Heritage in Danger
In 1944 Iona and Peter Opie were working on a study of the history of the rhymes of childhood. One consequence of this was The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (published in 1951); another was the creation of a collection of children’s books and periodicals: nursery rhymes, poetry, folk and fairy stories, toy books, comics – in fact material illustrative of the whole range of books that children have been given for amusement and instruction from the seventeenth century to present times. Their first book, bought in 1944, was a 16-page chapbook collection of rhymes, The Cheerful Warbler – the start of a working collection from which the Opies produced their fascinating and definitive studies of the lore of childhood.
The Opie collection of over 17,000 items – the finest in the world in private hands is now in danger of being broken up or exported. Professionally valued at £1 million, it would probably realise much more on the open market. The Friends of the Bodleian Library in Oxford would like to acquire the collection for the University, ensuring that it remains intact in this country, to be used by future scholars and researchers, and have inaugurated the Opie Appeal. Mrs Opie will, very generously, give £500,000 provided the Appeal can raise an equal amount.
In recent years much of our literary heritage has been sold abroad; it would be a great loss if such marvellous evidence of three hundred years of childhood were to be dispersed into private collections or into distant academic libraries.
The eighteenth-century books are perhaps the finest anywhere, but this is only a fraction of the whole, some 800 of the 12,000 bound items, together with about 1100 chapbooks, battledores, and card-covered toy books, and some 4000 comics, children’s magazines and penny dreadfuls in their original parts. There are volumes of seventeenth-century advice to the young, but also copies of the Eagle and a paper for young Communists; there are first and early editions of classics like the Alices and The Wind in the Willows (the Opies’ copy is the one that Kenneth Grahame inscribed for his son Alistair) and the works of Beatrix Potter, but also Enid Blyton and Biggles There is a substantial section of books on children’s games, and books for amusement like drawing and painting books, movables, paper dolls, and rag books. There are some spectacular nineteenth-century German books, post-Revolutionary Russian picture books, and splendid English twentieth-century picture books. All this goes with a superb collection of reference books, and, most important, the notes that Peter Opie made on the individual items.
If you would like to contribute to the Opie Appeal, please contact the Friends of the Bodleian Opie Appeal, The Bodleian Library, Oxford OX1 3BG.
Best Books for Babies
This year’s award, given by Parents magazine, goes to Jill Murphy for Five Minutes’ Peace (Walker Books, 0 7445 0491 0, £5.95). A shortlist of ten books was drawn up by Libby Purves, Julia Eccleshare and Tony Bradman (of Parents magazine); but the final judging was done by ten families selected from volunteer readers of the magazine.
The Riley family from Liverpool reported:
`This book could have been tailor-made for us. It has been read again and again and we have all laughed out loud at it. After much agonising we all agreed on this as our first choice simply because it gave us so much pleasure and it is so simply written and well illustrated it is difficult to find fault with.’
The Snow Spider wins again
The Tir na n-Og Awards are presented annually by the Welsh Arts Council and the Welsh Joint Education Committee for writing for children and young people. Two awards go to books in Welsh and this year the prize for fiction goes to Jabas by Penri Jones, a novel for teenage readers (Gwasg Dwyfor). The other prize is awarded to Alun Jones and J. Timon Jones, co-editors of Garold o Gerddi, an anthology of poetry in the strict metre, illustrated y Brett Breckon, Jan Nesbitt and Susanne Chapman (corner Press)
The `English Award’ for the best book with an authentic Welsh background goes’ to The Snow Spider (Methuen), Jenny Nimmo’s novel for young readers which has already won the Smarties Prize.
The Children’s Book Award
This year the Federation of Children’s Book Groups’ search for the children’s `best’ ended at Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s The Jolly Postman (Heinemann). The prize – a specially commissioned leather binding holding responses from some of the thousands of young ‘reviewers’ who loved this book-will be presented at a literary tea party at the London Hilton planned to coincide with the start of Children’s Book Week on 3rd October.
Hans Andersen Award
The British Section of IBBY has chosen its nominees for the 1988 Hans Christian Andersen Award the prestigious international award for a body of work for children. The author nomination goes to Peter Dickinson; the illustrator is Michael Foreman.
Bridging the Gap
0 85353 412 8, £1.50 (£l.00 to Friends of Book Trust and educational establishments)
95 titles selected and interestingly annotated by Keith Barker. The aim of the list is to highlight books which `bridge the unnecessary gap between teenage and adult reading.’ Throughout the list are sprinkled comments from some of the pupils from three schools who `road tested’ the selection.
From: Book Trust, Book House, 45 East Hill, London SW18 2QZ.
The selection is also available as an exhibition.
Readers will like to know that Rosemary Stones’ Too Close Encounters and What to Do About Them which we reviewed enthusiastically in July is also available in paperback from Magnet (£1.95).
It is with great regret that we report the death of Patrick Hardy in July. He was one of the great editors whose talent and integrity have so significantly influenced children’s book publishing in this country and brought us some of the best books in the world. An editor at Constable Young Books in the mid-sixties, he went on to create the Kestrel list for Penguin and to become Publisher for the Children’s Book Division. What he loved best was books and in 1982, in his own words, `I came to the point in my life of asking myself whether I wanted to get more and more involved in administration or to do more work with authors.’ As a result he left Penguin and eventually started his own imprint, Patrick Hardy Books, where he encouraged new writers and artists like Jenny Koralek, Bert Kitchen and Richard Edwards; nudged and nurtured established names like John Lawrence, Rosemary Manning, Catherine Storr and John Gordon; and introduced us to unknown delights like Garth Williams’ The Chicken Book published in the USA in 1946 and never before available here. He will be much missed. Patrick Hardy’s list is now incorporated with The Lutterworth Press.