Don’t Tax Reading
The book world led by the National Book Committee has mounted a strong campaign against the imposition of VAT on books and journals in the next Budget. The ‘Don’t Tax Reading’ slogan has appeared on posters and stickers and copies of the anti-VAT petition have been available for signing in book shops, libraries, schools, universities and polytechnics: but that was only the tip of the iceberg. A debate in the House of Lords, discussion and comment on radio and television, letters to newspapers – all took the campaign into the public domain. And behind all this has been persistent and determined lobbying of MP’s and a continuous flow of information to the public about the implications of this possible change in legislation.
The Campaign pointed to the situation in other countries. Within the EEC, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany have only nominal rates of tax much lower than the standard rate and there are strong movements to get rid of VAT on books altogether. Italy has only a 2% tax. Ireland has removed VAT on books. The European Parliament showed that it viewed books as a special case in 1981 when it resolved that `exclusively economic criteria should not apply to the book industry’ because books are products `which directly affect the interests of the citizen in the cultural, educational and information fields.’
In addition the Campaign focused attention on the vicious circle which would be the probable outcome of a 15% tax: lower sales and consequent shorter printruns would lead to even higher prices; this would mean fewer books in schools and libraries (even where VAT can be reclaimed) with an immediate effect on education at all levels from pre-school nurseries to advanced research and putting at risk our fine tradition of free public libraries; many small bookshops would go out of business; fewer books would be published and the first to be affected would be new writers and minority interests.
It is generally assumed that broad decisions about the content of the Budget will have been made by mid-January. The outcome may be ‘leaked’ or we may have to wait and see. If it is still in doubt the campaign will continue. (Remember Sir Keith Joseph changed his mind about financing students in Higher Education). So keep writing to your MP and to the newspapers and keep talking about it to anyone who will listen. It’s important that everyone in the country – not just those in the book trade – understands what this will mean for all of us, our children and our future as a well-informed, reading society. It’s a poor exchange for the very small amount of extra revenue the tax on knowledge would bring to the Treasury.
Granpa wins Emil
The Kurt Maschler/Emil Award for a children’s book ‘in which text and illustration are both excellent and perfectly harmonious’ has been won this year by Granpa, John Burningham’s picture book description of a very special relationship between a little girl and her granpa which ends with his death. Frank Delany, one of the judges, said of the winning book, ‘The pictures are entrancing in their mildness and travel gently to logic through illogical, almost inconsequential, little occurrences. The text is minimal, a word, a half sentence, a suggestion, and the effect is most moving.’
The other judges were Elaine Moss and Fiona Waters. Granpa is published by Cape (0 224 02279 2) £4.95.
Teenage Fiction Prize to Australia
The Young Observer Teenage Fiction Prize for 1984 has been awarded to Patricia Wrightson for A Little Fear (Hutchinson, 0 09 152710 4, £5.95). It tells of an old woman, Mrs Tucker, and her dog Hector, moving into and settling in the territory of a bad-tempered spirit, the Nijimbin, and the battle that ensues. Patricia Wrightson describes it as ‘a small, intimate, almost personal story that I had to write.’
Leon Garfield, chairman of the judges who also included Malcolm Bradbury, Helen Cresswell and Sue Matthias (editor of the Young Observer), said of the book, ‘It is not directed overtly at the teenage market but it explores ideas interesting to people developing into adults. Its magical and mysterious atmosphere, together with superb characterisation and subtle moral tone make it a work of great literary merit.’
Also commended were Robert Swindell’s Brother in the Land (OUP 0 19 271491 0, £5.95) and Gene Kemp’s No Place Like (Faber 0 571 13063 1, £4.95).
The Tir na N-Og Prize
This year’s Anglo-Welsh Tir na N-Og Award for a book in English which has a Welsh theme or background has been won by The Prize by Irma Chilton (Barn Owl Press, 0 907117 29 5, £2.50 pbk).
Prize Winning Translator
Patricia Crampton has been awarded the triennial Astrid Lindgren award by the Federation Internationale des Traducteurs. The prize was made in recognition of the whole body of her work as a children’s book translator.
Competition: Write Your Own Storytrail
‘Cambridge University Press invite children to write their own Storytrail Adventure. Book prizes for winners and their teachers and a promise to publish the winning story. Entry forms should be arriving for Heads of English in secondary schools in early March. Teachers in Cambridgeshire who encouraged pupils to take part in a small scale pilot run on the competition last year were enthusiastic about how much the children learned and how much they enjoyed the activity.
For more details contact: Rosalind Horton, CUP, The Edinburgh Building, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge CB2 2RU.
Fontana Buys Dinosaur
The Fontana paperback division of Collins has acquired Dinosaur. Rosemary Sandberg, children’s editor for Fontana, is delighted by this extension into non-fiction and will be announcing future plans before long. Althea will be retained as a consultant.
BOOK EVENTS IN ’85
The first British Readathon held last year raised over £100,000 for Mencap. Schools and children all over the country entered enthusiastically into this sponsored reading event. This year Readathon 85 promises to be even bigger. The time fixed is early in the summer term and the charity chosen to benefit from all the reading is The World Wildlife Fund.
For details contact: Brough Girling, Books for Students, 58-64 Berrington Road, Sydenham Estate, Leamington Spa CV31 1NB. Tel. 0926 29341.
Children’s Book Week
Plans are already well underway for the annual October celebration of children’s books. Locally events organised by teachers, librarians, booksellers and children’s book groups always make a lively and colourful impact and are hugely enjoyed. This year the organising committee is hoping to make a big breakthrough in national publicity via an eight day train tour, carrying authors, illustrators and publishers on a whistle-stop tour of eighteen towns and cities.
For information about CBW contact Angela Toombs or Dorothy Wood, CBW, Book House, 45 East Hill, London SW18 2QZ.
The Children’s Book Fair was one of the high spots of the First Edinburgh Book Fair/ Literature Festival in 1983. A repeat of that very successful event is planned for August/ September this year and children’s events will again play a big part. More later.
The third Cornwall Children’s Book Fair will be held on Friday and Saturday, 15 and 16 February at Richard Lander School in Truro. As well as visits from Leila Berg, Nigel Hinton, Michael Hardcastle, Jan Needle, John Ryan, Pat Hutchins, Mike Rosen and Althea, the organisers promise folk music, buskers, exhibitions and displays, theatre, Punch and Judy, storytelling and, of course, a huge selection of books for sale. Sounds like an exciting time in store for schools and families in Cornwall.
Details from: Ann Jenkin, Camborne School, Cranberry Road, Camborne TR14 7PJ. Tel. Camborne 712280.