Book Events Ahead
CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK
Bob Cattell reveals his plans for CBW’s tenth year
Judging from our mailing list and the greatly increased level of telephone calls and letters asking for information, there is going to be a substantial surge in the number of children involved in book events this year.
This year’s ‘official week’ is 4th- IIth October – although, a healthy trend, many organisers are holding their events at times to suit them, so Children’s Book Week is gradually becoming an all-the-year-round promotion. It’s also our tenth anniversary and plans are progressing for a double celebration with a launch at the National Theatre and the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.
Themes for events are probably the basis for all successful Book Weeks – and this year we’ve suggested one which opens up a vast range of possibilities and interpretations, Heroes and Heroines. Caroline Holden’s treatment of it in her splendid designs for the posters, balloons, etc is strictly nautical. In producing a series of drawings and designs for the promotional materials, I think she has managed to be funny, colourful and very eye-catching; but above all the drawings will appeal to older children as well as the young ones. Wait till you see them!
We’re also taking to the stage with our theme this year. After talking to David Wood, the children’s playwright and founder of the Whirligig Theatre, about heroes and heroines, his choice of subject was the Robin Hood story. Together with Dave and Toni Arthur, he’s written two short (15-20 minute) plays for performance in schools. Marion and the Witches’ Charm puts the women on stage for once, having conveniently whisked all the men off to a crusade. The other play, Robin Hood and Friar Tuck, follows the more traditional lines of the famous river meeting.
Both plays have only a small number of speaking parts but there are exciting crowd scenes and plenty of room for improvisation. Our three playwrights have also included some stage direction ideas and songs. Most importantly the plays are great fun, the scripts are free of charge and there are no royalty fees for public performances during the week. What we want to see is as many productions of the plays as possible in early October. Theatres and arts centres around the country are showing interest in putting on professional and amateur productions and we will be performing the plays at the launch parties, too.
One final incentive to put on a play. We’re linking performances to a video competition. The best videos of the plays will be judged by David, Dave and Toni and we may even hold a presentation ceremony if the entries are good enough.
There will also be the full spread of other competitions and quizzes: a local radio and local newspaper competition and a national design and painting competition.
Finally, a word about next year. In the words of some publishers, this year is a ‘year of consolidation’ before we tackle a major event on the scale of last year’s train (I can only say that ‘consolidating’ means a lot more than I’d thought). However, if we are to take on a major promotion in 1987, always assuming we have the sponsors to pay for it, then a decision will be needed shortly. (These things need a long time planning.) We would like to hear your views, comments, but most of all we want your ideas. If you don’t let us know what you think now, your case for complaining later will be considerably weakened!
The address for information, promotional materials, plays and ideas is: Children’s Book Week, National Book League, Book House, 45 East Pill, London SW18 2QZ.
Caribbean Focus ‘86
Running through until November at the Commonwealth Institute in London and at venues round the country events of all kinds – music, theatre, exhibitions, dance – will be sharpening our focus on the Caribbean and encouraging us to looks with new eyes at the countries and the peoples both in the region and in our own wider British society.
The Commonwealth Institute, working closely with governments in the Caribbean and with the Black community in Britain has organised a fascinating range of events to appeal to people of all ages.
From a varied programme look out for:
The Caribbean Book Festival mounted by Soma Books at the Commonwealth Institute (ends June 30th)
The Caribbean Train touring the country from June 14-July 4 with carriages for food, tourist promotions and educational programmes
Music Village – calypso, reggae, folk and jazz in Holland Park, July 31 August 17
Carnival Costumes on display at the Commonwealth Institute’s galleries in August and September Caribbean Market Day – crafts and goods for sale, all the sights and sounds of a Caribbean market at the Commonwealth Institute in the Autumn Term. In addition there is a new permanent exhibition at the Institute. Caribbean Eye looks at the past, present and future of the Caribbean region using reports and accounts contemporary with the events described. The first Caribbean peoples, the Amerindians; trade with Europe; the plantations and slavery; the story of ‘King Sugar’; the labour movement; the fight for independence are all included.
Under 5’s Book Fair
3-5 July at the Thomas Coram Foundation, London
This will be the very first Book Fair to concentrate attention on books and materials for the very young. In particular the intention is to promote the importance of stories and reading in the development of all young children. A wide range of books will be on display with particular emphasis on the needs of our multi-cultural society. There will also be special exhibitions, sessions with authors and illustrators, a teddy bears picnic and puppets.
The organisers expect that on July 4th visitors will be drawn principally from pre-school groups, schools, librarians and other professionals. Saturday July 5th will be for parents, children and the general public.
The Fair is organised by VOLCUF (Voluntary Organisations Liaison Council for Under-Fives) a national federation of groups which includes the Pre-school Playgroups Association and the National Childminders Association.
For details contact VOLCUF c/o Thomas Coram Foundation, 40 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ.
Book People in the News
Happy Birthday Topsy and Tim
The amazingly enduring twins are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their first appearance in print and Blackie have a new novelty book to mark the occasion. Happy Birthday Topsy and Tim (what else?) features a birthday party for the twins and all their multi-racial (now there’s a change in 25 years) little friends. Turn the last page and the book plays ‘Happy Birthday to You’ with the sort of tinny jolliness that drives parents and teachers bonkers!
But, like them or loathe them, there’s no denying the popularity of the predictable pair – huge sales and over a million borrowings of the T and T titles from public libraries last year.
Jean and Gareth Adamson, Topsy and Tim’s creators, met while studying illustration at Goldsmiths College, London; but it wasn’t until several years later when their paths crossed again that they married and decided to try to make a living as freelance writers and illustrators. They did several children’s books before getting together on the Topsy and Tim series – Gareth writing the stories and Jean doing the pictures which she deliberately filled with all the domestic detail of suburban living. Their own three children were a source of inspiration as Topsy and Tim went to the doctor, had their eyes tested, learned to ride bicycles and ponies, went to a wedding, a football match, on holiday abroad, in a caravan …and so on through nearly 70 eventful, frequently didactic, ultimately cosy and reassuring stories.
Topsy and Tim have appeared in hardback and paperback, in large format and small, in board books, shape books and press out dressing up books. It’s no wonder that from time to time Jean and Gareth swopped roles – she wrote the story and he did the pictures!
In 1982 Gareth’s sudden death was a terrible blow to Jean and their children; but she kept on working and now daughter Gabrielle has joined ‘the family business’ with six titles to her credit already.
Topsy and Tim’s many fans would doubtless enjoy meeting their creator – Jean Adamson, who lives in Cambridgeshire, enjoys visiting schools, libraries and book fairs.
(Contact Rosanna Nissen at Blackie [01-734 7521] for details.)
Judith Elliott – a new harvest
Another famous name, Judith Elliott – until last September director of children’s publishing for the Heinemann group – is behind another new children’s book imprint launched in August. Orchard Books which, like Julia MacRae Books, will run alongside Franklin Watts is starting strongly with a new Pienkowski pop-up, Little Monsters. Later in the year will come titles from other artists, Faith Jaques and Emilie Boon, previously published by Judith Elliott at Heinemann, a fantasy for teenage readers, a funny ghost story for 7-l0s, and a picture book from a new illustrator. The ’86 list also contains two books which were originated in the USA. Orchard Books is designedly transatlantic; it also has a New York office and editor; it is intended that many books will be published both here and in the States. From eight titles this year Judith plans to expand quickly with 40 titles in the pipeline for 1987.
Marilyn Malin – Own Brand Books
The name of one of the best-known figures in children’s books is about to appear on the spines of a new range of books. After eighteen years developing Methuen’s children’s list Marilyn Malin now has her own imprint; the first Marilyn Malin Books will appear this summer. With a shrewd and sensitive eye on what kind of books children actually want to read Marilyn, as ever, is still concerned to produce books of quality and value. Her move into ‘own brand books’ is `in association with Andre Deutsch’ a company she respects for being ‘old-fashioned book people, rather than thrusting new marketing people.’ Like Julia MacRae – another famous editor/ publisher who went independent with her own imprint – she understands the importance of working closely with authors and illustrators and building up a trusting relationship with them.
The new imprint will cover books with a wide age appeal but prominent among the first titles are Toppers, a series for children tackling their first ‘real novels’. Short (48 pages) with full colour illustration throughout, Toppers are not a million miles from Heinemann’s very successful Banana books. But, says Marilyn, the emphasis in Toppers is on contemporary situations – single parent families with no spare cash, unemployment and high rise living – treated with warmth and humour and without `talking down’. Vivien Alcock, Helen Cresswell, Mary Hoffman, Dick King-Smith, Sheila Lavelle and Alison Prince are the authors of the first set of six (published July 24th); (the illustrators are as well-known and gratifyingly receive almost equal billing on the covers). At £2.50 in hardback they should help to fill the 7-9 ‘gap’ and even perhaps appeal to older but less experienced readers.
We’ll let you know when we have tried them out.
In recent months a lot of people in children’s books have been moving around and familiar figures keep appearing behind each other’s managerial and editorial desks. Just to keep you up to date:
Ingrid Selberg has moved from Corgi to Heinemann. Philippa Dickinson has left Puffin for Corgi. David Grant has gone from Hamish Hamilton to Hodder and Jane Nissen has gone from Methuen to Hamish Hamilton. At Penguin Elizabeth Attenborough now has editorial oversight of Viking Kestrel and Puffin while Sally Floyer, leaving Puffin, now concentrates on the Frederick Warne titles and on merchandising Beatrix Potter et al. More news next time the music stops.