THE AWARD SEASON
The Booker prize for adults and no less than three children’s book awards to get people talking about books in the run-up to Christmas.
The Smarties Prize
Sponsored by Rowntree Mackintosh, this is the biggest British children’s book prize – in money terms. The overall winner of this year’s Grand Prix (£8,000) is Jenny Nimmo for her novel The Snow Spider, a Methuen Pied Piper book (0 416 54530 0, £5.50).
This is only Jenny Nimmo’s second book for Methuen. The Snow Spider, like her previous story Tatty Apple (recently paperbacked in Magnet and reviewed in BfK No.40), mixes magic and fantasy into the everyday life of a family tense with suppressed emotion. The setting is the Welsh mountains and the magic is the age-old Celtic powers handed down through the generations. On Gwyn’s ninth birthday it is time for him to find out if he is a magician, time to remember his ancestors, Math, Lord of Gwynedd, Gwydion and Gilfaethwy. Perhaps he can solve the five-year-old mystery of the disappearance of his sister Bethan; life for Gwyn and his parents has not been the same since she disappeared without trace in a snowstorm on the mountain.
A story which touches delicately on powerful feelings and remains accessible to readers at the lower end of the 7-11 category in which this was the winning book.
The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg, Geoffrey Patterson, Deutsch, 0 233 97878 X £5.95 (6 Years and Under category)
The Mirrorstone, Michael Palin, Alan Lee and Richard Seymour, Cape, 0 224 02408 6, £7.95
Village Heritage, Miss Pinnell and the Children of Sapperton School, Alan Sutton, 0 86299 263 X, £10.95
(joint winners of the Innovation category).
The judges for this year’s award were Bernard Ashley, Floella Benjamin, Roger McGough, Judy Taylor (former Bodley Head children’s editor and biographer of Beatrix Potter) and Bing Taylor (no relation! co-founder of The Good Book Guide).
Young Observer Teenage Fiction Prize
The winner is Peter Carter’s Bury the Dead, Oxford University Press, 0 19 271493 7, £6.95.
An East German family is the focus for a strong and thought-provoking examination of conflicting loyalties, values, political systems.
Also shortlisted were:
Moonwind, Louise Lawrence, Bodley Head, 0 370 30717 8, £3.95 pbk
The Tricksters, Margaret Mahy, Dent, 0 460 06203 4, 0.95
The Silent Shore, Ruth Elwin Harris, Julia MacRae, 0 86203 239 3, £7.95
Starry Night, Catherine Sefton, Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 11795 X, £5.95
The Emil/Kurt Maschler Award
From 104 entries, the judging panel – Margaret Meek, Elaine Moss and Chris Powling – have selected The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Heinemann, 0 434 92515 2, £5.95).
In a story told in rhyme The Jolly Postman delivers letters to fairy-tale characters. The letters are real and can be taken out of envelopes in the book. Goldilocks says sorry to the Three Bears, Mr Wolf gets a warning from a solicitor instructed by Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. So many different voices to discover for the young reader.
The other books shortlisted for the award were:
Where’s Julius?, John Burningham, Cape, 0 224 024116, £5.95
Early in the Morning, Charles Causley, music by Anthony Castro, ill. Michael Foreman, Viking Kestrel, 0 670 80810 5, £7.95
The Rain Door, Russell Hoban, ill. Quentin Blake, Gollancz, 0 575 03097 6, £5.95
The Doorbell Rang, Pat Hutchinson, Bodley Head, 0 370 30726 7, £5.25
Stanley Bagshaw and the Short-sighted Football Trainer, Bob Wilson, Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 11783 6, £6.50
The Emil is given for a book in which text and illustration are both excellent and perfectly harmonious, each enhancing and balancing the other.
In October the National Book League disappeared to be replaced by Book Trust – the NBL rearranged and reorganised with exciting and ambitious plans for the future. First priority is a huge fund-raising activity. The NBL was financed in the main by the Arts Council and the book trade; Book Trust will be looking to the ‘wider world of industry, banks and trust foundations’. Tim Rix of Longman, first chairman of Book Trust, is reported in the Bookseller as saying, ‘We will be selling Book Trust on the importance of having a fully literate – not just functionally literate – society. It is estimated that 50 per cent of the adult population never reads a book. This is not good politically, socially or economically.’
Book Trust will continue with NBL activities and also instigate new projects including the creation of a Children’s Book Foundation. Martyn Goff, director of the NBL, now chief executive of Book Trust, promises a report `when they have firmed up’ in the New Year.
Walker Books published its first paperbacks this season. First titles are in the over-seven range where Walker believes children need books to be as cheap as possible so they can buy them themselves. Look out for ‘Little Dracula’ stories by Martin Waddell and Joseph Wright (enthusiastically reviewed by Bob Jay in this issue), and ‘Scrapbooks’ by Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake (large format, £1.95 each). These will also be available in a small hardback edition for libraries.
Now they are ten
Celebrating a decade of publishing this autumn are Andersen Press and Beaver Books.
Andersen Press was founded by Klaus Flugge. He chose the name in honour of Hans Andersen who, he believes, was ‘an original writer who contributed more to children’s books, internationally speaking, than anyone else.’ And because ‘it’s easier to spell and pronounce than Flugge.’
In December, to celebrate its tenth birthday, Andersen is publishing a special edition of thirteen Hans Andersen stories translated by Naomi Lewis and each illustrated by a different artist from the amazing Andersen list. Among them are Ruth Brown, Satoshi Kitamura, David McKee, Susan Varley, Michael Foreman, Fulvio Testa, Ralph Steadman and Tony Ross, author/artist of the very first Andersen book, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The celebration collection is called The Flying Trunk, (0 86264 147 0, £7.95) – artists’ royalties will go to the Save the Children Fund and Naomi Lewis is donating hers to Animal Aid.
Beaver Books started with Hamlyn and is now the children’s paperback imprint of Arrow in the Century Hutchinson group. Alison Berry, the present editor, looks forward to a period of expansion as Beaver moves into its second decade. The association with Hutchinson and Andersen provides opportunities for access to quality books especially in the picture book area where Beaver intends to publish more next year. There are also plans for more originals, film and television tie-ins, humour and non-fiction.