Three large gaps have appeared in the children’s book world with the news of the deaths of Jill McDonald, Gareth Adamson and Peter Opie.
Working with Kaye Webb, Jill McDonald, artist and designer, literally created an image and personality for the Puffin Club and its magazine Puffin Post. Her brilliant use of colour, strong sure line and irresistible sense of humour made her work instantly recognisable and instantly appealing. It would be difficult to say which of her many creations was the best-loved, but a strong contender must be fat Puffin, or Odway, the dog with philosophical problems, who provoked a strong and deep response from many of the quarter of a million members of the Puffin Club whom she served so caringly.
Of her twelve picture books Maggy Straggle and The Pirate’s Tale – based on a story from a five-year-old Puffineer – were possibly her favourites. Kaye Webb writes of her: `Everything she drew or wrote contained the same joyfulness and delight in life which was the essence f her personality.’ Her death at the age of only fifty-four is a great sadness and a great loss.
Gareth Adamson and his wife, Jean, worked together writing and illustrating the Topsy and Tim books for over twenty-one years. The twins, their family and their everyday adventures and exploits have been a much-loved part of the lives of millions of children, bringing warmth, reassurance and humour. Gareth’s tirelessness in visiting schools and book fairs and his sense of fun won him the popularity of children all over the country.
Peter Opie with his wife Iona did more perhaps than anyone else to establish the world of childhood as a proper subject for research and study. Their books, The Lore and Language of Children and Children’s Games in Street and Playground are required and fascinating rending for anyone who claims an interest in what makes children tick. As indispensable and enlightening is their work on Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales. We would all be poorer and less well-informed without the work of Peter Opie. While regretting his death we should be grateful for his curiosity, his scholarship and his love and respect for children.
Easter Holiday Institution
7 – 17th April. The Fifteenth Puffin Exhibition Starts at 2.00 p.m. on 7th April with a Grand Fancy Dress opening – come as your favourite London character.
The Bishopsgate Institute (opposite Liverpool Street Station), London EC2. Open 10.30 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. from 8th April. Closed Sunday. 11th April. Puffin Club members 50p. Non-members 75p. Discount for groups of 10 or more only in advance. Phone 01-759 5722.
This year Puffins are creating a Book City complete with Magic Mews. Spook Street. Adventure Arcade. As usual lots of activities, competitions and visits from authors and illustrators.
Puffins Ring the Bell
From 9th April British Telecom’s Bedtime Story Service will be replaced by Puffins Storyline. If you dial-a-story you will hear a story, extract or poems from a Puffin book, perhaps read by its author. The service will be launched by Roald Dahl reading from The Twits. After each call details of the book will be given. A poster with all the titles to be featured will be available in April from the Children’s Marketing Department, Penguin Books, 536 King’s Road. London SW10 OUH.
Suck it and Read
At the beginning of May Puffins launch what they call the first edible book token. As a result of a Puffin/Trebor deal, children will get a free Puffin book in exchange for tokens from ten tubes of Refreshers plus-postage. – Twenty books are on offer and with each book goes a Puffin Reading Chart to help parents encourage their children’s reading.
Trebor say they are keen to make a worthwhile contribution to family life at a time when parents and schools are feeling the financial squeeze. Puffin hope to get to children and parents who may not be traditional bookbuyers or bookshop customers.
It’s a bold and enterprising move, but bound to provoke a reaction from the dental care lobby. Perhaps Puffin should have got a toothpaste manufacturer involved as well – just to safeguard the image!
The Annual Children’s Poetry Competition
This year the Poetry Society has got Puffin and Kestrel Books, British Rail, Book Tokens and Books for Students involved in its Annual Poetry Competition for Children and seems to be promoting it as never before. Well done, the Poetry Society. The competition which closes on 16th August is open to poets up to the age of 16. The judges are Kit Wright, Kaye Webb and Joanne Edwards (one of last year’s winners and a pupil at Bill Boyle’s school).
The explanatory leaflet is packed with information – worth sending for even if you don’t intend to enter. Write to the Education Officer, The Poetry Society, 21 Earls Court Square, London SW5 9DE. tel. 01-373 7861/2.
Book Events Ahead
28th April, 2.30 p.m., Loughborough University. Elaine Moss delivers the fifth Annual Woodfield Lecture on children’s literature. Her subject: A Sense of Community.
Admission free. Details from Margaret Fearn, tel. 0509 63171, ext. 5041.
20th May. Birmingham.
A one-day seminar on The Art of the Strip – children’s comics, past, present and future.
Organised by IBBY. Details from Judith Elkin, tel. 021 744 1928.
A Choice of Stories, selected by Jill Bennett for the School Library Association, 0 900641 40 1, £1.80 (SLA members £1.30).
The second in a series of three booklists designed to help teachers and librarians in primary schools build up well-balanced collections of books. Three sections: Picture Books; Folk and Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends; and Story Books. Plus an introductory essay.
Available from the SLA, Victoria House, 29-31 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AY.
Children’s Book Week
It’s not too early to start thinking about an event for CBW (2nd – 9th October). The arrangements for booking authors are a little different this year.
If you are on the CBW mailing list you will already have received a letter explaining the new system. If you are new to the game or haven’t had a letter, contact the Centre for Children’s Books, CBW, Book House, 45 East Hill, Wandsworth, London SW18 2QZ, which is co-ordinating the scheme, or get in touch with your County Librarian or Education Advisers who may be helping to organise events locally.
In any case DON’T DELAY – we expect all author bookings to be confirmed by the end of JUNE.