For almost 27 years, Books for Keeps has recorded, written about and reviewed virtually every aspect of children’s books. We have interviewed and published articles by and about hundreds of authors, poets, illustrators, editors, publicists, teachers, librarians and academics.
Such longevity inevitably means that our archive has become a record of social and political change as reflected in children’s literature and a source of information about changing concepts of childhood and adolescence. In her Foreword to The Best of Books for Keeps, Margaret Meek described the magazine as, ‘a kind of social history of books, reading and childhood’ as well as a contribution to developing recognition of the best writing for children, what Meek terms ‘connoisseurship’.
In our 150th birthday issue (January 2005) we announced the launch of the Books for Keeps website (www.booksforkeeps.co.uk) and our hope that we would not only be able to make our archive available on line but to expand it into a searchable full text resource. With limited technical and human resources at our disposal, progress in making items available online over the last three years has been frustratingly slow with less than 50% of our articles archive currently online. Material that is now online includes reviews published since our first issue in March 1980 and all our Authorgraphs (in depth interviews with writers, illustrators and poets) starting with Quentin Blake in BfK No.1. Even so, the site has been attracting an average of over 30,000 visitors a month (peaking at 70,000 in one month!).
Thanks to Arts Council England, Books for Keeps is now the grateful recipient of a grant to enable us to put in place a fully developed, interactive website to which subscribers will eventually have unlimited access. Not only will this generate new traffic but it is especially appropriate in this National Year of Reading. We want children’s literature to be at the heart of the year and believe that our website will go a long way to helping us contribute to that aim. We will keep you posted on developments over the next months.
Our Authorgraph in this issue celebrates the life of Siobhan Dowd whose writing career was cut short by her untimely death. Before her death Siobhan set up The Siobhan Dowd Trust as follows:
‘A trust has been set up to manage all the proceeds from her literary work. The aim of the trust will be to help disadvantaged children improve their reading skills and experience the joy of reading. It will offer financial support to: public libraries; state school libraries (especially in economically challenged areas); children in care; asylum seekers; young offenders and children with special needs.’
Cheques to be made payable to The Siobhan Dowd Trust and addressed to The Siobhan Dowd Trust c/o Polly Nolan, Flat 10 Hendred House, Hendred Street, Oxford OX4 2ED.