Anyone looking for allies in the crusade to create avid readers for pleasure will find them in the Schools Broadcasting Schedules.
Both BBC radio and ITV are in strong support again with well-established series that get books moving off shelves and into children’s hands.
BBC Schools Radio gives us
Inside Pages – the only radio series for 10 to 12-year-olds which deals exclusively with books. The programmes are presented by Bill Oddie with the aim of introducing a wide selection of some of the best books currently available, so that children will know what to look for when visiting the library or bookshop having had a taster on the programme. Bill introduces narrated and dramatised extracts, interviews with authors and other topics of related interest to the chosen books which are both fiction and non-fiction. The programmes are arranged in themes and include for this autumn:
Elaine Stritch reads from The Remarkable Return of Winston Potter Crisply with other extracts from Leon Garfield’s new book John Diamond, Conan Doyle’s The Speckled Band and Jane Curry’s The Bassumtyte Treasure.
Jan Chappell and Steven Pacey, stars of TV’s Blake’s 7, dramatise an extract from Galactic Warlord, a new sci-fi thriller by Douglas Hill. Jan also reads from the chilling Z for Zachariah with other extracts from The Men from PIG and ROBOT and A Rag, A Bone and a Hank of Hair.
22nd October (repeat 29th October)
Una Stubbs reads from La Corona and the Tin Frog by Russell Hoban, beautifully illustrated by Nicola Bayley: also extracts from John Gordon’s The Giant under the Snow and Conrad, the Factory Made Boy by Christine Nostlinger.
Slavery and Freedom
Rudolph Walker reads from Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Isabelle Lucas from Julius Lester’s Long Journey Home. Other extracts include the exciting escape story Underground to Canada and Robert Leeson’s The Cimaroons.
Heroes and Heroines
George Layton reads from My Mate Shofiq with other extracts from The Great Book Raid, The Practical Princess and Other Liberating Fairy Tales and Conrad’s War.
There is a booklet to accompany the series which not only gives details of the books in the programmes but also has extensive booklists of other good reads under the same theme. The booklet (price 25p) can be obtained from:
Janet Whitaker. Inside Pages, Room 401, 1 Portland Place, Broadcasting House, London W1A 1AA.
Inside Pages is broadcast on Radio 4 VHF on alternate Wednesdays at 11.20 am starting on 24th September.
Independent Television for schools gives us
About Books – a series of five programmes across the year which tries to encourage more reading in the 9-12 age range. A variety of hooks, both fiction and non-fiction, is presented in a lively and entertaining way through film clips, dramatisations, readings, etc. Programmes will wherever appropriate also focus on aspects of reading such as: how to read an anthology, the uses of indexes and contents pages, ‘reading’ a photograph or illustration: expanding interests and knowledge through reading. The adviser for the series is Elaine Moss. Themes for this year are:
Living Together 23rd September
British Folk Tales and Legends 25th November
Work 20th January
Faraway Places 24th March
Hobbies 5th May
Programmes will be transmitted on Tuesdays 10.04 – 10.24 am.
Booklet and wallchart from Thames Television Ltd. 149 Tottenham Court Road, London W 1 P 9LL.
Heidi’s Back – in twenty-six episodes
Starting this month BBC are broadcasting a new European version of this hundred-year-old ‘classic’ children’s story. Each episode is twenty minutes and the production is dubbed into English.
In case there is anyone who doesn’t know the story it’s about little orphan Heidi, sent to live with eccentric (but lovable) grandfather who lives alone in the Swiss mountains. She loves the life and her friend Peter, the goatherd: but she is whisked away to Frankfurt to be companion to Clara (who is ill) and be educated. She pines for her beloved mountains and eventually returns there with Clara who grows strong and abandons her wheelchair.
If it’s a long time since you read the book (if you ever did) and you’re wondering whether to stock up the bookshop, be warned. It’s long, in places very wordy, has a laboured beginning and is poorly illustrated. Heidi is amazingly ‘adult’ throughout (even at five years old): Peter, much older, is unbelievably childish: Clara is the traditionally passive handicapped person.
We asked around for children’s reactions. Not many in our one-day sample had read it or even heard of it. Those who had were, predictably, the bookish ones. One nine-year-old boy, asked for his opinion, said ‘It’s a very feminine book.’ And indeed most enthusiasts were eight-plus girls. It certainly still had charm for them.
Heidi, Johanna Spyri, Puffin, 0 14 03.0097 X. 75p
Summer Holiday Tie-ins
From Granada in August we had Watch All Night by John Foster who wrote the novel version for Puffin (0 14 03.1331 1, 80p) himself. (There’s an interesting article by him about it in Puffin Post.)
The story is based on an occurrence earlier this century at the Paris World Fair. A girl whose brother has inexplicably disappeared cannot get anyone, especially the police, to believe that he ever existed. (It was filmed years ago as So Long at the Fair.) In this updated version it is the girl’s father who disappears, there is a broken marriage and the intrigue is political. There’s a depressing ending – but presumably the viewer would already know about that. Quite a good read.
On general release in the cinema, The Wildcats of St Trinian’s – another Frank Launder romp. He also ‘did’ the novel for Armada (0 00 691779 8, 80p).
The rapacious little horrors are now forming a schoolgirls’ union demanding such things as free chewing-gum, cigarettes and make-up and that all ten-year-olds should be admitted to ‘X’ films… the chaos that results in every major (and minor) girls school of the realm and in Whitehall makes for a lively, undemanding read.
The double-entendre and salacious goings-on that punctuate some of the other St Trinian’s frolics have been toned down, and judging by the ripple of excitement that it caused in classrooms where we tried it out, it is guaranteed to sell well.
The book of the TV film, of the song!
Colin Mills looks at Puff the Magic Dragon, Romeo Muller, illustrations by Swenson, Kirson, Wolf and McMacken, Magnet, 0 416 89590 5, 95p Jackie Draper is dumb (I mean he can’t talk) and is taken on a magical journey to face up to all his fears. I’m dubious about the value of this book which indulges in sub-standard fantasy and rather transparent bibliotherapy to tell the ‘extraordinary untold story locked inside a boy’s head’.
There are lessons to be drawn though in the ways in which stories come to children from the screen. If you get a chance, look at the bold, animated pictures… at the way the text is on the page, like a TV script. Let’s spend the 95p on the real artists (like the Ahlbergs) who can combine that sort of immediacy with worthwhile stories.