…which these days means brief, unpretentious and to-the-point publications to be consulted on-the-run between National Curriculum documentation. Teacherly time won’t be wasted by these three:
The Children’s Bookroom
Dorothy Atkinson edits pieces by, amongst others, Marjorie Darke, Pat Avann and Gillian Klein. Contributions do vary a bit in quality, but there’s a compensating breadth-of-vision in this book about books (and why they matter). Andrew Davies’ drily dyspeptic account of Writers in Schools is worth the purchase price on its own – £9.95, from Trentham Books, 0 948080 24 8.
Compiled by Mary Steele, this Signal Bookguide is an apt reminder that a crucial ingredient in children’s fiction is story. It reviews more than 150 current books of traditional tales published for children – an updating exercise which points back to the oral tradition from which these tales came. `In printed form,’ Mary Steele writes, `the traditional tale is really a script for a storyteller speaking, performing, acting the story.’ Amen to that. From The Thimble Press, 0 903355 29 9, £3.25 post free.
Children’s Book Research
Another Thimble Press publication (0 903355 32 9, £3.50). Tessa Rose Chester offers an unfussy, economically written and above all practical guide to the techniques and sources her subject demands. Yes, it’s a specialist book, but more and more teachers and students are taking up the specialism. They could do a lot worse than start here.
… or the School Library
Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers
Here’s a brief description of a children’s poet instantly recognisable to all readers of this issue of BfK:
‘…there is an infectiously joyful quality about his attitude to his subject matter that is likely to serve as an inspiration to all aspiring writers, whether they be young or old. The manic exuberance reminds me at times of the work of Lewis Carroll – as if the desire to crack yet another joke in the poem, to add one more crowning pun to the puns that are already there, simply cannot be resisted. There is also a use of cumulative repetition that is somewhat reminiscent of his great predecessor.’
It’s Kit Wright, who else? Check the extract with Morag Styles’ account in our Authorgraph. The quotation comes from the third edition of Twentieth-Century Children’s Writers (0 912289 95 3) published by St James Press in January. At £55, it’s not cheap … but where else would you go for a brief biography; a complete bibliography; details of other published bibliographies and location of manuscript collection; a list of critical studies on the writer; in many cases comment by the writer on his/her own work … and a signed critical essay as well? Edited by Tracy Chevalier, the new edition comes in a larger page size with more than 800 writers covered – including 150 new entries. Ideally, every school should have a copy but if funds don’t run to this then at least make sure your local library stocks one. It’s the perfect First Word on just about every children’s author writing in English since 1900 . . . and it’ll take quite a few more BfKs before our Authorgraphs have caught up!