Focus on Multi-ethnic groups
For a long time ethnic minorities have not been able to find themselves positively reflected in books. Things are changing slowly. In this issue of Books for Keeps we focus on multi-cultural books; there’s news of a new NBL Booklist and comment from its compilers, an Authorgraph of Farrukh Dhondy, a Talking Point from Rosemary Stones and lots of information. Don’t think that just because you are miles from a minority community this is not for you. ‘For centuries Britain has been brought up to regard black people as inferior or at best a source of entertainment.’ Words spoken after the April riots in St Paul’s, Bristol. Books helped to create this image, books can help to undo it – in all our minds.
A delightfully positive step in the right direction is Mother Goose Comes to Cable Street (Kestrel/Puffin), a collection of nursery rhymes chosen by Rosemary Stones and Andrew Mann, and illustrated by Dan Jones. The illustrations are a joy, full of life and humour, rich in detail and surprises, and all recognisably from London’s East End. Sadly we can’t show you the colour – you’ll just have to rush out and get the new Picture Puffin. 80p’s worth of pure delight.
How to… organise a Christmas Book Fair
We’ve been hearing a lot about your plans for book fairs and book events this term, especially in Children’s Book Week. You’ve positively overwhelmed Margaret Turfrey with requests for Hints for Organisers: unfortunately some of you have been disappointed not to get the ‘free’ authors you would have liked. Sadly there are only a limited number available and some of them get snapped up very early. If you haven’t been lucky, don’t let that stop you having a fair. Authors aren’t everything. See your book supplier about a special display, put the spotlight on hardbacks (everyone should have a hardback for Christmas), get some balloons, badges, posters, stickers, and you’re away. Why not make Secombe’s Selection a feature of your event (page 28)? Do get the children involved – in one school we know the kids are doing their own Book Tower programme for visitors.
More about old favourites, please
You haven’t been writing just about Book Week. Jack Freeborn, headmaster of a junior school in Halifax, writes: `Please can you say a bit more about well-tried old favourites – not every reader knows about them. One teacher of lower juniors recently said to me, “After Dahl’s `Charlie’ books and Stig of the Dump I can’t find any more good ones for reading aloud.”‘ Point taken. We hope top junior teachers found Elaine Moss’s article useful in the July Books for Keeps. We are working on lists for lower juniors. Meanwhile some August reissues in paperback seem just the thing. Penguin are reissuing all Mary Norton’s `Borrowers’ series (75p) with beautiful covers by Pauline Baynes. The first story of these tiny resourceful people who live alongside the `Human Beans’ and `borrow’ our possessions for their everyday needs is told in The Borrowers – a splendid read-aloud (edit the beginning a bit) for lower juniors. If you haven’t read Russell Hoban’s classic The Mouse and his Child (Puffin, 80p), don’t wait any longer. This epic tale of the quest by two clockwork toys to become self-winding and their encounters with Manny Rat cannot fail to move and inspire. Try also Dominic, William Steig (65p), Along Came a Dog, Meindert deJong (75p) and, for slightly younger readers/listeners, Mary-Mary (80p), Joan Robinson’s genuinely funny adventures of the youngest in a family of five who always manages to come out on top (all in Fontana Lions). It’s a vintage month for reprints.
A cry from the heart answered
Claire O’Connor was one of the winners in the 21st W. H. Smith Children’s Literary Competition. Her entry That’s Life is included in Children as Writers (Heinemann, 0 435 13410 8, £2.50). She writes: `Should this experience get you down? Is there something wrong with me? Am I so different that growing up for me is a painful experience? Someone, please, please answer me. I wonder why menstruation is kept so quiet. I wonder and ask why?’
The rawness of the emotion in this sad experience hits hard at teachers and parents. Claire was fourteen when she wrote down her feelings. She’s fifteen now. Have you Started Yet? by Ruth Thomson (Heinemann, 0 434 96600 2, £3.50) may save others from the pain caused by ignorance. It’s a blessedly honest book which deals with feelings as well as facts. Happily it’s published simultaneously in Piccolo (0 330 26134 7. 80p).
A press release in Latin (with English crib) announced Domus Anguli Puensis (The House at Pooh Corner to you), Brian Staples’ translation of A. A. Milne’s evergreen story (Methuen, 0 416 88550 0, £3.95). Mr Staples (ex Birmingham Public Librarian) followed Dr Alexander Lenard (Winnie Ille Pu) as translator as a sort of therapy for early retirement because of illness It’s a great improvement on most Latin readers (Et frigorum digitorum, Tiddely Pum) – it’s fun.
And for sheer strange beauty you can’t beat Martin Ware’s illustrations for Christina Rossetti’s magically mysterious Goblin Market (Gollancz. 0 575 02772 X, £4.95). Look and see – you’ll be bewitched.