Five years as Editor of BfK?
Can 30 issues really have slipped by since September 1989? It hardly seems possible – except when I look at the photograph heading up this column. It’s time we updated that, certainly. No wonder a young librarian earlier this year greeted me from my train with the words ‘Goodness, Chris! You’re much older than I was expecting…’
Still, sudden and shocking though they always are, at least these anniversaries prompt a sort of stock-taking. Now is a particularly good time for it here at BfK since two projects we’ve been working on, alongside the magazine, have at last reached the most crucial stage of all: we’re actually offering them to our readers. So what follows, please be warned, is a blatant sales pitch excused only by the fact that the BfK team has no alibi. We’ve given both our best shots. Here’s the first:
Children’s Books for a Multicultural Society 0-12
Yes, at long last, an update to our enormously successful publications of l985-86. Ten years on, though, we’ve condensed our 0-7 and 8-12 Guides into one volume, under the expert guidance of Judith Elkin, enlisted Steve Rosson to provide non-fiction annotations and commissioned Rosemary Stones – who better? – to edit it. This state-of-the-art review, produced jointly with Viv Edwards and her redoubtable team at the Reading Centre, University of Reading, is now available. For Rosemary’s own account of the project, turn to pages 4-5 in this issue which arrives with an insert providing full details of how you can secure your copy.
And that’s not all…
The Best of Books for Keeps
When an enterprising editor from Bodley Head suggested a hardback anthology to celebrate the first dozen years of our existence, we were delighted but a little alarmed. Could we produce a compilation that, in a totally unfamiliar but much more permanent format, did justice to our magazine-ness and to what we stand for? Would it give a fresh impetus and perspective to pieces otherwise doomed to be archive material?
It wasn’t easy.
For a start, there was the problem of choice. We soon despaired of agreeing on our own favourite articles let alone anyone else’s – a good sign, of course. Also, would the assortment of authors, illustrators, critics, academics and commentators agree to being re-printed without an additional fee since any further payment, however minimal, would clobber our project at the outset? Here, an even better sign, we were overwhelmed by the goodwill of those we approached. Not a single contributor refused permission. On the contrary, every one wished the enterprise well… though I did relish the remark of an especially eminent writer about a piece from our earliest hand-to-mouth days: ‘Chris, I didn’t get a bloody fee in the first place.’
Not surprisingly, it all took a lot longer than we anticipated. Literally every word of every previous issue was read, and every picture examined, as we assembled a collection of ‘snippets’ to reflect our reviews, news items, editorials and other perishables we felt were needed to supplement the feature articles and give some indication that on-the-hoof is our normal mode of operation.
Finally, we got there – wherever that was. So it was a great relief when Margaret Meek, on accepting our invitation to write a Foreword, spotted instantly what we were about:
‘Given the ephemeral nature of magazine writing and production, the editors are bound always to press on with the next event, challenge, order, initiative. But it is clear that some pieces, articles particularly, are a kind of social history of books, of reading, of childhood. In this volume, they are given their own chance of being “for keeps”. In addition, as all good anthologists know, bringing them together creates not just a collection but also a unity, an argument, an interweaving of convictions to demonstrate what is at issue in children’s literature and children’s growth in literacy… hence the importance of this book.’
Bless you, Margaret!
So that’s what we hope you’ll find irresistible – The Best of Books for Keeps (published by Bodley Head, 0 370 31905 2, £12.99), a handy summary of BfK’s response, or series of responses, to one of the most turbulent decades in the history of children’s literature. See the advertisement on page 22 for the easiest way to obtain it.
As for the rest of this magazine, my advice is to start on the back page with Morag Styles’s review of A Caribbean Dozen which brings together our twin themes for the issue: poetry and multi-cultural matters.
In the meantime, on with the stock-taking. After I’ve had some new photographs taken, that is…
Enjoy the issue!