Yes, it’s me again. Apparently, my debut as Editor of Books for Keeps with last year’s May issue provoked no great storm of protest. nor a massive cancellation of subscriptions. Even the back-up team at Effingham Road escaped without serious harm… at any rate I’m still married to one of them. So the only snag this time round is that I’m expected to know what I’m doing.
Bon Voyage, Pat
Which brings the to why I’m here in the first – or rather, second place. Pat Triggs is taking a six-month break from the magazine to teach in the USA. She’ll be exchanging with an American colleague who has the daunting task of being Pat’s stand-in for a term at Bristol Polytechnic where Pat has her daytime job. It seemed a touch unreasonable to saddle this brave spirit with Pat’s night-time job, too, as Editor of BfK, so while Pat’s away I’ll be editing this issue and November’s. The July and September issues will be edited by
…yes, our Richard Hill. Till now, as Director of the School Bookshop Association and Managing Editor of this magazine, Richard has been very much a backroom boy. In fact he’s an expert at deflecting the limelight elsewhere, making sure everyone except himself gets the credit for what goes on. As a former marketing manager for Puffin Books, though, as well as being associated with the movement for school bookshops from its beginning, Richard’s experience of the world of children’s books is unrivalled. Those who’ve heard him speak on the subject know how passionately he’s committed to the promotion of reading and the reading habit. So, reluctant as he is to be forced to the front of the stage, Richard will he making the next two issues very much more than just a holding operation till the return of business as usual. That I can promise! Meanwhile …
Happy Half-Century to Books for Keeps!
No, not years. Just issues. This is the fiftieth since the magazine was launched in March 1980 which indicates how well deserved Pat’s first sabbatical as editor really is. Plenty of BfK subscribers, I surmise, have an image of the magazine that suggests a penthouse production-suite off Fleet Street or, more likely these days, a modest but substantial fortress in Wapping. The reality is rather different. Richard and his wife Angie work from home in Lee. London SE12, as the only full-time employees with part-time help from Carole Newman who lives up the road, Jan Powling who pays flying visits front Winchester, and Pat who commutes whenever necessary from Bristol. You’d call it a kitchen-table operation but for the computer assistance, the three rooms-worth of space actually taken up and – dare I say it – the quality of the final product. Congratulations, then, to Richard, Angie. Pat, Carole and Jan. And best wishes for the next fifty issues.
A Picture Book Focus
By now it’s a tradition that the May issue emphasises picture books. Our usual Spring round-up of new hardbacks is offered on pages 26-30 reviewed this year by Jeff Hynds. Jeff Hynds, do I hear you say? Wasn’t he…
That’s right. There was that little local difficulty recently in the London Borough of Bromley whose Chief Education Officer took exception to the ‘real’ reading policy being implemented at a local school with Jeff’s guidance. From this little dust-up Jeff emerged both unbowed and unbloody-indeed grinning broadly since it drew attention to an approach he’s been championing for years. He’s been so busy since with speaking engagements and consultancies, it was difficult for him to fit us in. We’re delighted he managed it.
Three other articles pick up our picture book theme. On pages 4-6 Margaret Carter describes how young illustrators get to be illustrators .. . the leg-work, that is, rather than their efforts pencil-in-hand. Her piece finishes off with a reference to the young artist we chose to illustrate it: Marc Vyvyan-Jones. Newly launched on his career, he’s in a good position to vouch for the accuracy of Margaret’s account. So are the contenders for 1988’s Mother Goose Award which is summarised on page 25 by Elaine Moss. Marc Vyvyan-Jones’s Maurice by the way, published by Spindlewood on St George’s Day, is eligible for Mother Goose ’89 so we wish him the best of luck. Certainly first-rate picture books, and artists to provide them, are more plentiful than ever. Take a rising star like Ruth Brown, for instance, the subject of Authorgraph No. 50 on our centre pages – and the supplier of our front cover from her latest book. The problem for publishers these days, I gather-and Margaret Carter confirms this – is finding suitable texts for then to illustrate. Would-he writers, please note.
Roald at Redbridge
We were tempted to present Lindy Barclay’s article in picture book format as well, so splendid were the accompanying photographs by Richard Mewton who’s worked for BfK from its earliest days. This would have diminished Lindy’s input, though, a great shame given the freshness and flair she brings to it. It’s as persuasive a report on a book event as we’ve ever come across. But, then, what better material could she have had than a visit to her school by the World’s Most Popular Children’s Author’? Lindy tells how she went about it. how Redbridge coped with Roald Dahl and how Roald Dahl coped with Redbridge. See pages 18-21 for the full story.
Trial by Bibliography
‘Book Week was brilliant,‘ said one of Lindy’s pupils. Imagine the same child’s response to the booklist from the Daily Telegraph we print on page 23. Of course, such a list could never become mandatory in schools … could it? It’s hard to be sure when so much current education policy seems to be made up in a saloon bar on the back of an envelope. Relying on Old Smileyspecs is risky enough but what about Herself constantly looking over his shoulder’? How many of the titles listed has she read, I wonder?
…And Trial by Title
Speaking of titles, my local bookseller tells me how difficult life can be if this is the only detail a customer can offer. Recently she’s had Woof! by Allan Ahlberg (Puffin) confused with Only One Woof by James Herriot (Pan), Gillian Cross’s The Runaway (Magnet) with Ruth Thomas’s Guardian Award winner The Runaways (Hutchinson), and Ten in a Bed by Ahlberg and Amstutz (Granada) with Penny Dale’s Ten in the Bed (Walker) – with Mary Rees’ Ten in a Bed (Andersen) adding to the muddle. Tough times are ahead, what’s more. Soon Shirley Hughes’ latest book for Walker Out and About will he joined by Raymond Wilson’s crew collection of verse for Viking Kestrel called … Out and About. It’s a perennial problem which points up our need to have as much information as possible about the books we’re after. Remember, copyright doesn’t apply to titles.
Now that’s a thought. How many sales might be diverted front a certain permanent bestseller by an upstart epic craftily named Charlie at the Chocolate Factory? Of course, no-one would ever dare… would they?