Pat Triggs, Editor
Hello and welcome to Books for Keeps from me. Editors, especially new ones, should be prepared to explain their policy, so here goes. Helpful, practical, stimulating, informative, entertaining, sometimes provocative and always enjoyable to read – this is what we intend Books for Keeps should be. So it will contain:
From meeting and talking to you we know that what you feel most in need of is information about books. For this reason a large part of the magazine is given over to reviews of paperbacks and hardcovers. We are building up a panel of regular reviewers. Each reviewer will inevitably have a distinctive and personal approach to books but they will all be actively involved with children as well as with books. We hope you will enjoy getting to know their particular personalities, finding the ones to trust and the ones you love to hate. Whenever possible we will make use of experts for reviewing non-fiction.
Features by and about book people, focus on current issues, news of what has happened, is happening and is going to happen in the world of books, advice and ideas on getting children and books together. Get them entering for our great Olympics 1980 Competition even if (as I write) the prospects for Moscow seem a little uncertain.
will be a regular feature. We hope that it will give you ideas and information for getting children more interested and involved in the people who actually create books and the books they create. It’s designed so that if youwish you can pull it out for pinning up in bookshop, library, classroom or at home.
Entertaining and enjoyable, yes. But don’t expect us to be bland or uncritical.
will feature in the magazine when we think or you tell us there is something important or interesting to be discussed. A while ago I asked a random sample of teachers why they thought learning to read was important. A few referred to `a necessary skill for doing a job’, `coping with everyday life’, `surviving in society’. The majority though used phrases like `the pleasure of reading’, `enjoying literature’, `feeding the imagination’, `help in knowing yourself and the world’, `using books to find out what you want to know’. This all seems fine and many of us spend a lot of time and effort in libraries and bookshops as well as classrooms trying to encourage children to see it this way. And yet sometimes it seems if we look at what happens in schools that when it comes to reading teachers are their own worst enemies. Look at Talking Point in this and the next issue to see if you agree – and then write to us. We want
FEEDBACK from you. Drop me a line – we want to know what you’re doing and also what you think of us. My address is opposite.
Meeting Quentin Blake
We are delighted to have Quentin Blake as the subject of our first Authorgraph (perhaps we should have called it Artistgraph this time) and we very much enjoyed meeting him while compiling it. He is a thoughtful, gentle, extremely modest person with, as you would expect, a lovely sense of humour. His new book, Mister Magnolia, out this month (Cape, £3.50), is his first book for the very young. A simple, rhyming story, the language and the pictures are full of fun and life. Marvellous stuff for pre-schoolers and beginning readers. Work in progress includes a new Roald Dahl picture book, The Twits (there are some really gruesome characters), and a longer story about a boy who suffers from epilepsy which he is enjoying doing because it’s not a funny book, rather a serious book with a humorous flavour. Future plans include a picture book for younger children, this time of Michael Rosen poems.
Fans of Quentin Blake can see (and buy) his work, including the originals for Mister Magnolia, at an exhibition at Illustrators Art, 16a D’Arblay Street, London W1, from 13th March to 5th April, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On 16th March Quentin Blake will be in the gallery to meet children from 2 till 4 p.m.
Kit Williams, artist and creator of this runaway best-seller, told a lovely story when he visited the Children’s Book Fair at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. A few days after the book was published, someone telephoned Cape and asked for the Publicity Department. He explained, in a northern accent, that he was ringing to say thank you for the beautiful jewel that he and his son had just dug up. It was a really lovely hare, just as lovely as they’d said it was on the telly and the radio and his family would cherish it and look after it. At Cape, a white and shaken publicity man had visions of thousands of unsold copies of Masquerade. After a pause, the voice went on. He realised that all this might be embarrassing, no buried treasure and all that. He was prepared to put the hare back and say nothing; but of course, his son would be very disappointed and … I don’t know if they made a deal. Eventually the caller confessed – it was John Burningham, creator of Mr Gumpy’s Outing, Borka and many other classic picture books.
By the way, what do you think about Masquerade? The book has certainly drawn very different reactions. `Rubbish’, `Not a children’s book’, `Pretentious, wouldn’t have it on the shelf’, I overheard in Birmingham recently. The children in Cheltenham were enjoying solving the riddles, with the help of hints from Kit Williams (about everything except where to find the hare) and Rik McCoy’s customers in Portishead, near Bristol (see Be Our Guest, page 21), seemed to like it. Any comments?