One of the most remarked-upon articles we’ve ever carried was Michael Foreman’s ‘Birth of a Book’ in our May 1990 issue (BfK No.62). It described the roundabout route by which he reached One World, the ‘green’ picture book he both wrote and illustrated. `Can’t we have more insider-stuff like that?’ readers asked. ‘It’s fascinating!’
So it is. Not all insiders are as clear-eyed about their own creative processes as Michael Foreman, though. And some shrink from examining them too closely for fear of being stopped in their tracks. That’s why we were delighted when Shirley Hughes accepted BfK’s invitation to ruminate on the origins of her much loved characters Alfie and Annie Rose (see our front cover). Were they thought-up or drawn-up? What goes through an illustrator’s head as the pictures – and in this case the words as well – take shape on the page? Overleaf is Shirley’s report, called ‘A Little Character Building’, accompanied by some early artwork ‘roughs’ of a kind most of us would want to frame and hang on a wall instantly.
On page 19, Stan Culimber’s ‘Writer Reply’ also tackles the question of origins – namely, of Henrietta the Hippo who was responsible for converting her creator from a popstar into a children’s author. A smart careermove? Well, Stan seems to think so. See ‘From Housemartins to Henrietta’ for his explanation. Who knows, Henrietta may soon be as well-known as Lenny and Jake, that daffily delinquent duo made popular by the subject of this issue’s Authorgraph, Hazel Townson. When we checked with some schools and libraries recently about the authors and illustrators they most wanted us to cover, Hazel was near the top of the list. No surprise, perhaps, given her tireless, nationwide programme of author visits where she promotes the interests of reluctant readers in particular. Especially when they’re illustrated by Philippe Dupasquier, Hazel’s droll, accessible stories are a major lure for youngsters who normally seek their fun outside reading. Sec page 8 for our review of her latest paperback The Deathwood Letters.
And see pages 20-21 for evidence of classrooms keen to promote books – the results of the competition we judged jointly with our sponsors Books For Children in which children were challenged to produce their own double-spread of BfK. The colour and flair of the entries made us wonder if we aren’t a little unambitious in settling for an adult readership! Let’s hope Books For Keeps For Children becomes an annual event. Warmest congratulations to our overall winner, Year 9 of Villiers High School, Southall, and to Year 2 of Tangmere County Primary School, Tangmere, Sussex, and Year 6 of Delaval Primary School, Newcastle upon Tyne, who were close runners-up.
An accolade, too, for Margery Fisher whose journal Growing Point has been a crucial influence on the development of children’s books since 1962. How anyone, working almost entirely alone, can produce apublication of such quality for three successive decades is a mystery.. till Margery’s enthusiasm and energy are experienced at first-hand. On our News Pages, 22-23, Stephanie Nettell reports on the close of an era when the final edition of Growing Point is published later this month. As the author of Matters of Fact as well as Intent Upon Reading, Margery is keenly aware that the writing of non-fiction has imperatives of its own and will recognise at once the sort of problems unidentified by Richard Tames in his article ‘The Truth, Nothing But the Truth – But Not the Whole Truth? onpages 16-17. Some things, as Richard observes, don’t get any easier with experience.
That’s our March issue, then …. along with ten pages of reviews, of course, which continue to be the bulk and the backbone of our magazine. In the end, what matters most to BfK is the promotion of children’s reading `for pleasure and profit’ using ‘profit’ in a sense that goes beyond the merely economic, I hasten to add. Mind you, profit in its narrower sense does bring an advantage or two. Enabling us to expand, for instance. So take a look at our promotion leaflet at the foot of this page which you may already have seen as part of a nationwide mailing by Puffin (bless ’em!). We’ve got our fingers crossed that it won’t just sustain the renewal of subscriptions but actually increase them. Why, if our present readers could each add just one more subscription to their own, we’d DOUBLE our resources and coverage – not just through the magazine but through ‘special’ enterprises like out Poetry and Green Guides, too. An impossible dream’? Probably. But feel free to surprise us …
If you would like a few copies of this leaflet to give out to friends, colleagues, students or customers, just phone or write to us at BfK and we’ll send some on by return. Speaking of special BfK enterprises, I’ll be taking a break from the Editor’s chair for a couple of issues in order to concentrate on our latest one. More of this in September when I return. In the meantime, you’ll be in the capable hands of Richard Hill. Best wishes,