Teenage fiction reviewed by Stephanie Merritt
July 2009 Archives
Kate Kellaway reviews John Burningham by John Burningham
The Thornthwaite Inheritance by Gareth P Jones
"Blackly comic, with its compelling cover and all the fun of taking sibling rivalry to a fantastical extreme, this book is surely material for a film... NICOLETTE JONES"
Amanda Craig reviews Bright Girls by Clare Chambers
"touching in depicting the affection and trust between its adults and its adolescents... AMANDA CRAIG"
and What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell
"a gripping story, beautifully paced and told, that addresses anti-Semitism, moral ambiguity and racism within the parameters of a classic film noir structure... AMANDA CRAIG"
Cartoonist John Ryan, creator of the Captain Pugwash TV series, has died in hospital in Rye, East Sussex, aged 88.
Children's book expert Anita Silvey asked a wide range of public figures: "What children's book changed the way you see the world?"
In her new book, Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book (Roaring Brook, Oct.), she includes answers from more than 100 people, from financiers to actors, from athletes to singers; for this excerpt, [US Publishers Weekly chose] responses from those directly involved in creating books for young people.
Not children's books related - I just found this very affecting... well done, Mr McCrum
Yet another significant voice has come forward to say that Philip Pullman (and other high-profile children's authors) is wrong to object to proposals to vet authors before they make visits to schools. Earlier in the week the new Laureate, Anthony Browne said that he had no objections to the proposed register (though questioned the requirement to pay a fee for inclusion).
I was wondering when someone would play the William Mayne card. [Mayne was a highly respected and award-winning author up until his conviction for indecent assault on underage girls.]
Yesterday, Nicolette Jones had a full page piece in The Times, headlined "Philip Pullman is wrong."
Introducing the article, the byline (presumably written by a copy-editor and not Jones herself) read "As a child, Nicolette Jones was exposed to the paedophile author William Mayne. This is her story."
The use of the word 'exposed' in this context was cunningly sensationalist, leading the reader to expect revelations of Jones herself being the subject of abuse. But as the article makes clear, there was nothing in her childhood contact with the author (no more than an exchange of letters and small gifts) to arouse suspicion at the time. It is only in hindsight (and in the knowledge of later revelations)that she, her sister and their friend Becky can see how close they came to becoming vulnerable.
Of course Mayne's case is relevant to this current debate. And all kudos to Nicolette Jones for being (to my knowledge) the first to raise it. And of course it behoves schools, reading groups, parents, librarians to be on their guard for any signs that an adult is abusing their position of trust with a child and grooming them for more intimate contact.
But far from supporting the need for a register, the case proves the false security that such a register might bring. As Jones herself rather self-defeatingly points out:
On the other hand, a check would not have protected any of Mayne's victims at the time. Mayne had no record that any search would have revealed...
Isn't that rather significant? Heaven forbid that any author or illustrator is up to what Mayne was up to in the past, but if they are we don't yet know about it.
So, having carefully weighed the counter arguments over the past week, I am very firmly aligning myself (and ACHUKA) with Pullman et al.
Amanda Craig reviews Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick and Blood Sunn by David Gilman
this novel of only 167 pages is packed with more excitement and wisdom than many twice the length, and is one of my top recommendations for boys of 10+ this year... AMANDA CRAIG
lacks the sheer cleverness and ingenuity of Horowitz, but Gilman provides several hours of boys'-own fun... AMANDA CRAIG
says Scream Street author, Tommy Donbavand, another author keen to distance themselves (on this issue) fromm the big quintet: Anthony Horowitz, Phillip Pullman, Anne Fine, Quentin Blake and Michael Morpurgo.
Joe Craig is happy to pay up and continue visiting schools...
Highly recommend that everyone reads MG Harris's articulate and independent-minded blog entry on the issue of author registration...
Philip Pullman, Anne Fine, Anthony Horowitz, Michael Morpurgo and Quentin Blake all told The Independent that they object to having their names on the database - which is intended to protect children from paedophiles - and would not be visiting any schools as a consequence...
Fiona Kennedy, Publisher of Orion Children's Books has acquired world rights in a multi book contract for new young adult titles by Marcus Sedgwick. This cements a long-standing publishing relationship that began with Marcus' debut novel FLOODLAND winning the Branford Boase Award, through titles which have been shortlisted for the Carnegie, Guardian, Costa and Blue Peter Awards, and, most recently, winning the Book Trust Teen Prize with MY SWORDHAND IS SINGING.
Kennedy says of Sedgwick: "I'm delighted that Marcus has chosen to invest his publishing future with us at Orion Children's Books. He has achieved so much in a short time, has a devoted and constantly increasing fanbase, and is poised to move from 'ones to watch' to becoming a regular chart topper."
The tide of mentions may slow down now that the books are all published, though each film will cause a swell. Harry Potterisms may go out of fashion. The whole fuss could be shortlived, like the phase when everything we read or watched alluded to the Spice Girls or the Teletubbies. Then historians of the future will be able to date the products of our popular culture by the fact that they include references to J K Rowling's work.
But whatever happens, there will never come a day when Hogwarts, muggles, quidditch and Voldemort are meaningless names and words as they were only a dozen years ago, just as we cannot erase Neverland, Wonderland, Narnia, chortling, galumphing, boojums, heffalumps and woozles from our collective consciousness. Almost more surprising than the money and the fame is this legacy: a permanent place in a corner of everyone's imagination.
I still think the first of these quoted paragraphs is nearer the mark of what things will be like a hundred years from now.
What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell
Blundell's gift for dialogue and tension and for balancing what we are told with what we infer, gives her novel, written in wonderfully spare, clean prose, the crossover appeal of Jennifer Donnelly's A Gathering Light and a similar intensity. Memorable and compelling, it is a book to grow up with. NICOLETTE JONES
Amanda Craig reviews Wheels of War by Sally Prue
Based on the events that took place in Manchester in 1819 after the Peterloo Massacre, this is a wonderful storyteller's skilled and suspenseful imagining of the different forms that heroism can take. AMANDA CRAIG
and The Thornthwaite Inheritance by Gareth P. Jones
has one of those beautifully simple comic ideas that children instantly love: a twin brother and sister who live only to kill each other.... a book certain to make family holidays go with a bang. AMANDA CRAIG
teenage books, reviewed by Susan Elkin
Picture books, reviewed by Nick Tucker
Books for under 12s, reviewed by Daniel Hahn
Philip Pullman has led a chorus of protest from prominent children's authors over a new scheme that will require them to be vetted before they can visit schools. He called the plans "outrageous, demeaning and insulting" and said he wouldn't be appearing in schools again because of it.
Set up in response to the murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by school caretaker Ian Huntley in 2002, the Independent Safeguarding Authority will vet all individuals who work with children from October this year, requiring them to register with a national database for a fee of £64. Pullman compared the scheme to the notorious piece of legislation section 28, which banned the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools and for which David Cameron offered a public apology last week.
"It seems to be fuelled by the same combination of prurience, sexual fear and cold political calculation," the author of the bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy said today. "When you go into a school as an author or an illustrator you talk to a class at a time or else to the whole school. How on earth - how on earth - how in the world is anybody going to rape or assault a child in those circumstances? It's preposterous."
The Carnegie medal-winning author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce agreed with Pullman. "As an author you're never alone with a class," he said. "There's no possible reason for this, unless it's a revenue-raising scam."
This is important. Read the full article.
I'm not sure schools have yet been made aware of this situation.
As things stand at present, anyone coming in to work alongside children on a regular basis (a voluntary work placement, for example) has to provide a CRB check.
But schools have one-off visiting speakers all the time - in assemblies, in RE lessons, in topic-based events - and, as the article points out, in these circumstances the visitor is always accompanied by other members of staff.
It will be an absurdly and insultingly unnecessary hassle for all concerned.
Eating Things On Sticks by Anne Fine, reviewed by the big-bearded Philip Ardagh
most of all it's about beards. Early on, Harry goes on a beard tour, from the few proud wisps on the chin of a lady to a thick, hedge-like affair, via a goatee and "bushy prophet" and culminating in "barbaric yet shapely". Harry likes the wild ones. And there's the "Best Beard on the Island" competition with the first prize of a nit comb and the honour that goes with it. (Apparently, there were no razors on the island at all during the Fifty Year Skirmish.) This (bearded) reviewer was hooked! PHILIP ARDAGH
reveal a woman of more than ordinary rage and bitterness. Most of us already know that the vintage stars of children's fiction usually turn out not to have been sweet old ladies but professional toughies who loathed anyone under 30. But whether we really benefit from learning that the creator of Little Grey Rabbit was actually a prize cow is another matter. KATHRYN HUGHES
Naomi Lewis - essayist, anthologist, reteller, poet and reviewer - has died aged 97.
When I first started being invited to children's books events (launches and parties) in the mid 1990s, Lewis was a regular guest -slight, somewhat hunched (she would already have been in her late 80s), usually wearing black velvet slippers. It is only recently that I had begun to mark her absence, and indeed wondered if I had missed an obituary.
We often found ourselves together, both making the same enquiry when the the trays of finger food came round (she was a vegetarian).
She lived for literature and animals, and spent most of her life in Red Lion Square. I very much regret not making her the subject of an ACHUKA feature, while she was still in her flat and still actively writing, reviewing and lecturing.
I was unable to attend the Branford Boase Award presentation yesterday, so these photos are not by me, but by Paul Carter, a marvellously good professional photographer and, until her untimely death, husband of Henrietta Branford.
All photos credit: PAUL CARTER
Franzeska Ewart has been regularly updating her blog for a few months now.
Well worth bookmarking...
THE 2009 LECTURE will be given by Michael Rosen. Entitled What is children's poetry for? : towards a new, but child-specific, 'Apologie for Poetrie' (Sir Philip Sidney, 1595) it will be held at 5.00pm on 10th September, at Homerton College, Cambridge.
Old Possum's Children's Poetry Competition 2009
The Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy is to chair international competition:
Carol Ann Duffy, the new Poet Laureate, is to chair the judging panel for a worldwide poetry competition for 7-11 year olds. The Competition is organised by the Children's Poetry Bookshelf, a poetry book club for young people run by the Poetry Book Society. To link with National Poetry Day on Thursday 8 October, children will be asked to write a poem in English on the theme of 'Heroes and Heroines'.
Now in its fourth year, the competition is open to both individuals and schools. Cash prizes of £250 for first prize, £100 for second and £50 for third will be awarded, along with books and CPB memberships, in two age groups, 7-8 year-olds and 9-11 year-olds. Entries will be accepted from Thursday 10 September, up until the closing date of Monday 19 October. The winners will be announced at a gala celebration in London in December.
A teacher's guide to accompany the competition will be available to download from the Children's Poetry Bookshelf website (www.childrenspoetrybookshelf.co.uk) from early September, along with further information about the competition.
For further information about the Competition please contact:
Hilary Davidson email email@example.com
or Chris Holifield email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Traitor Game by B R Collins, edited by Emma Matthewson and published by Bloomsbury, has won the Branford Boase Award, awarded for an outstanding debut novel for children. The Traitor Game encompasses issues of bullying, homosexuality and peer pressure.
B R Collins lives in Tunbridge Wells in Kent and is 27 years old. Her second novel is scheduled for publication by Bloomsbury in September 2009.
She said, "I am really delighted to have won the Branford Boase Award - it's a huge honour, especially given the quality of the other books on the shortlist. It's wonderful for me to get such a vote of confidence at the beginning of my career, and it's also especially pleasing that I'm sharing the award with Emma Matthewson, who thoroughly deserves it. She's been a fantastic editor, and I'm grateful to her for her insights, intelligence and knack of asking all the right questions... not to mention her tact! The Branford Boase is a really special prize, and I'm so proud and happy to have won it. "
Editor Emma Matthewson said "I couldn't be more pleased for Bridget, who I truly believe has an incredible voice; it is working with an extraordinary writer such as Bridget that makes being an editor such a joy. The Branford Boase Award is such a wonderful opportunity for exciting new writing to be recognised, and I am thrilled and honoured to have won this award - and to win in the Branford Boase's 10th year makes it extra special. Happy 10th birthday, Branford Boase. Here's to another 10 years!"
Jacqueline Wilson, former Children's Laureate, presented B R Collins with her award (a cheque for £1000 and a hand crafted silver-inlaid box) at the ceremony, hosted by Walker Books at 6.00pm on Thursday 9th July.
The judging panel, chaired by Julia Eccleshare, included John Dunne, Librarian, Caroline Horn of the Bookseller, Jane Churchill of the Cheltenham Literary Festival and last year's winner, author of Before I Die, Jenny Downham.
The annual Branford Boase Award celebrates the most promising book for seven year-olds and upwards by a first-time novelist, and highlights the importance of the editor in nurturing new authors. The winning author receives a cheque for £1000, and both author and editor receive a handcrafted hardwood box in the shape of a book, inlaid in silver with the Branford Boase logo.
An Awfully Big Blog Adventure will be one year old tomorrow, on 10th July!
The theme of the day will be 'celebrating children's books'. The party will feature guest posts from industry professionals, a MASSIVE book giveaway, lots of comment and virtual cake!
Sounds like it'll be worth dropping in :)
The winner of the CLPE Poetry Award for 2009 is:
John Agard for The Young Inferno, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
Frances Lincoln £12.99
The presentation was made at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education on Tuesday July 7th 2009 by last year's winner Jackie Kay.
Nicolette Jones, from yesterday's Daily Telegraph, surveying the writers who made their mark posthumously, including Siobhan Dowd, winner of the Carnegie Medal...
A fairly substantial interview with MG Harris, author of The Joshua Files.
Welcome to the special BIRTHDAY issue of the Shanville Monthly!!!!! Not only does July mark my 37th birthday (July 2nd, for those of you who are interested), it also marks the 9th birthday of the Shanville Monthly!! Yes, for nine years now I have been bringing you all the latest news, gossip and updates from the world of Darren Shan. 108 issues, every single one designed and created exclusively by... ME!!!