We’ve put together two special four-page features for you in this issue, on Awards and on Non-Fiction.
Spring and early summer is peak time for Children’s Book Awards. As I write we await news of the Carnegie and Greenaway awards. (A difficult year for the Carnegie and with no outstanding hot tip. Will they perhaps not make an award this year? The last time that happened was in 1967. Or will they really go out on a limb and give it to When the Wind Blows? We shall see.) But the Guardian, the Mother Goose and the Children’s Book Award are all safely in (see p. 6-9). A good time we thought for The World of Children’s Books to do a survey of The Awards Business (see p. 4)
Few awards for non-fiction, but books continue to pour off the presses in great variety of size, shape and form. Nice, for example, to see the potential of pop-ups being used for non-fiction. Eric Carle showed the way with The Honeybee and the Robber (Julia MacRae). My favourite among its successors is Frogs (0 434 98017 X, £2.95) in the Heinemann/Quixote series of Natural Pop-Ups. I’ve been using it with Top Infants; they love to see the ‘frog’s spawn’ literally rise to the surface of the water, and the tadpole grow legs and lose its tail. A rather special addition to ‘information as story’ books was Susan Williams’ Lambing at Sheepfold Farm. This month sees a sequel, Summer at Sheepfold Farm (Gollancz, 0 575 03262 6, £4.95) with Polly and Tim helping out with shearing, dipping, taking the lambs to market and unmasking a gang of sheep rustlers. Again Susan Williams’ line drawings are a beautiful accompaniment to the text.
We’ve been thinking for some time about ways to cover non-fiction. Information Please is a new series which looks at non-fiction in a thematic way. We start with People at Work and at Home – a topic for all age-ranges. Pace-setters in 1977 were Anita Harper and Christine Roche’s How we Live and How we Work (Kestrel and Picture Puffin), perhaps the first books for young children to reflect accurately a whole range of life and work styles. Last year, in an imaginative move, Dinosaur got together with the Industrial Society to produce a Middle School Project pack with three of their titles – A Visit to the Factory, What is a Union and The Stock Exchange – and a set of notes for teachers.
For Information Please we asked Rosemary Last of Herefordshire Libraries to give us some guidelines for selection in this area. Chris Fairclough gives us a glimpse of what it’s like behind the camera which takes the photographs which illustrates so many non-fiction books, and Jill Coleman talks about the thinking behind the Beans series (p. 20-25).
An Authorgraph featuring a non-fiction writer was long overdue and in an issue which focusses on People Camilla Jesse! is a natural choice. The stunning photograph on the cover of this issue is only one of an amazing sequence from Learner Bird, Camilla Jessel’s latest book from Methuen (0 416 22460 1, £3.95). The photographs, together with a simple but very informative text, tell the story of how Jem rescued a baby thrush, looked after it and finally returned it to the wild. They show caring and concern without a trace of sentimentality. Camilla Jessel’s books offer images that remain in the mind, that from a basis of ‘fact’ move the reader to understanding.
Tea for 200?
Adults who like that sort of think have for years been able to rub shoulders with book world luminaries at literary lunches. Now children can get in on the act – at a price. If you can get to London’s Inter-continental Hotel and can spare £10 a head you can meet children’s authors, dance to a Disco and have a ‘super tea’. The organisers, Bookworm Teas, report that two hundred people came to their first party – Paul Daniels appeared. A different charity benefits each time, nominated by a special guest.
For those who would rather spend £30 on a classful of children, the NBL’s Authors and Illustrators List gives details of writers and artists willing to talk to children and how to contact them. If you are planning an author visit, contact your Regional Arts Association for details of the Writers in Schools scheme -you could get some financial help. And don’t forget the SBA handbook (How to Set Up and Run a School! Bookshop) which has a whole section on Author’s Visits. An opportunity not to be missed, we’d think, came in a message from Sparrow Books which asks us to tell Books for Keeps readers that Colin West, author of the delightfully absurd collection of nonsense verse Not to be Taken Seriously (0 09 930640 9, £1) would be pleased to visit schools if his expenses were paid. (Contact Diana Colbert, 01 387 2811). And Chris Fairclough tells us he also enjoys visiting schools and talking to children about his books. (Contact Chris in Guildford on 0483 69289)
Use Your Loaf
A message of a quite different kind came to us from LOAF (Libraries Open and Free) which fears ‘an all-out attack on the principle of a free library service’. At national level, LOAF claims, the DES’ Office of Arts and Libraries has commissioned a project to investigate the income-raising potential of the public library service and ways of circumventing the legal requirements of the Public Libraries and Museum Act (1964) which makes it a statutory duty of local councils to provide ‘a comprehensive and efficient library service’ at ‘no charge’, apart from certain exceptions. It’s these exceptions, says LOAF, that are being used to undermine the principle of free libraries. Hertfordshire local authority has already introduced overdue fines for children and OAP’s of up to £2 per item and is charging for the loan of spoken word recordings.
To give or get information, LOAF is at 4 Woodland Way, Welwyn, Herts.
A Little Treasure
What would solve everyone’s problems is a spot of instant Magic as practised in Treehorn’s Treasure (Kestrel, 0 7226 5827 3, £3.95). The many fans of Florence Parry Heide’s The Shrinking of Treehorn will be delighted to find Treehorn in excellent adult-enduring form again. He does try to tell them that money really is growing on trees, but as usual they are too busy to listen. A little treasure for all of us was the recent animated version of The Shrinking… on Peter Tabern’s Middle Pages slot in Thames TV’s Middle English series (Tuesdays and Thursdays this term). Roll on the repeat. It’s far too good for just one showing.
Treasure of course was the theme for the FCBG’s Tell a Story Week at the launch of which Dahl received his first award in this country. Which is where we came in. Just turn over and start reading.