A plea for more text
Opening the Children’s Books of the Year Exhibition in July, Frank Delaney of BBC Radio’s Bookshelf programme had some lively things to say about children’s publishing, television and newspapers.
Around you here you see some marvellous illustrations. Illustrators are now being encouraged by their publishers to do good jackets. The Rook from Hamish Hamilton. written and illustrated by Deborah King. is a non-fiction book, an account of a year in the life of the rook. It’s the sort of book we didn’t have when I was a child. It’s the sort of book which should introduce a good number of children to the notion of non-fiction. That is heartening. But if you go through the list over the last few years it appears that many publishers are putting their money into design, into illustration: you have pop-up books, you have pullout books, you have picture books. I would like to make a plea for more type, more text. Even though you do have wonderful illustrators and even though they do catch the children’s eye, I can’t help but think that they follow on from television and that this is how publishers now decide on what to publish.’
‘Television companies are responsible to huge audiences and they do very little about books for children. A good number of children now get their information, get their stories from television and perhaps turn to books that way. In their various ways the television companies. including the BBC, could do a lot more for children’s publishing.’
‘I would like to see the newspapers putting more money into prizes, into devoting pages to children’s books. I have seen newspapers in Ireland doing this with tremendous success, devoting perhaps a literary page in every three to children’s books. The reading habit there is very much stronger: there has been a publishing boom, and there has been a boom in the sale of children’s books, there in the last few years. It’s not just enough that the Guardian does an award every year. It’s not enough that people like Alan Garner recognised because of the publicity attached to their work. It’s not enough that people like Alan Aldridge with Butterfly Ball should go down in legend as an illustrator of books. You need more input, youneed more finance you need money from the television companies and from the news not only to keep children’s books together, because they are falling back in the scale of publishing, but to make them more than one sixteenth of the total output.’
Happily we’ve been able to get Graham Oakley’s marvellous Church Mice books in paperback for a while now. But starting this month Macmillan are launching a whole new- series of paperback picture books, Picturemacs, with titles from their hardback list. The first batch includes The Church Mice at Christmas, The Girl who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble. and Ron and Atie van der Meer’s delightful interpretation of the Noah story, Oh Lord!. All very welcome and for full size, well-produced paperbacks good value at £1.50.
Reading for Enjoyment
A fourth edition of these useful booklists with completely new selectors and selections of just over 100 titles in each. 0-6 chosen by Dorothy Butler (0 907264 00 X) 7-11 chosen by Ann Bartholomew (0 907264 01 8) 12 and up chosen by Chris Kloet (0 907264 02 6)
Available from Baker Book Services Ltd, Little Mead, Alfold Road. Cranleigh, Surrey, or from the National Book League. Price 75p each. (Touring exhibitions are also available from the NBL.)