December 2004 Archives

CBE For Quentin Blake

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BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Arts | Quentin Blake: A life in pictures

Renowned illustrator Quentin Blake has been made a CBE in the New Year Honours list.

Hare Beneath A Semi-Circle

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Potter's Peter Told In Ancient Egyptian

BEATRIX POTTER?S The Tale of Peter Rabbit has been translated into ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs by a curator from the British Museum and a retired medical expert.

99 Yr Old Author Dies

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Daily Freeman

Alf Evers, the author and Woodstock historian, died Wednesday at his home, shortly after completing a final draft of his 700-page history of Kingston. He was 99.

Evers lived in the Woodstock hamlet of Shady for more than 50 years. He wrote some 50 children's books with his late ex-wife, Helen, but is best known for his voluminous, definitive and beloved histories of the Catskills and Woodstock.

Awfully Well Written

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Gretchen Breary and Me (about Nancy Breary)

In a passage from Fathers and Sons by Alexander Waugh (p.290), with regard to Evelyn Waugh's relationships with his children, particularly Teresa and Auberon:

When Vera [the children's nanny] gave Teresa [his daughter] a children's novel by Nancy Breary for Christmas he confiscated it. Vera was terrified, but the next day Evelyn came into the nursery with the novel in his hand, 'Vera is a genius! This book is awfully well written," he proclaimed and returned it to Teresa.

You will look in vain for entries about Nancy Breary in general reference titles such as The Cambridge Guide to Children's Books or The Oxford Companion, so the above link is of special interest.

There are currently two of Breary's books available on eBay - not via ACHUKA Auctions, but we are happy to advertise them nevertheless:

Fourth Form Detectives

Five Sisters At Sedgewick

Charlotte's Web

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NEWS.com.au | Cameras spinning for Charlotte's Web (December 30, 2004)

Officially announcing the industry's worst kept secret [ACHUKA blooked the news in October], Premier Steve Bracks yesterday pinpointed the historic suburb of Williamstown and the country town of Greendale as key locations for the filming of the remake of the popular children's book. Shops in Williamstown's Nelson Place will be given a 1940s makeover, with a record store becoming a barber shop for the shoot. A nearby school will also be used. Construction of farm buildings is already well under way on a property in Greendale, with 24-hour security to discourage onlookers...

RTE.ie Entertainment - Ashanti set for career as an author?

Ashanti reported to be planning to write a book...

Teen Hollywood quoted the singer as saying that she would like to write about her own experiences as a performer or pen a children's book.

Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/27/2004 | His life is pegged to old techniques

Lofting, 59, said he learned timber framing from craftsmen in New England in the early 1970s. When he started his business in 1974, he said, there were only a few timber framers in Pennsylvania. But now, he said, there are about two dozen working in the area. He said he has trained a third of them...

If Lofting's name has a familiar ring, it is because his grandfather is author Hugh Lofting, creator of the Doctor Dolittle series of children's books.

His seven-member firm, with annual gross receipts of $800,000, includes his daughter, Elliott (an old family name), and his son, Hugh II.

Animation Mag

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Big New British Animation Print Magazine to Launch in Spring of 2005 :: ActiveAnime.com :: Where Anime News and Reviews Matters

Fans of animation in the UK can look forward to a new print publication from the British on-line animation industry web developer and editor David R. Smith, who will launch 'Big Animation Magazine' in March of 2005. Smith's 'Skwigly' website at www.skwigly.co.uk began in early 2004, and quickly became a resource for animators, artists, writers, and fans, with as many as 80,000 on-line hits per month by the end of the year. 'Big Animation Magazine' promises to extend that success... ...

Viewing/Listening

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BBC2 11:20 Little Women - 1949 movie
BBC2 16:05 Great Expectations - 1946 movie

ITV1 14:30 The Little Reindeer - animation

CHANNEL 4 14:30 The Snowman - Raymond Briggs animation

RADIO 4 15:10 Why J. M. Barrie wrote Little White Bird

Weakest Link

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Could children's author & illustrator, Shoo Rayner be the 'weakest link'. Shoo is rumoured to feature in the Bank Holiday show to be broadcast Monday 27th December at 5.15pm on BBC2.

Hot announcement from Bloomsbury!!!

J.K. ROWLING?S HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE

TO BE PUBLISHED ON 16th JULY, 2005 IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, THE UNITED STATES, CANADA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND AND SOUTH AFRICA

Read full Press Release...

Snicket Film Review

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Guardian Unlimited Film | Reviews | Bitter Lemony

From the scores of reviews of the Lemony Snicket film, this one by Philip French, in The Observer, stands out - its final paragraph a miniature masterclass in informative, critical evaluation.

Robert Gordon, who scripted the much underrated comedy Galaxy Quest, has adapted the novels with some skill, and visually the movie is a treat. The beautiful low-key lighting is by Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who photographed the not dissimilar A Little Princess as well as Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, and its designers (Rick Heinrichs, Colleen Atwood) are regular Burton collaborators. The final animated credits, much influenced by Asian shadow plays, revive memories of the great days of designer Saul Bass.

Sparkling Debut

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Briggs Profile

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Guardian Unlimited Books | By genre | Profile: Raymond Briggs

Long, excellent profile (by Nicholas Wroe) of Raymond Briggs...

In a recent appearance on the children's TV programme Blue Peter, answering questions from a group of children, Briggs referred to himself as a "miserable git", corrected one child for an error in a question, explained that endings are inherently sad because death is the real ending and praised a 12-year-old's self-portrait by saying it made the child "look about 40".

Not to be missed...

Scrivener's Return

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Publishing News - News Page

OBSERVERS BELIEVE SCHOLASTIC Publisher Richard Scrivener, who left the company last week, will find another position relatively quickly, given the expansion in children?s publishing in recent years.

A report in Publishing News expresses no surprise at Richard Scrivener's departure from Scholastic, and a good deal of confidence that he will find a new role in children's publishing fairly swiftly.

Rowan's Last Day

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This is Rowan Stanfield's last day in the Orion office. ACHUKA understands that her role will be temporarily covered in the New Year by Jo Williams, previously at HarperCollins.

Historical House

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Worcester Telegram & Gazette Online - APN

A walk through Orchard House is like flipping through the pages of Little Women

says reporter Denise Lavoie, in an article about the home of the Alcotts - in Concord, Massachusetts - which is open to the public and has been preserved much as it was in the time of Louisa May Alcott and her father Bronson Alcott.

Lindsey Liked

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EducationGuardian.co.uk | eG weekly | Critics' choice

Lindsey Fraser's book choice in yesterday's Guardian was Plain Rude by Linda Aronson, a book undeservedly overlooked in recent Christmas roundups:

The book opens with a hilarious set piece - a school assembly to mark World Recycling Day, which Ian unwittingly sabotages when he is whacked across the chest by his heart's desire, unleashing the sheep's eyes he's holding (in order to dramatise a point) amongst his delighted fellow pupils. LINDSEY FRASER

In Search Of Mary Poppins

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Into The Mystic: The Mary Poppins Enigma

Fascinating feature from Monday's Times by author of Out Of The Sky She Came: The Life Of P. L. Travers (Hodder Headline Australia).

A South Bank Show special, about the biographer's search of her subject, will be shown on the South Bank Show, ITV, on Boxing Day. Mary Poppins, the stage show, opened at the Prince Edward Theatre yesterday.

Shahn Death Notice

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New York City - AP National News

Bernarda Bryson Shahn Dies at 101

Shahn, the wife of Ben Shahn wrote and illustrated children's books, which included The Zoo of Zeus and Gilgamesh.

Vanishing American Frontier: Bernarda Bryson Shahn and Her Historical Lithographs Created for the Resettlement Administration of FDR
Jake Milgram Wien

How Dark Can It Get

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Newsday.com - Movies and Showtimes

Recommended Newsday article about'darkness' in children's books...

"You can trace unhappy endings to the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen. Early fairy tales were gruesome," says Susan Rich, who edits the Snicket books, written by 34-year-old Daniel Handler. Handler's books "are a natural outgrowth of Victorian stories, where bad things are always happening to orphans." Dicken's Oliver Twist comes to mind, but Rich thinks the Snicket stories also follow in the tradition of Dahl, who "portrayed fairly tragic, alarming scenarios for his young protagonists."

Dina's Top Ten

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Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | A book for Christmas

Dina Rabinovitch selected her 10 favourite children's books of the year in yesterday's Guardian...

Reading Joy

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BBC NEWS | UK | Instilling a joy of reading

Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo says instilling a "joy of reading" in young children would help address a widening gap in primary school reading standards... ...

Bad Sex Award

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CNN.com - Tom Wolfe wins bad sex award - Dec 13, 2004

American author and journalist Tom Wolfe won one of the world's most dreaded literary accolades on Monday -- the British prize for bad sex in fiction...

Tom Conti presented the award to an absent Tom Wolfe. In his witty introduction, Alexander Waugh - son of Auberon, founder of the award - had teased the audience into thinking that Wolfe had been present, chatting to guests at the start of the evening, but had fled prior to the presentation.

It was my first time at the Award party - (I had been on the brink of attending last year, when it seemd likely that Melvin Burgess would be shortlisted for passages in Doing It) - and it was refreshing to be at an event where I did not have to have the ACHUKA camera in hand, finger ever-ready on the button.

It was also novel not to see the usual posse of familiar faces amongst the guests. There were plenty of readily recognizable media people there, but hardly anyone I had met previously.

An exception was Richard Beswick, editor of my biography of Tennyson. It was good to have a quick chat with him, and to hear him sharing thoughts with Alexander Waugh on the current low esteem of literary biography. Waugh's own book - Fathers And Sons, The Autobiography Of A Family - has been getting rave reviews here, but is apparently hampered in the US by its 'arts & letters' ambience.

My latest children's books page is in Literary Review's excellent current issue.

Flanimals Animation

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Digital Spy: Ricky Gervais to produce animated film

...Ricky Gervais will produce an animated film adaptation of his book Flanimals... [for 20th Century Fox]

Gervais will act as executive producer for the venture and will provide voice-overs for one of the main characters...

Daniel Handler Profile

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Lemony Snicket - The Herald

Another profile of Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket, from yesterday's Herald...

Recommended

The Herald Reviews

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Santa�s greatest stories - The Herald

Anne Johnstone's roundup of books for the very young, from yesterday's Herald...

ST Book Of The Week

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Children's Book Of The Week


Into The Forest by Anthony Browne

Unusually, imagination is represented in grey and is obsessively detailed, while reality is in colour and more simple ? a brilliant way of conveying psychological anxiety. NICOLETTE JONES

Are You Sitting Comfortably

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A colour magazine feature in yesterday's Times Magazine (p36), with double-page-spread group photo of Joyce Dunbar, Jane Ray, Jeanette Winterson, Polly Dunbar, Jan Ormerod, Lindsey Gardiner, Michael Rosen, Neal Layton, Allan Ahlberg, Raymond Briggs, Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson - all of whom are interviewed in author-illustrator pairs.
Well worth tracking down. Raymond Briggs on great form. Saying, of Allan Ahlberg's request for him to be the illustrator of the first Bert book: "He just thought I'd be cheap! I'd never heard of him. I thought with his funny foreign name he was an asylum seeker and his career might need a leg-up." And returning to a theme he developed a year or two ago in our ACHUKA interview, namely his belief that the Bert books should have been published in small format: "Publishers are so stupid. I imagined about four Bert books, a Bert's Box, even, but they said small books don't sell. What about Beatrix Potter and Mr Men, for God's sake?"

Times Roundup

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Wolves, Vampires, Dinosaurs...

Amanda Craig's wide-ranging end-of-year roundup from The Times...

First Book

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My First Book

From yesterday's Times, David Almond talks about his first efforts at fiction writing, in a feature that included Margaret Atwood, Ali Smith and Ian Rankin. [Scroll down the webpage to locate Almond's section.]

When this book, Skellig, was published by Hodder, I was called a new writer. It was assumed that it must be my first book. No one had heard of the little Iron Press or the little Sleepless Nights. But both books shared a starting point, in a room in an ancient Suffolk farm, and both were similarly important to me, in building that unpredictable pursuit called a literary career.

Scotsman Top Ten

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Scotsman.com News - News Archive - Maturing nicely off the shelves
My top ten teenage novels of the year, as published in The Scotsman today. (You need to have a password to access the page, but registration is free and painless.)

Here's the list, but you'll need to hit the link for my comments on the books. The competition entry that came closest was entered by 'fscully':

1. Kissing The Rain by Kevin Brooks (The Chicken House)
published January

2. Skarrs by Catherine Forde (Egmont)
published August

3. The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein (Faber)
published January

4. Knife Edge by Malory Blackman (Doubleday)
published February

5. Boy Kills Man by Matt Whyman (Hodder)
published March

6. Gangsta Rap by Benjamin Zephaniah (Bloomsbury)
published September

7. The Simple Gift by Stephen Herrick (Egmont)
published January

8. Freaky Green Eyes by Joyce Carol Oates (Collins)
published November

9. Looking For JJ by Anne Cassidy (February)
published February

10. Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini (Collins)
published July

The Scotsman chose to omit my choice for tied 10th place so, for the record, this was it:

=10. Sugar Rush by Julie Burchill (Macmillan)
published September

Don?t believe the ?explicit content? sticker on this book?s cover. It?s just a publishing come-on. Burchill successfully catches the highs and lows of a close female friendship and it?s only the book?s rather unconvincing climax that is at all lurid.
Michael Thorn


Non-Fiction Reviews

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Times Online - Books

AManda Craig's roundup of some recent children's non-fiction titles...

Max Velthuijs Profile

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Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | Frog and friends

A profile of Max Velthuijs, by Joanna Carey...

Not to be missed

Competition Update & Latest Clues

Competition Closed

The winner will be announced tomorrow.

ACHUKACHICK

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ACHUKASHOP | CafePress

Many of you adore our ACHUKACHICK Logo - so I've decided to make ACHUKACHICK available on various Cafepress items in time for Christmas!


Luna Bay Author Dies

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SignOnSanDiego.com > News > State -- Lantz, who wrote novels aimed at girls, dies at 52

Francess Lantz, who wrote the "Luna Bay" surfer girl series and other fiction aimed at teen and preteen girls, died at her home in Santa Barbara on Nov. 22 after a five-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 52.

Economist Reviews

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Economist.com | Children's books

A roundup of children's books from The Economist magazine...

Smarties Medals

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BBC News Story

Young book fans have voted Fergus Crane, a story about a boy who is taken on an adventure by a flying horse, the winner of two Smarties Book Prizes. Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell's book came top in the category for six- to eight-year-olds and won the award chosen by after-school club members.

The Smarties Winners

9 ?11 years
Gold - Spilled Water by Sally Grindley (Bloomsbury)
Silver ? The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson (Macmillan)
Bronze ? Keeper by Mal Peet (Walker)

6 ? 8 years
Gold - Fergus Crane by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (Doubleday)
Silver ? Cloud Busting by Malorie Blackman (Doubleday)
Bronze ? Smile! By Geraldine McCaughrean (OUP)

5 and under
Gold - Biscuit Bear by Mini Grey (Cape)
Silver ? My Big Brother Boris by Liz Pichon (Scholastic)
Bronze ? Bartholomew and the Bug by Neal Layton (Hodder)

Anybodies

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Paramount Pictures Aquire Rights to N.E. Bode's The Anybodies: Movies on M&C

Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies have acquired movie rights to The Anybodies, the best-selling children's book series written by N.E. Bode and illustrated by Peter Ferguson.

Penny Webber Moving On

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Penny Webber (seen below right with Venetia Gosling and Patrick Cave), currently Children's Marketing Director at Simon & Schuster, and previously at Macmillan, is leaving at the end of the month to go freelance - and relocating (like BBC Children's TV) to Manchester.

C. Walter Hodges Obit.

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C. Walter Hodges, illustrator, author and expert on Shakespeare, was born on March 18, 1909. He died on November 26, 2004, aged 95.


... The adventure story Columbus Sails (1939) was a success with children on both sides of the Atlantic...

... in 1964 won the Kate Greenaway Medal for his colourful Shakespeare?s Theatre. It has been said that he was the most distinguished children?s writer not to have been awarded the Carnegie Medal...

Hodges wrote, for Twentieth Century Children's Writers: Those who are nowadays called Children's Writers (and their illustrators) are adults, engaged as adults in highly-skilled, creative, imaginative work; and children in their own imaginations are as near adult as need be for an intelligent readership. Many of the books that most attracted me and my friends when I was young were not specifically written as 'children's books'; therefore today, though I write mostly for children, I do not bother extremely to make my books only suitable for their age. I like to make them also suitable for me at mine."


Hi-Tech Hubert

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Guardian Unlimited Books | By genre | Child's eye view

An interview with Lauren Child, about her new book Hubert Horatio Bobdon-Trent...

it is the first of Child's books to be produced entirely on computer rather than using a mixture of media; it was all drawn and coloured on screen then printed off, cut out, put together again as a collage with scissors and glue then scanned back in.

Highly recommended

Gloria Estefan's Bulldog Book

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CNN.com - Gloria Estefan to write children's book - Dec 6, 2004


According to HarperCollins US, the currently untitled book "will center on the life and adventures of an intrepid bulldog named Noelle who doesn't feel like she fits into the new and mythical land she now calls home."


The Australian: Old tale as Rings lords it over best-loved books [December 06, 2004]

Dav Pilkey is the surprise ingredient in Australia's Top Twenty favourite books of all time...

Several well-known children's books featured in the top 20, including CS Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows, both of which were pipped at 16 by Dave Pilkey's irreverent Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space.

Christmas Reviews

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The one thing Christmas roundups frequently negelect to cover, ironically, is books that are sepecifically seasonal, so full marks to the Times Educational Supplement publishing a review (by Jane Doonan) of 11 recent Christmas titles.
I shall try and remember to publicise the online link, when it goes live next week (the TES have a policy of delaying online publication by 7 days to enocourage purchase of the print copy).

ST Roundup

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Christmas Roundup

categorised as follows:
0-3 year-olds; 4-6 year olds; 7-9 year olds' 10-12 year olds; 12+

Thre are no surprises here...


Kate Kellaway On Shanville

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The Observer | Review | Gore blimey

Kate Kellaway writes a long piece about Darren Shan and the attraction of horror to children aged 8 and up.

Highly recommended

Telegraph Reviews

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Telegraph | Arts | Journey to the dark side of the nursery

The Daily Telegraph published its Chrsitmas roundup of children's books yesterday. The toplink is to:
Lavinia Greenlaw reviews Heavy Words Lightly Thrown by Chris Roberts and Lavender's Blue compiled by Kathleen Lines

also:
Toby Clements reviews The Akhenaten Adventure by PB Kerr

Fatema Ahmed reviews Brilliance of the Moon by Lian Hearn

and Jake Kerridge reviews fantasy fiction


The Way Things Work

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Daily News Transcript - Arts & Culture News

A profile of David Macaulay:

Macaulay, a trim and youthful 57, is probably best known for the weighty 1988 opus, The Way Things Work (Houghton Mifflin, 384 pages, $30), and its sequel, published 10 years later. It's a colorful and cartoonish exploration, demystifying complexities ranging from salad spinners, squirt guns and vacuum cleaners to the less homey technology of nuclear power... ...

Recommended

Revew Roundup

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News Read - TheDay.com

A guide to children's books that make great gifts - a review roundup from TheDay.com

Australian Reviews

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The Australian: From bash to brash [December 04, 2004]

"it's good to see children's books being discussed in the news pages - and it's also good to see children's books tackling what's in the news... ..."

Reviews from The Australian

Pooh And Poo

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Pooh, and poo, top book poll - Books - www.theage.com.au

A report on the trends that emerged when 15,000 Australians voted for their favourite book in an ABC poll:


Children's books are big. They divide into two groups: the English Winnie the Pooh-type classics remembered from the childhood of baby boomers, and the cheekily funny books by Americans or Australians that today's children love, such as the Captain Underpants series... ...

NYT Notables

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Nick T Roundup

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Enjoyment

Nicholas Tucker, with a general roundup in The Independent...

YAF Where Are They Now?

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Author Obit.

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Miriam Schlein, children's author

Miriam Schlein, author obit.:

Miriam Schlein, whose nearly 100 books, written over half a century, taught young children about animals, time and space, died Nov. 23 in New York. She was 78 and lived in Manhattan... ...

Miriam Schlein, whose nearly 100 books, written over half a century, taught young children about animals, time and space, died Nov. 23 in New York. She was 78 and lived in Manhattan.

Straight.com: Books

A page of reviews by John Burns from Straight.com

Frindle Author's Music Book

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TownOnline.com - Westborough News - Local News

In The Last Holiday Concert, his latest book for readers in middle school, Clements tells the story of a young boy, Hart Evans and his music teacher, Mr. Meinert, who puts him in charge of the Winterhope holiday concert...

Shanville Monthly

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Darren Shan Monthly 53

The latest issue of Shanville Monthly...

Babar

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The New York Review of Books: The Royal Family

For over seventy years, Babar has been the most famous elephant in the world?and the most controversial. He has been praised as a benevolent monarch, an ideal parent, and a model of family affection, loyalty, justice, good manners, and civilized living. He has also been damned as a sexist, an elitist, a colonialist, and a racist. It has even been proposed that he deserves to be burned alive: see Should We Burn Babar? by Herbert Kohl (1995). Clearly, a figure who arouses such intense and conflicting opinions must be more than the ordinary hero of a children's picture book: he must represent important and sometimes contradictory views of both childhood and society.

Alison Lurie investigates in the New York Review of Books...

Tween Title

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PRESS RELEASE: Hot New Tween Novel Not My Reality Chosen For Fineliving.com Holiday Gift Guide

From tens of thousands of gift ideas, Not My Reality, the first young adult?s novel from author Kimberly Weiner was selected by the editors of the Fine Living network?s fineliving.com?s Ultimate Gift Guide as one of the hottest gifts this season.... ...

Turning Point

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In the delegates' pack, David Belbin, the conference's organiser, wrote:
YAF is at a turning point. There is a new generation of powerful writers coming through and much discussion of 'crossover' success, where adults read novels they would have never considered reading when younger. But it's not clear whether YAF is part of this. YAF is the least economically significant sector of children's books, one where it is hard for writers to earn a living because the audience predominantly borrows rather than buys its books. Many authors feel they are working in the dark, doing important work with little recognition..
Later in the day, Julia Eccleshare was to take issue with the notion that YA literature is a disregarded adjunct of the trade, but the members of the first panel sought to define exactly what Young Adult Fiction is.

Nicola Morgan spoke (with an almost fearsome intelligence and air of certainty) about the teenage brain (she has a book on the subject coming out next year). Because the teenage brain functions differently from the adult brain, the teenage novel has to relate to the reader in a different way compared with the adult novel. Good books should be like strawberries, she said. We eat spinach because it's good for us. We eat strawberries because they taste good.

Kevin Brooks observed that a major difference between adults and teenagers was that all adults have been teenagers but no teenager has been an adult. He added that he wasn't sure what this signified.

Alison Waller, who has recently completed her PhD in children's literature at Nottingham, and is now teaching a screenwriting module at Bath, explained that academics consider YAF to be a distinct branch of literature, comprising many genres, such as the 'novel of ideas', a literature aimed at young adults and designed to 'grow the mind a size larger'.
Graham Marks, in the chair, asked 'Why are you writing these books?' - having been asked the same question recently by his own son, and discovering himself struggling for a response.
Questions from the floor tended to focus on how best to get YA books to their audience, rather than on what YAF actually is. The librarians' voice in the audience was loud and clear throughout the day. "Please can we have more money for fresh stock!"
There were nods of approval when one of the novelist delegates, Alison Prince, pointed out that there was a danger in identifying 'the teenager' as one specific animal.

The next panel (Keith Gray, Beverley Naidoo, Bali Rai - with David Belbin in the chair) wondered whether the 'issue' novel was dead, but none of the panellists seemed comfortable with the term. Keith Gray thought it interesting that when people discuss his books they will talk about the 'theme' of friendship but the 'issue' of bullying. Linda Newbery, from the auditorium, said that she dislikes the phrase 'tackles issues'.

The panellists gave a brief individual talk. Each was good. Keith Gray's was by far the most entertaining. And, picking up on remarks made by Nicola Morgan, he pointed out that writers are good at hiding a bit of spinach inside the strawberry.

After lunch, Anne Cassidy - given a cheer on her introduction for her recent and overdue award successes - said that she felt there was still a large untapped audience. She envisaged a ravine between two clifftops. Young Adult books on one side; swathes of unaware teenagers on the other. "We are the bridge," a school librarian screamed. (I know. School librarians don't scream. But you get the message.) I felt a little sorry for Anne. She came on so positively, so full of ideas for getting the message out. What about text messaging she asked, with reference to her husband's penchant for text messages about his favourite football team. Good point, I thought. Exactly the way YAF publicictiy and marketing people should be thinking.

Unfortunately, Justin Somper, publicist supremo, was unable to attend the conference. Had he been there, I'm sure Anne Cassidy's viewpoint would have received more robust backing. As it was, Julia Eccleshare, seeing things from the perspective of the review pages in The Guardian, wondered what all the whingeing was about. YAF has never had it so good, all our lead reviews feature YA rather children's titles. David Fickling, harking back twenty years to a similar event in the 1980s, felt that not much had changed, and that, anyway, it wasn't a publisher's job to market a book. If a book is worth reading, it'll find its audience. By word of mouth. By recommendation.

Additional promotion is down to others. Libraries. Bookshops. Anne Cassidy was impressively unphased. She still felt more could be done. So do I. So, I would surmise, does Justin Somper.


The notion that all books find their true audience, by word-of-mouth etc. is crazy, especially in respect of YAF. Although Julia Eccleshare was correct in arguing that it is older fiction that is currently getting all the attention, she was arguing against the grain of the event.

Yes, books like Wolf Brother and Children Of The Lamp are getting big advances and plenty of review space. But no one can seriously argue that these are Young Adult novels in the context of what was being discussed at this conference. I wished that the likes of Alan Gibbons, Robert Swindells, Tim Bowler had been in the audience to augment the panellists' views. I was itching to join the debate, but having been invited as 'press' I felt my place was as an observer rather than participant.

YAF has always been my special interest. I began reviewing teenage fiction for The Scotsman in 1995. ACHUKA was born two years later, in reponse to the media frenzy over Junk's winning of the Carnegie Medal. Robert Cormier is the standard by which I judge all YA fiction. I wished the opening panel discussion had managed to tease out a distinction between teen fiction and true YAF, but it is in the nature of conferences such as this that important 'issues' remain unresolved. Melvin Burgess comes close to Robert Cormier in two of his books, Lady and Bloodtide.

His closing talk was great. A showman justifably ridiculiing the perverse objections to his work.

This is Bali Rai signing books between the panels. A feature of the day that delegates especially valued was the fact that authors stayed for the whole event.
Soundclips will be added to this report in due course.

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