Several of you wrote to us about our map and had obviously enjoyed the fun. Some even accepted our invitation to add new locations. Eileen Saez from the School of Librarianship and Information Studies at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Polytechnic really got into the spirit of the thing.
`Congratulations on the thought-provoking map. Can I make a plea for the Library Schools to be charted please? I suppose we might belong on Library Island, the children’s literature options are possibly the best supported of the courses we run and might counteract erosion. Education Island would be another possibility, but then we could well anchor in Booklovers Bay too, and I’m sure that the students would happily consign their lecturers to Bee in the Bonnet Bay. I have a fancy, however for the schools of librarianship to be in the Ocean of Opportunity on the grounds that the schools do have the time and opportunity to explore and investigate areas through research projects and the like.’ Explorers please amend your maps. We’ve made a note for the next edition.
For those who want to catch up on the first article and the map, back numbers of Books for Keeps 10 are available. (75p including postage). Those who asked if we could reproduce the map poster-size will be pleased to hear that we can now also supply an enlarged (A3) version. (Also 75p including postage). No wall should be without one!
Great value though our map is it will be a while before we top the sales figures of Bob Leeson’s Grange Hill books which have just reached one million. To follow that comes a new Grange Hill venture from Fontana Lions – Phil Redmond’s Tucker and Co., our cover book for this issue, which neatly unites our two themes of Publicity and School Stories. With Tod Carty on the front, scowling irresistibly at all his fans it’s bound to be a winner. It’s five short stories, two about Tucker, three about the new first formers, racily told and very much in the style of the television series. The confrontations with bully Gripper Stebson (the new Booga Benson) are perhaps a bit repetitious in the `first year’ stories; but Maybe Tomorrow with Tucker coping with the dawning realisation that he fancies Trisha Yates is a little gem. More about Phil Redmond in his own words on page 24.
A Writing Friendship
Also in our special feature you can meet Tim Kennemore. Her The Middle of the Sandwich is certainly one of the best in the new wave of school stories. She is, we discovered, a compulsive reader, the sort that feels insecure without a book to hand. One of her favourite writers when she was young was Antonia Forest, and six years ago Tim wrote to her asking for advice on how to get published. ‘She was wonderful. I got pages of advice and the only thing she said she wanted in return was a copy of the first book I got published.’ They have been corresponding regularly for two years now but never met. `I wouldn’t want to. We might not like each other and that would be the end of the letters.’ When we met Tim she was looking forward to reading the latest Marlow family book. Unlike Tim, Antonia Forest writes very slowly and for her fans the gaps between books are unbearably long. Run Away Home (Faber, 0 571 11837 2, £5.25) is not a school story, in it the Marlows are at home for Christmas. But there is a lot happening (including an adventure at sea) and the subtle observation of character that is Antonia Forest’s trade mark is evident in full. As Tim Kennemore put it, `There’s a lot of depth in her books.’
Showing the Way
Someone with something to tell us about education if not about schools is Richard Steel, seventeen year old winner of the 1981 Times Educational Supplement Information Book Award for his book, Skulls. We have devoted a lot of space to Richard and his book (page 26) partly because he is unusual and interesting, but mainly because his book is so revealing of how real learning happens. In his introduction to the book he writes: `somehow when you find a skull, identify it and clean it, you seem to absorb information gradually and quite easily … if a subject is interesting then knowledge just creeps in unnoticed… I have learned a lot by putting down what I know on paper… I had to check as many facts as I could to make sure I was not passing on inaccurate information.’ Out of his enthusiasm came a highly individual book which communicates information clearly and compellingly. We could all learn a lot from it.
Bring Back Frances
Another award. winner is Russell Hoban our choice for the Authorgraph in this issue (page 16). His adult novel Riddley Walker which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1980 has recently gone into paperback from Picador. Don’t miss it.
We have tried by selecting examples from three of Russell Hoban’s children’s books (page 15) to give you a taste of the particular talent he has for revealing us to ourselves. In her new book list (see page 30) Elaine Moss includes no less than five Hoban stories. She calls him ‘that arch-analyst of the human zoo.’ Given all that, imagine how amazed and dismayed we were to find that almost all the indispensable Frances books are out of print in hardback and paperback. If you are to get acquainted with this delightful young person, lightly disguised as a badger, you will have to seek her in the library. Frances fans present and future should unite to urge publishers to get these marvellous books back into print as soon as possible.
Coming Soon – a Lifeline
We are constantly being asked for lists of sure-fire hits to recommend to those just starting out with children’s books. Who better to give that sort of advice than Elaine Moss whose knowledge and encouragement have inspired so many of us? So we are particularly delighted that Elaine has agreed to do a series of five articles on this theme for Books for Keeps. She has called it Lifeline Library. The first one will appear in our March issue and the others will follow throughout the year. At the end of the series you will have an annotated list of fifty books every teacher (or parent) should own as a Lifeline for any situation. Meanwhile you can hear Elaine Moss talking about her Picture Books for Young People 9-13 at a seminar on March 2nd, 5.00 pm at the National Book League in Wandsworth, London. For details contact Barbara Buckley (01 870 9055). Perhaps I’ll see some of you there.