So here I am, Ed. of BfK for the next two issues, the only job I haven’t undertaken so far in the BfK/SBA repertoire. I’ve been, done, and still do virtually everything else – budgets, computers, marketing, despatch and endless coffee making … but Editor, that’s the big one! Hold tight, Richard, and here goes.
Poetry, at Last
The central theme of this issue is poetry because we’re about to launch our long-awaited BfK guide to poetry. Poetry: 0-16. It’s been, for a small outfit like ours, something of an epic two-year pregnancy – which books to include, which to leave out, getting the structure of a very large bibliography right, which poets to feature – but what a baby this looks like being! Now it’s just the design, artwork, and print stages to go …
At the start of the project I knew next to nothing about children’s poetry. Now I’m an ardent convert. A bit like Val Downes who gave us our first feature on page 4, discovering the power of modern children’s poetry. This started life as part of a much longer essay on a DPSE course but has the authentic voice of the classroom and echoes exactly the objectives that lie behind Poetry: 0-16. Talking to Val, I shared a great sense of identity with her about the joy of discovering children’s poetry for the first time and in the best of all possible ways, with children themselves. My thanks to you, Val, for that and all the help you gave.
Who better to have as our poet Authorgraph than Mike Rosen? Mike has a new collection out from Andre Deutsch (0 233 97929 8. £5.95); The Hypnotiser is vintage Rosen – go out and buy it this instant! You’ll recognise it straightaway because we’ve got it on our front cover. And who better to have done the interviewing than Morag Styles? Besides being immersed in our Guide with Pat Triggs, she’s also been busily preparing, with Helen Cook, There’s a Poet Behind You (A & C Black, due in September) in which Mike and four other poets (John Agard, Grace Nichols, Adrian Mitchell and Gillian Clarke) talk about poetry in general and their work in particular. Written for children (8 to 13). this will surely be of interest to teachers and librarians too.
Crisis at CBF
Dear, oh dear. Eunice McMullen, Director of the recently (only last October) inaugurated Children’s Book Foundation at Book Trust, has gone as she arrived,in a blaze… or something. She resigned at the end of May to the astonishment of us all. This is a personal misfortune for Eunice, but a much larger blow to the children’s book world. What has gone wrong? Why the explosive and damaging departure’? Rumour suggests a row, of fundamental proportions, about commercialism and culture, involving funding and management style, that has done the greatest disservice to children’s books I can ever remember. The CBF was to have been the most important thing to have happened in the children’s book world with the promise of huge resources, dedicated to the promotion of books and reading. Now what’? Can it become properly independent, not only of big publishing and bookselling interests but also of academic and – educational ones, whilst retaining the full financial and intellectual support of both? Can it conceive a coherent, balanced, appropriate and very broad philosophy of children’s book promotion’? Commercial strategies, important though they may be, are simply inadequate to the task. Finally, and most challenging of all, can it find a leadership with a vision of the future that we can all share, an understanding of how the children’s book world has evolved and works (without which there can be no vision) and the courage to keep it free from any and all of the vested interests’? The Chinese word for crisis is made up from the symbols for danger and opportunity. Which is it to be? Can Book Trust be trusted to make the right choices?
Lifeline 4: Projects and Topics
I still have, running around inside my head, part of a conversation from my last meeting at the CBF, just days before the McMullen detonation, about the necessity of also assaulting that legendary citadel of the supposedly great unread, the Sun readership, but I fancy that what Pat Thomson (page 14) has to offer our slightly more modest circulation is probably more valuable and practical. You need to have been a BfK reader for quite a long time to remember our last Lifeline series (May 1985 to be exact). It’s an occasional series we like to run offering busy teachers an accessible yet authoritative gathering together of the best of available book resources on a particular theme. I’m delighted that Pat has taken on this somewhat daunting task for the next seven issues.
It’s nearly ten years since the best book for teenagers on sex, Jane Cousin’s Make It Happy, first appeared (recently revised and reissued). Things have moved on apace. Not least AIDS. Despite the big publicity campaigns there is still surprisingly little street-wise information we can offer our teenagers. So I welcome the publication of Rosemary Stones’ Loving Encounters, not only for the excellent way she deals with that problem but also for her sensitive yet uncompromising approach to all sexual relationships. Inevitably this kind of publishing attracts controversy that can obscure the caring and responsible attitudes that such a book is attempting to propagate. Helen Boothroyd and Anthony Tilke put the book through its Section 28 hoops on page 18.
Finally, the Winner
Remember we offered a year’s free sub to the person who found the most errors in The Times and the Daily Telegraph listings in our May issue? Well done, Heather Noble of Barry, South Glamorgan. But you still didn’t quite get them all!
My thanks to all our contributors, reviewers and especially Jan and Chris Powling for helping us make it. Have a good summer. See you all in September.