Who’s the most translated living author in the world? According to Patricia Crampton, her British translator, it’s the subject of this issue’s Authorgraph: the Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren. Astrid’s popularity world-wide dwarfs – or should I say tomtens – even that of our own Roald Dahl. See page 21 for Patricia’s account of her friendship with one of literature’s youngest octogenarians.
Back to Base
Pictures, of course, need no translation which greatly increases the international appeal of illustrators like Graeme Base. We preview his follow-up to Animalia on page 22. It’s called The Eleventh Hour – a whodunnit, would you believe, over which tens of thousands of Australian families have already scratched their heads. Graeme is just one of a whole new generation of artists working in children’s books who’ve emerged in the last few years. Outstanding new talent in this country is celebrated by Clodagh Corcoran on pages 4-6 with her personal reflections on the Mother Goose Award for the best newcomer to British children’s book illustration – founded by Clodagh and now on the brink of its second decade. To mark the anniversary, from Walker Books comes Ten Golden Years, an anthology of new poems by some of the best of current writers for children with each double-spread illustrated by a different Mother Goose winner. Appropriately enough, the book is dedicated to Clodagh herself. For who’s done more to make sure that our wealth of illustrating talent isn’t just recognised but constantly renews itself?
Speaking of renewal, what of the upsurge in children’s enthusiasm for verse in recent years? Yes, I know there are critics who insist this is more a matter of feeling the width of current publications rather than minding the quality but not every participant in the Gold Rush struck the mother-lode, either. There was still enough of the stuff in them there hills to justify all the excitement. On pages 27-30, Morag Styles panhandles for the real thing amongst poetry books published since BfK’s Poetry 0-16 which she edited with Pat Triggs last year. Copies of this are still available, by the way, price £5.50. `No teacher or parent in possession of this admirable guide need ever again feel hesitant or ill-informed about poetry for the young,’ said John Mole in the TES … and we’re not going to argue.
Also considered in this issue is the poetry written by children – at least when they’re lucky enough to have Gareth Owen in attendance. Gareth’s reflections on being a writer-in-schools can be found on pages 23-25 together with a transcript of himself working on a poem with a group of young assistants. Rare data, this. And worth scrutiny if it leads to the sort of verse we print below. This emerged from a visit Gareth made last Autumn to Henley County Primary School. It’s a sharp, timely reminder of how much many of us owe the `Miss Goodman’ in our lives and why financial cutbacks that undermine the library service are so barbaric. Thanks, kids Thanks Gareth
In Henley Library
Miss Goodman stands behind the polished counter
Her hair is frizzed and orange
And she wears a face
That’s somewhere in between
A simper and a smile.
`These books are late,’ she says
As if somehow the guilt lay with the books
Although of course it’s me
Who has to pay the fine.
I hand across the thirty pence
That otherwise I would have spent
On polo mints and aniseeds.
The library smells of calor gas
And castle walls.
As always, the strange old lady
In the plastic pixie hat is there;
She shuffles, head up, frowning,
Searching the spines
In the section marked `Romance’.
Above it is a poster
Warning you of AIDS;
`Don’t take the risk,’ it says.
Does that apply to everything?
I make for `Stories’.
Outside the cars roar
Through the rain on Henley High Street.
In here I’m in a hundred different worlds;
Retrieving magic rings in Middle Earth,
Or in the fifth form at Saint Clares
Bolting my secret dormitory feast
With Isobel and Pat
Before Ma’moiselle comes round
To call lights out.
And then again
My trusty Hurricane,
(One wing a scarf of flame)
Limps bravely home through streams of flak
That flare up from the Dardanelles.
But someone, somewhere taps the message out:
`We will be back.’
Oh mother we’ll be back,
With Love and Blood and Wild Adventure
‘Neath our arms
Striding through the rain dashed faces and the feet
Past shop fronts bright ablaze with lights
And faceless dummies staring at the street.
We will be back
Oh mother do not fret
We do this every week now
And it hasn’t killed us yet.
(19.10.88, Henley County JI School)