The story behind the picture (or one of them at least)
`It’s no good, doesn’t matter what you say,’ I said to him, `we’re going to do you.’ An embarrassed laugh (he’s always laughing) turns to murmurs of protest when we explain that he’ll have to step aside from the editorship for a bit whilst we line him up in our sights to Authorgraph him. `You shouldn’t wear so many hats all at once. And anyway, if I ask you what you think you really are, we all know what the answer is, don’t we? ‘A writer,’ he says. `There you are then,’ I say. `You can still go on being an author, a teacher, a broadcaster (makes you sick, doesn’t it?) but not an editor. Meanwhile we’ll fix the interview and the photographs. Oh and I think Jan’s quite right, ballooning, just to pass the time, is absolutely out of the question.’ You’d have thought we told him he couldn’t laugh for two months but underneath I think he was quite pleased. I am too; celebrating Chris Powling, the author, has long been overdue in BfK.
The return of a voice
It’s the role reversal, you see. Chris has interviewed more people than most of us have had hot dinners and the memory of Sue Lawley trying her best to get any sense out of Robin Day began to nag. Who could do it? Then – Kerpow! Colin (‘I think I need a rest from writing for BfK‘) Mills was the obvious answer as he’s one of the few people to have written about Chris. Oddly and aptly, the last time Colin wrote for us was the first time I edited an issue of BfK, back in May 1988. I phone him and ask if he’s feeling rested enough yet and how did he fancy the assignment. Yes, and would love to, came back the answers but he didn’t think he was into ballooning. That’s okay, I reply, it’s car maintenance now. Of course, what we hadn’t told Colin was, in the words of a rock classic, `you can check out any time but you can never leave’. Goodness knows what he’s been talked into during the interview. Nice to have you back, Colin.
Talking of Voices
A new one, well almost, joins the BfK team in the form of Steve Rosson. We asked him to take on the whole business of series publishing (page 4) – ‘Bananas’, ‘Kites’, ‘Jets’ and the rest which, whilst enormously popular in schools, are too often shabbily treated by critics. As a Birmingham school librarian, his first-hand, practitioner’s experience was exactly what we needed to make the case for fiction published in highly identifiable formats and with a clear market in mind. Steve will now be joining our regular review team and, at the same time, we shall be integrating series books into the main body of the review sections. More from Chris in the next issue.
On pages 22-26 we look at how disability is portrayed in children’s novels. With all issue-related book selection you enter a potential minefield. There are always two worlds: the campaign-orientated one with its political awareness and the bookish one with its literary values and critical consciousness. Lois Keith eloquently provides us with map references for the first by looking more closely at three classic children’s books. It’s a good place to start, revealing as it does the ignorant and patronising attitudes heaped upon the disabled. Pat Thomson then looks at a small selection of modern, in-print fiction to see if changing attitudes are being reflected in books for children. Story is one of the most potent, fundamental and, hence, important vehicles through which new thinking is tried out, propagated and established. Each world needs the insights of the other if we are to raise awareness of the rights of the disabled and, of course, good books. We will want, indeed need, to return to this issue again.
And finally, a most elegant voice…
Wholehearted congratulations to Stephanie Nettell for winning this year’s Eleanor Farjeon Award (page 31). A campaigner par excellence on behalf of children’s books, a reviewer, critic and writer with outstanding style, wit and flair, Stephanie also regularly graces these pages. All of us at BfK salute her.
If I ever get dragged back into this Ed’s chair again (and I have my doubts!), I’ll see you then. If you have been, thanks for reading (echoes of Radio 4). Okay, Chris, put down that wrench and get yourself back in here.