Brian Alderson writes…
In the backpage classic in the last issue of BfK we mentioned the dramatic change in the children’s books publishing policy at OUP towards the end of the War. This was initiated by Frank Eyre, but on his departure for Australia in 1949 the editorial post fell to John Bell who had joined the Press after completing a degree at Worcester College that had been interrupted by war service. Although he only remained in the job for seven years they were a time of magic which saw the arrival in the list of new writers such as Philippa Pearce, Barbara Leonie Picard, Rosemary Sutcliff and William Mayne and the creation of a string of brilliant illustrated books employing the talents of such as Harold Jones, Edward Ardizzone and Walter Hodges. Under Bell’s editorship Oxford Children’s Books won the Carnegie Medal three times running from 1953 to 1955 (with eight more books short-listed) while another hat-trick scored by ‘his’ authors occurred after he had moved on to more fraught labours in the adult division of the London office. In the course of his editorial duties he worked with Pamela Whitlock (famous child-author with Katharine Hull of the Ransomesque Far Distant Oxus ) on her anthology All Day Long. Hemarried her and thus came to know Arthur Ransome whose literary executor he was to become. Pamela died in 1982 and John on 21 January this year, a victim of Parkinson’s disease. He is survived by his five daughters.