Have you ever been lured into a movie by the sort of ‘trail’ which makes a return to the cinema the following week an absolute imperative? Malcolm Macneill, of Renfrew District Libraries, reckons the same strategy will work for books… hence Cliffhangers. Here’s one of them:
Round, and round, his voice went and through it came a noise. It was low and vibrant, like wind in a chimney. It grew louder, more taut, and the wall blurred, and the floor shook. The noise was in the fabric of the church: it pulsed with sound. Then he heard a heavy door open; and close; and the noise faded away. It was now too still in the church, and the footsteps were moving over the rubble in the passage downstairs.
‘Who’s that?’ said Roland.
The footsteps reached the stairs, and began to climb.
From Alan Garner’s Elidor, chosen by Anthony Masters… who’s joined by Anne Fine, Gillian Cross, Martin Waddell and an assortment of other contributors, including child readers, all of them nominating a favourite ‘trail’.
It’s fun, revealing and – best of all – can be customised to any group of readers, child or adult. For a free copy of Cliffhangers and Cliffhangers for Young People, contact Malcolm Macneill at Library HQ, Marchfield Avenue, Paisley PA3 2RJ (tel. 0141 887 2468).
From other Libraries…
Beset as they are with re-organisation, ever diminishing budgets and the utter shame of being a public service, Libraries have every excuse, these days, to batten down the hatches, keep stum and wait for better days to come. Not so, though… enterprise, thankfully, abounds in their recommendation of reading generally and certain books in particular. Here are a couple of recent initiatives which have caught BfK’s eye:
No bet-hedging here. This, along with commentary from luminaries like Bernard Ashley, Sally Greengross and Bev Mathias, is ‘an annotated list of books with positive images of age, culture, gender, disability and class’. Fair’s Fair is compiled by Anne Marley, edited by Lesley Sim, and has a foreword by Christine Dyer, current Chair of the Youth Libraries Group National Committee. It’s wide-ranging yet sharply focused – but, above all, has a warmly generous feel to it. Such lists all too easily present themselves in a pharisaic thank-God-we-are-not-as-other-readers kind of way but there’s no trace of such self-approval in these pages. On the contrary, there’s a beguiling sense of balance kept throughout between ‘literary’ and ‘content’ issues together with the recognition that the two, in the end, are inseparable. Punches aren’t pulled, though. Melvin Burgess’s The Baby and Fly Pie is summarised in two terse sentences:
A hard look at the world in the not-too-distant future, where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is cruelly delineated. A bleak story which will give teenagers much food for thought on the class system.
The class system? Oh dear… three more librarians struck off the Christmas card list of that nice Mr Major. Highly recommended, Fair’s Fair costs £6.00 and is available from James Askew and Son Ltd, 218-222 North Road, Preston PR1 1SY (tel. 01772 555947).
Guidelines and Lots More Titles … Picture Books
This, from The Working Group Against Racism in Children’s Resources, follows up the 1993 Guidelines which sold more than 5,000 copies:
All the books had been carefully selected by a large group of reviewers who had a wide range of cultural backgrounds and linguistic and professional skills.
The new edition has updated guidelines for selection criteria; an introduction by prize-winning children’s author, James Berry, and reviews of almost a hundred more recently published, recommended books. Titles, still in print, from the first are also included.
So far, so admirable – a hugely important cause pursued with irreproachable consistency. If only the ‘sensitivity to terminology’ exhibited here were matched by a corresponding sensitivity to language, though. For instance, the self-imposed ‘standardisation’ of the reviews ‘in an effort to make comparisons meaningful’ (should books themselves be standardised for the same reason?) results in annotations which all too often read like telegrams sent to delegates at a Convention for Human Rights:
Classic fairy tale style. Good choice of background colour. Print easy to read. Illustrations excellent, although extremely stylised, faces with rosy cheeks. All black characters. Very popular.
Fair enough if what you’re after is assent to some sort of Composite Resolution… but a long way short of the celebration of human diversity through reading which is, surely, the main point of the enterprise. Trust the list, then. In its range and detail, it’s superb. (Try Fair’s Fair, however, for an approach which is just as well intentioned but won’t set your teeth on edge even as you nod approval.)
Single copies of the publication cost £7.00 (trade and multiple copy discounts available). Details from WGARCR, 460 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 3LX (tel. 0171 627 4594 or fax 0171 622 9208).
Toddle Along to Your Library
Nick Butterworth’s appealing library promotion poster for under-fives has been produced by Peters Library Service, with Collins Children’s Books, to encourage parents and carers to take babies and toddlers to their local library.
54 library authorities have taken part in the project and Patsy Heap, Principal Officer at Birmingham Libraries, says, ‘This is a lovely poster, well-suited to the age group and very attractive!’… It certainly is. For further information contact Lynne Taylor, Peters Library Service, 120 Bromsgrove Street, Birmingham B5 6RL (tel. 0121 666 6646).
Wall-Mounted Subject Guides
Each of these A2-size wall charts features some of the most frequently used subject headings together with the appropriate classification number. These colourful, visually striking charts can provide pupils and staff with a quick guide to locating stock and refer the user to the relevant subject index booklet.
Subject Index Booklets
Produced for different phases (Infant, Junior/Primary, Secondary), each comprises an alphabetical list of subjects against which is given the appropriate Dewey classification number.
The wall-mounted subject guides cost between £5 and £6.50 each and the subject index booklets range from 80p to £2.40. For an order form, contact The Education Library Service, Central Library, Four Seasons Centre, Westgate, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire NG18 1NH (tel. 01623 647229).
Wales in English
Published by the Welsh Books Council with the support of the Arts Council of Wales, this is the ‘first comprehensive catalogue of books and educational material of specific Welsh interest’. The foreword goes on:
Until recently there was insufficient material to justify producing such a catalogue but it is encouraging to note that there has been a steady growth in the number of titles published in recent years and there is now a core of material that needs to be marketed effectively in order to reach the widest possible audience.
Amen to that, says BfK. Also available is Catalog Llyfrau Plant … Llyfrau Ac Adnoddau Addysgol or Welsh Books and Educational Resources for Children, a bi-lingual publication listing 3,250 titles (arranged alphabetically within clear categories with a detailed index). For details, contact Menna Lloyd-Williams, Welsh Books Council, Castell Brychan, Aberystwyth SY23 2JB (tel. 01970 624151 or fax 01970 625385).
Dunblane Primary School – Rebuilding with Books
After the tragedy of mid-March, a quiet and sensitive show of support has been instigated by the Scots poet and storyteller John Rice who lives in Kent. He has been encouraging all writers, illustrators and makers of children’s books to become involved in the process of rebuilding the spiritual fabric of the school by contributing a copy (or copies) of their book signed with a special message of love and support.
‘It’s a simple yet effective way of enlisting the support of all those whose main aim is to amuse, entertain, educate and enthral children through the medium of the printed word and image,’ says Rice, ‘and if it’s true that the single greatest power in the universe is the imagination, maybe we can commandeer some of it to benefit the children, staff and parents at Dunblane Primary School.’
If you are a writer, illustrator, publisher and you’d like to express your support in this way, simply sign a copy of your book, add a personal message and send it to The Library, Dunblane Primary School, Dunblane, Perthshire, Scotland. And a final word from Rice, ‘Send your contribution quietly- the less fuss the better.’
Children’s Literature Conference, 5-6 July 1996,
Worcester College of Higher Education
This year’s conference speakers are Martin Waddell (Catherine Sefton), Graham Watkins and Robert Dunbar.
Booking forms and further information from ‘Viewpoints’, The Professional Development Office, Worcester College of Higher Education, Henwick Grove, Worcester WR2 6AJ (tel. 01905 855056 or fax 01905 855132).