We’ve been planning, and testing books for the second of our Information Please series for some time. Computer books are now rushing off the presses faster than a chip can calculate, and more and more publishers are moving into software packages. Deciding what to buy for home, school or library, or which titles to stock in the school bookshop gets more difficult every week. We hope our special feature on Computers and Books will help you find a way through what Peter Usborne. who knows the terrain better than most. describes as the micro jungle.
As we went to press we heard of yet another new move. In November Piccolo are bringing out Computer Puzzle Story Books – science fiction and mystery do-it-yourself adventures. Sit down at your keyboard for a good read: when you encounter a problem there’s a computer program to help you solve it. Gone are the days, it seems, when all you needed to review a book were your eyes and a comfortable chair! When we’ve tried them out we’ll let you know.
Two big new feature films released this August also had us abandoning our armchairs for a seat at the cinema. The Outsiders and Wargames are part of the film industry’s hid to ensure its future by attracting a whole new young audience. With these two films. books and cinema make common cause in the attempt to ensure that reading and ‘going to the pictures’ have a place in teenage life alongside the competing attractions of records, video, video games and the like. Francis Ford Coppola based his film, The Outsiders, on S. E. Hinton’s hugely successful teenage novel. Penguin hope that Wargames, the book of the film, will find readers in the wake of a hugely successful film.
Fontana put a new tie-in cover on their paperback of The Outsiders. We liked it so much we decided to put it on our cover. You can find out what we thought of the films and the books in our feature article (pages 4 and 5). And S. E. Hinton fans will be fascinated to find out more about this remarkable writer in this issue’s Authorgraph (pages 14 and 15).
The makers of Wargames have linked the current fascination with computers and the awful possibility of a nuclear war to produce a timely adventure story. Equally timely, but no adventure, is the publication of a picture book, The Hiroshima Story (A and C Black, 0 7136 2357, £4.95) which deals with the awful actuality of that dreadful event. It is written and illustrated by Toshi Maruki, who went into Hiroshima soon after the A bomb explosion (what those who experienced it call The Flash) to help the wounded and bury the dead. She and her husband have been campaigning for peace and against nuclear weapons ever since. She is now 70. Childless, she calls this book ‘my legacy to my grandchildren’. It is a legacy all nine plus children should share. The story of what happened to seven year old Mii-Chan and her family in The Flash is told in simple words and haunting pictures. It will disturb: it should be talked about, with honesty and feeling. The book has already won awards in Japan and America. The English version of the story is by Judith Elkin, whom we congratulate as one of the winners of this year’s Other Award for Nowhere to Play (also A and C Black), a story of children in Venezuela for which she also produced the English story. For details of the other Other Award winners see page 28.
Visions of the Future
Another writer to try to show the reality of the aftermath of a nuclear explosion is Robert Swindells, the featured author in the second of our May We Recommend series. Pat Thomson writes about Brother in the Land (see page 26). Right from his first novel, When Darkness Comes (written as an assignment on a teacher training course), Robert Swindells has produced challenging and ‘different’ books. It’s good to see a new long novel from him and to hear that we shall have more of his work in paperback soon. He’s also highly recommended as an Author in School. If you are thinking of asking him to visit, contact him direct at 86 Sapgate Lane, Thornton, Bradford BD13 3DY.
An equally uncompromising look at the future is found in Robert Westall’s new novel. Futuretrack 5 (Kestrel, 0 7226 5880 X, £5.95). Appropriately for this issue Westall has a computer at the heart of his 21st century Britain where the elite white-coated, clip-board carrying Techs keep the computers clicking smoothly for the Ests (who at 20 pass their E-Levels and graduate to ‘cushy careers as archaeologists or astronomers. poets or racing yachtsmen. Gracious old houses. Book-lined studies with real log fires.’) and the Unnems who live Beyond the Wire. and for whom the Labour Exchange offers one of six Tracks: Rock music, Fighting, Playing Pinball. Thieving, Motor Bike Racing, Prostitution. Tech-by-mistake, Henry Kitson (he got 100% in his E-Levels, too good to be an Est) goes through the Wire, meets Keri (she’s a motor bike champion) and discovers more than he wants to know. Like the one in Wargames Westall’s computer ends up learning, though with not such simple results.
There’s a thread of a love story in Futuretrack 5 which makes it a candidate for our list of alternatives to pulp romance. Lots of you have sent in suggestions after the article in our last issue. Many thanks for your very interesting letters. We’ll be taking up the theme again – with a list – in our January issue. So there’s still time to send in your suggestions.
Researching School Bookshops
Something that is not a matter of opinion is the growth of school bookshops in the London Borough of Newham. More than half the schools in Newham have a school bookshop, an amazing statistic for an area which in material terms is poor and disadvantaged. The Parents Centre in Newham, funded by Greater London Arts and The British Library, and helped and advised by, among others, the School Bookshop Association, has done a detailed survey of these school bookshops. The results make very interesting reading for all involved with selling books in schools. The SBA is publishing the report and you can get a copy from us for only £1.20 (see insert for details). Read about what your colleagues in the school bookshop movement are doing, or be inspired to try yourself.