John Craven is this year’s Children’s Book Week personality. During CBW he will be appearing at events all over the country including a return visit to his old school in Leeds. Nine years ago John had a hard job convincing people that a TV news programme for children would find an audience. Today, Newsround is well established and has developed a skilful journalistic style which reports on, often complex, events and issues and makes them understandable. As presenter of Newsround and part of the Multi-Coloured Swap Shop team, John Craven is definitely in the First Division of People Children Like Best.
John is an enthusiastic amateur photographer and has a particular interest in conservation. He has recently become a co-president of the Young People’s Trust for Endangered Species – his fellow presidents are David Bellamy, Rolf Harris, Spike Milligan, Johnny Morris, Harry Secombe and David Shepherd. YPTES (pronounced Yippeteezel) aims to enrol schools and individual children and provide information, badges, ideas for projects. John has recently moved into the country and found that he has his own personal endangered species in the loft. It’s an unusual breed of squirrel brought to England by the Romans which lives only in that part of Buckinghamshire.
With these interests you might expect Craven’s Choice to be heavily weighted towards non-fiction. But John likes a good story and he also had his two daughters, Emma (8) and Victoria (6), helping him to choose. Both are avid readers so he decided to include what they liked and put in his own favourites for older children. He says they had a lot of fun choosing and quite a few battles at the end when decisions had to be made about the final twelve. At times both daughters stormed out of the room when books they liked were dropped.
The books… plus Craven’s Comments
Amazing Facts About Your Body
Ill. Bobby Craig, Carousel, 0 552 57045 1, 95p
‘This is the best kind of children’s information book because grown-ups learn a lot from it as well. And it’s fun too – using facts and figures in an amusing and entertaining way.’
A Friendship of Equals
Gina Wilson, Faber, 0 571 11632 9, £4.50
A good well-written story. It’s about people with different social backgrounds and there’s a girl in a wheelchair but the story is more important than the issues. I’d think it would appeal particularly to girls of 10-12.
Tess – The Story of a Guide Dog
Fay Godwin and Peter Purves, Gollancz, 0 575 02959 5, £4.95
It’s a sure-fire winner – and I’m not saying that just because Peter Purves is an old friend. It’s very much a documentary – you need to spend time reading it. If you can’t read, you can certainly enjoy the photographs. A suitable memento for the Golden Jubilee of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.’
Frank and Polly Muir’s Big Dipper
Heinemann, 0 434 481 60 2, £5.95
‘It’s literally what it says. There’s a lovely variety of things in it for the whole family to dip into – stories, poetry, information, cartoons. An introduction to lots of good authors and illustrators. It’s an obvious Christmas book – but one that will be in use long after Christmas.’
Gumdrop and the Secret Switches
Val Biro, Hodder Et Stoughton, 0 340 26276 1, £3.50
‘This is my choice because I like old motor cars and this is a lovely story with marvellous pictures.’
Edna O’Brien, Hodder Et Stoughton, 0 340 26491 8, £3.95
‘Edna O’Brien’s first story for children and it’s beautifully illustrated by Peter Stevenson – looks a bit like a book from the thirties. But it’s really Emma’s choice – she was enchanted and there were “scenes” when the book had to leave the house with me.’
The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Counting Book
Robert Crowther, Kestrel, 0 7226 5598 3, £4.95
‘Victoria’s choice and a smashing book. It’s a well-made pop-up and easy to use. This one will be in use for a long time – you never get tired of seeing what’s going to pop out and counting all the weird little things.’
Frankenstein’s Monster Fun Book
Gyles Brandreth, Knight, 0 340 26532 9, 85p
‘Emma’s choice – she’s heavily into monsters and spooky things. A nice book – all the monster ingredients but not X Certificate scary.’
Leon Garfield, Macdonald, 0 354 081 26 8, £3.25
A marvellous story, beautifully illustrated. A Christmas setting, but a book to go back to again and again. A real possession – not just a book, a little treasure.’
The Honeybee and the Robber
Eric Carle, Julia MacRae Books, 0 86203 013 7, £4.95
Another pop-up that won’t be easily destroyed. It’s a good way to get information across to young children. I like the section at the back will more information about bees for grown-ups. More books could copy this. When I’m reading with children they always want to know more than the book tell you.’
Tarkina the Otter
John Goldsmith and Graham Dangerfield, Pelham, 0 7207 1292 0, £4.95
‘A very high quality animal book. Beautifully illustrated with drawings and photographs and nicely laid out.’
Bernard Stone, Sparrow, 0 09 926630 X, £1.35
‘A great fun book. Victoria liked the Steadman drawings, Emma liked the story.’•
Look out this autumn for
John Craven’s Wildlife Report
Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 10645 1, £5.50 hb; 0 241 10701 6, £3.50 pb
A collection of interviews with people all over the world who are actively involved in conservation.
John Craven and John Wasley, E.P. Publishing, 0 7158 0667 X, £2.50
John Craven introduces photography, its history, etc, in the first half, then hands over to a professional for detailed advice.
The People’s Trust for Endangered Species can be contacted at 19 Quarry Street, Guildford, Surrey (Tel: 0483-35671).