It’s not just Brer Rabbit being re-launched this Spring. Peter Rabbit, too, demands fresh attention – so fresh, indeed, that it’s doubtful if Beatrix Potter herself saw her much-loved series of books in such pristine condition. Using techniques not available in her day, new plates have been created from more than six hundred of her original illustrations so that colour, detail and brushwork have a quality as close as possible to that first appearance.
The project took eighteen months to complete, involving experts from the worlds of art and printing. As a result we’ve now got the best editions of the Peter Rabbit books ever issued – or so say Penguin who bought Frederick Warne and the Potter property in 1983. Astonishingly, this is no sales pitch. The most casual comparison with earlier editions shows up the superior sharpness and delicacy of this one. `Like wiping off the dust of centuries and finding some bright and sparkling treasure underneath’ says Stephanie Nettell. Other authorities, from Maurice Sendak to Shirley Hughes, echo her endorsement of what Penguin, with some justification, call ,one of the most important events in the history of children’s publishing’. The new edition, alongside the Beatrix Potter originals, is on exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London in November so soon you’ll be able to judge for yourself.
Of course, if you’re amongst the seven million purchasers of Peter Rabbit books since Penguin took over, you may be feeling a little miffed. Our advice is to re-invest. At only £2.75 each they’re still wonderful value. With only six years to go before she’s out of copyright, Beatrix Potter is bigger business than ever.
It’s that Postman again
The winner of this year’s Children’s Book Award is The Jolly Postman by Allan and Janet Ahlberg (Heinemann, 0 434 92515 2, £6.95). Children of all ages who tested the book loved opening the envelopes and reading the mail of the nursery favourites.
The `Top Ten Plus One’ runners-up are:
Five Minutes’ Peace
Jill Murphy, Walker Books, 0 7445 0491 0, £4.95
I Want My Potty
Tony Ross, Andersen, 0 86264 137 3, £4.95
Katie Morag and the Tiresome Ted
Mairi Hedderwick, Bodley Head, 0 370 30699 6, £5.25
The Tough Princess
Martin Waddell, Walker Books, 0 7445 0540 2, £2.95
Anthony Browne, Julia MacRae, 0 86203 268 7, £5.95
The Wrestling Princess
Judy Corbalis, Deutsch, 0 233 97852 6, £5.95
The Snow Spider
Jenny Nimmo, Methuen, 0 416 54530 0, . £5.50
Allan Ahlberg, Viking Kestrel, 0 670 80832 6, £6.95
The Dream Catcher
Monica Hughes, Julia MacRae, 0 86203 241 5, £7.25
Janni Howker, Julia MacRae, 0 86203 270 9, £5.95
Dead Birds Singing
Marc Talbert, Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 11770 4, £5.95
The Children’s Book Award is given annually by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups. A book list, Pick of the Year, reviewing the winner and the runners-up, and recommending a further 28 books which were well received during the Award testing programme, is available from Josie Weeks, 9 Lynwood Gardens, Pudsey, West Yorkshire. Copies are available at 40p each or, for orders of 10 or more, at 10p each including postage (cheques payable to FCBG).
The idea of a travelling narrow boat, packed with authors, books and stories, began with Hertfordshire Libraries. For several years the Storyboat made its way slowly along the canal between Watford and Tring during the first week of the school summer holidays, stopping to allow children and their families to clamber aboard and explore its treasures. The scheme was threatened when the County Library Service had to withdraw support but we are pleased to report that the Summer Storyboat project has survived and this year has been granted charitable status. It is funded by a combination of local and national concerns, including Kodak, BP, the Dickens and Robinson Group, local councils and, increasingly, by publishers who encourage their authors to take part.
From 27th-31st July this year the Summer Storyboat is off again with a series of day-long programmes of stories, songs, games, painting and competitions – all for free and designed to prove that books are fun. Details from Dina Thorpe, tel: Hatfield (07072) 66137.