With the publication of this our January issue, Books for Keeps No. 150, we celebrate our 150th birthday. BfK has now been reviewing and celebrating books for children whilst also reflecting on every aspect of the children’s world and the processes which bring young readers and books together for nearly two and a half decades. In 1996 in the 100th edition of BfK the then editor, Chris Powling, described the different components of the magazine (reviews, features, news, issues and arguments) and conducted a ‘progress review’ of the magazine’s first 100 issues. He concluded that founding editor, Pat Triggs’s mission statement in the inaugural edition back in March 1980 that the magazine should be ‘helpful, practical, stimulating, informative, entertaining, sometimes provocative and always enjoyable to read’ still pertained. This remains our goal today.
Over the last 50 issues the elements of the magazine have remained essentially the same while continuing, hopefully, to respond to the changing times and its new demands. ‘Issues’ are still being addressed with, eg, our 1998 Books for Keeps Guide to Children’s Books about Bullying and our updated 1999 A Multicultural Guide to Children’s Books. Such topics as the impact of SATS, sexual explicitness in books for older teenagers (which led to the introduction of our reviews for a 14+ category) and, following 9/11, the representation of Arabs in children’s books have been amongst the many discussed in our features. Our review team has been expanded to include reviewers from ethnic and other minority groups as well as more non-fiction specialists and more reviewers with expertise in illustrated books and in the history of children’s books. The historical aspect has also been well represented in our ‘Classics in Short’ column.
Each editor of BfK brings their particular passions to the magazine and one of mine is the quality of the reviewing of illustrated books. ‘Windows into Illustration’ (see Chris Wormell’s contribution in this issue) has been one way of offering insights into the thinking and techniques behind illustration. Interest from our review team and from our readers then led to the ‘Words about Pictures’ seminar and workshop in March ’04 organised in collaboration with the Learning Centre at Somerset House and the Quentin Blake Gallery of Illustration. Another interest is the way in which the insights of psychoanalytical theory can illuminate our understanding of the resonance of particular books with young readers. One of the most popular slots in the magazine at the moment is psychodynamic counsellor, Roger Mills’s accounts of his son Hal’s engagement with books and story. Features on such acclaimed authors as Jacqueline Wilson and Philip Pullman have also occasionally taken a psychoanalytic approach.
As you will have noticed, we are marking the publication of this 150th birthday issue with a new, less cluttered look. A new poetry slot organised in collaboration with the Poetry Society and Foyle Young Poets promotes this important aspect of young people’s own creative writing and a new, tongue in cheek column, ‘Take 3’, provides a thumbnail introduction to aspects of the children’s book world. As to the future – much work has been going on behind the scenes on our website (www.booksforkeeps.co.uk). At the time of writing you can not only take out or renew your subscription but you also can access some items from this issue as well as our index (from BfK No. 1 to the current issue). One of our projects for 2005 is to expand this index into a searchable full text archive (see p21). We hope you will find this a useful expansion of the service the magazine provides. We also, of course, very much welcome your feedback, ideas and letters.