Ebeneezer Scrooge, insists a friend of mine, was no hater of Christmas; his tolerance threshold for cliche was just abnormally low. This is a savage diagnosis, admittedly, but tempting all the same as we re-enter the season of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, sleighbells tinkling in the snow. Prolonged exposure to the full range of Xcessmass, especially in these drear days, is enough to make anyone chime in with Tom Lehrer’s famous lament `Brother, here we go again’. Sister, too.
And yet … deep in the tat and trivia of it all, doesn’t something still stir? Can’t the old magic work yet again if only we make way for it? That’s what this issue of BfK proposes, anyway. It’s Christmassy through-and-through and if we could make it more so, we would.
The Christmas Story itself is where we begin with Jan Pienkowski and Jane Ray, one a Catholic and the other an atheist, describing very different approaches to the text of the King James Bible (see pages 4-5). They’re different, that is, in style and orientation rather than purpose. The end product, in both cases, is a wonderful book for adults to share with children, which also demonstrates how the clutter of cliche can be cleared at a touch – provided it’s a genuinely personal touch.
See Edward Blishen’s article (pages 6-7) for a reminder of something else so well-known we commonly overlook it: the joy of reading aloud. Only at Christmas, do I hear you say? Certainly not – but what better way to pass the time while roasting those chestnuts. Or waiting for Christmas Dinner, Mary Hoffman might add. On pages 28-29 she offers a mouth-watering menu of titles as an appetiser for all ages so there’s a risk, if you take up her suggestions, you may never get to the meal.
Christmas being the season of goodwill to all men, even He of the Quiff, pages 36-37 offer a Present for Mr Patten – Leon Garfield’s account of his own scriptwriting for The Animated Tales, a book and video package of six abbreviated plays by Shakespeare which Peter Thomas reviews enthusiastically on the facing page. Alas, Peter suffers from the supreme disadvantage of being a talented and experienced teacher so no doubt his endorsement of this enterprise and the support it offers the best classroom practices will fall on DFE ears as usual. Still, who knows? It is Christmas.
And strange things happen at Christmas. Ask Peter Collington. Our front cover is decorated by a page from his book On Christmas Eve, now issued in paperback – though, just as easily, it might have been a still from the movie version which will be shown on BBC TV during the holiday break. This book changed Peter’s life and on pages 12-13 he reveals how it came about. It all began, you see, on Christmas Eve a couple of years ago with a little help from a certain red-garbed, white-bearded travelling-type who broke into Peter’s house in the dead of night.
What’s that? You can’t credit such a fellow? Neither could we, at first. He seemed to us about as likely as, say, a 40-page issue of BfK with 12 of those pages in colour. After all, this would mean we had resources for a special Authorgraph (centre pages), for an extra feature (page 11), for a double-spread of News (pages 38-39), for a Letters Page page 32) and additional review space page 8) – for an issue, in sum, both bigger and brighter than ever before. Who’d be mad enough to believe that could be possible in the middle of a recession? No one, surely … except you’re holding just such an issue in your hand.
So thanks, Santa.
Mind you, he had plenty of helpers. We’ve never been so well-supported by advertisers, by publishers willing to assist with the costs of colour reproduction, by companies who keep our postage-costs low through funding inserts (see the innovative flyer from Viking, for instance, which arrives with this issue). We’re also grateful to our contributors and regular reviewing team – workers for love rather than money, Heaven knows. Most of all, though, we must thank our subscribers, single or in bulk, for a loyalty that’s been quite splendid in these troubled times. Against all the odds, we’ve actually had a small increase in our readership, recently.
What keeps us all going, of course, is a love of books and children in close proximity. Now there’s a cause worth a wassail or two. In the words of Tiny Tim, then, `God bless us, every one!’ Sometimes, only a cliche will do.
Enjoy the issue.
Subscription price increase to Books for Keeps
Here at BfK, as Chris says, we do our best to contain costs and keep the annual subscription as low as possible. We last put up the price in September 1991 and promised to hold it until August 1992. We are pleased that we managed to maintain the existing subscription rate for an additional four months. Now we have to announce a price increase as follows:
- UK and Ireland £12.00
- Overseas surface £17.50
- Airmail £20.00 (a single rate now applies)
In addition, we are able to offer LEAs, libraries, colleges, booksellers and others interested in multiple subscriptions a range of bulk discounts from 10% to 55%.
The new prices are effective from 1 January 1993. Richard Hill (Managing Director)