter Schmitz, Jurigovo nam 1, 841 05, Bratislava, Slovakia.
Have Some Maths With Your Story
… is the title of a new publication by Janet Evans. It’s a book of 20 activities and games, all linked to children’s books, all classroom tested and all backed up with a reference section, a selection of suitable titles for further development and a handy summary of the pedagogical principles involved.
Available from Janet Evans at Liverpool Hope University College, St Katherine’s Campus, Standpark Road, Childwall, Liverpool, it costs £6.50 (inc. p&p).
A new batch of Poetry Posters from The Poetry Society is now available for sale. Each measures 350mm x 500mm (just under A2) and is in full colour. The set of eight posters caters for children aged 10-16, costs £8.50 (including free teachers’ lesson plans) from The Poetry Society, 22 Betterton Street, London, WC2H 9BU (tel. 0171 240 4810).
This series concentrates on different poetic forms – from sonnets to rap. The featured poems are:
Seamus Heaney – ‘Digging’
Elizabeth Barrett Browning – ‘How do I love thee?’
John Agard – ‘Poetry Jump Up’
William Shakespeare – ‘Our revels now are ended…’ (extract from The Tempest)
Carol Ann Duffy – ‘Valentine’
Lewis Carroll – ‘Jabberwocky’
Dylan Thomas – ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’
Selection of haiku by Basho, Issa, James Berry, Eric Finney, John Cooper Clarke.
CHARITY PUBLICATIONS… with a children’s book angle
The National Trust – Saving Places, an anthology, featuring 55 winning poems from the Trust’s Centenary children’s poetry competition. Published on 28th March at £1.99, from The National Trust, 36 Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW1H 9AS.
Save the Children – Michael Rosen, Jacqueline Wilson, Beverley Naidoo, Verna Wilkins, Jane Ray and Colin West were among those who joined 150 image makers from publishing, TV and the theatre, at the Invisible Children Conference in London last March.
The Conference report, now available, contains the text of all talks; summaries of workshops; a wealth of associated materials, including checklists for writers, editors and book reviewers who wish to avoid Handicappist stereotypes, and a selection of children’s books. Invisible Children Conference Report costs £6 (inc p&p) from Save The Children, 17 Grove Lane, London SE5 8RD.
Feed the Minds – School pupils and college students are being invited to share their favourite pieces of writing, as part of Word Feast – a national celebration of literature organised by this charity. Feed the Minds is hoping to encourage reading for pleasure and to raise money for literacy projects in Africa and Asia. They offer a resource pack, free of charge, to interested groups – contact Richard Fernandez on 01483 577877.
Whitbread Award – Children’s Section
The winning book in this section for 1995 was The Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo, published by Heinemann (0 434 96487 5, £8.99) and Mammoth (0 7497 2620 2, £2.99 pbk).
Felled by Streatfeild
Er … somewhat embarrassing this. Patricia Duke-Cox, School Librarian of Banovallum School, Horncastle, Lincolnshire, writes:
‘I noticed a mistake in BfK No.96, often made by those who do not know the correct spelling, concerning the piece about Noel Streatfeild. The surname was incorrectly spelled three times.’
Alas, it’s also a mistake that crops up with people who do know the correct spelling but who have it ‘corrected’ – from Streatfeild to Streatfield – by parties who shall be nameless after we’ve reached proof-stage… Angela Turnbull who wrote the item (correctly spelled throughout) just before we went to press, laughed uproariously when we reported back to her with abject apologies.
A crisp fiver to Patricia Duke-Cox for compounding our blushes.
Apologies, too, for the wrongly captioned photograph on page 8 in the same issue – the photo is, of course, Margaret Mahy … not Margaret Tucker.
And also… to Dennis Pepper, the collector and illustrator of The Oxford Book of Scary Tales, for listing him as Dennis Potter.
Brian Lux writes:
Congratulations on the Editor of BfK’s excellent conversation with Brian Hayes on Radio 2 recently about the ‘Budgie’ books.
As a writer now concentrating on children’s stories, I find the new breed of ‘personality’ writers exasperating (to say the least). No doubt some would say it is ‘sour grapes’ for me to criticise the Duchess of York and her Budgie the Helicopter books. But I do wonder if they had been written by an ordinary citizen if they would have even been read by a hassled editor. Certainly, there must be hundreds of would-be authors who can, and have, written far better stories than Fergie…
As we writers strive to improve our technique, pay hard earned money to attend many courses, the situation seems to be akin to the old chicken and egg syndrome. Become a personality first, then publishing success is assured.
David Hill writes:
I only began reading children’s fiction about 18 months ago, partly to be better able to choose books for me to read to my children (aged 8 and 6) or for them to read to themselves and partly to recommend titles to schools and colleges overseas where students have progressed in a systematic reading programme through graded readers written for learners of English as a foreign language and are ready for unsimplified fiction.
My reading has made me ask, ‘Must children’s fiction necessarily have children as protagonists?’ Blitzcat by Robert Westall shows that it need not. My own memory of the thrill of graduating from Enid Blyton and Hugh Lofting to John Buchan, Rider Haggard and Dickens, and my small son’s enthusiasm for Old Testament stories read aloud from the Dorling Kindersley Children’s Bible confirm to me that it need not. So why are there not more children’s books with adult protagonists, free from explicit sex and horror but presenting the adult world in terms which children can understand?
Ann Jungman writes:
I’m deeply concerned that such a large number of publishers are so drastically pruning their backlists. Quite arbitrarily the number of any title that has to be sold in a year to stay in print has doubled, thus consigning many excellent and popular books to oblivion. Many teachers, parents and booksellers have complained to me about this but the process seems to have a momentum of its own despite having no real logic or justification. As we know children’s books sell through word of mouth rather than reviews and publicity; this takes time. Books are no longer being given this time. The unique aspects of children’s publishing are being ignored. Until now one of the advantages of writing for children was the long shelf life of a book but no longer and the new system seems to benefit no one.
Secondly, this cult of the new is depriving children of access to many of the recent, much loved series. Recently I was talking to a well-informed and committed publisher, who told me that the sixth book in a very popular American series had just come out. However, as the children who had read the first five books of the series, were now too old for book six, they didn’t expect big sales and were not putting much energy into selling the book. ‘More fun to promote something new,’ I was told.
Is there some way that those concerned at the current trends in children’s publishing – parents, teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators, critics, publishers, etc. – could get together to try to redress the balance between profit and the access to good books?
ED’S NOTE: Three different topics, three individual views. Comment, clarification, contradiction is invited… or remarks on other topics to do with children and their books. Please write to Books for Keeps, The Old Chapel, Easton, Nr Winchester, Hampshire SO21 1EG, preferably at least a month before our next issue. Do keep your letter as brief as possible, though, to avoid the blue editorial pencil.