Shirley Hughes turns 90 this week, and Dogger – the touching story of a toy dog lost (and, of course, eventually found) – is 40. The real Dogger, whose story first made Hughes’s name, sits comfortably on a box in the sitting room. A much-loved childhood companion of Shirley’s oldest son Ed (the journalist, Ed Vulliamy), Dogger has a few bald patches, but is as bright-eyed as Hughes herself. “He’s been on show in several museums,” she smiles, “but he has retired from the celebrity circuit now.”
As longstanding followers of ACHUKA will know, I have not been an ardent enthusiast either for the books themselves or for the subsequent deluge of overlong fantasy sequences that followed in their wake, but it would be churlish not to acknowledge this very significant anniversary (the first Harry Potter novel was published 20 years ago today) and to celebrate
- the huge market impact that the Harry Potter series has had
- the way in which the books and the films have worked together to ensure longevity
- the genuine excitement that the book business has been able to generate and feed off each time there has been a new HP title
- the exemplary way in which J. K. Rowling herself has used Twitter and the internet to create an author presence
There are special 20th anniversary editions of the books, illustrated by Levi Pinfold, Kate Greenaway Medal winner.
Gosh,20 years ago today my cool Bloomsbury team published Harry Potter – thanks to all the readers everywhere who made his flight so special
— Barry Cunningham (@BarryChicken) June 26, 2017
20 years ago today a world that I had lived in alone was suddenly open to others. It's been wonderful. Thank you.#HarryPotter20
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 26, 2017
This essay by Katherine Rundell, published by The Economist magazine two years ago, is one of the best things I’ve read by somebody who grew up with these books, and I thoroughly get and feel legitimately chastised by Rundell’s early observation:
I fell in love with Harry, who was just a month older than me; or, if not with him, because he is the least sharply drawn character, then with the secret world lying so discreetly alongside my own. By the fourth book, all but the coolest children were in love with it too. That taught me an early lesson – that the cool miss a great deal. They lose more than they gain; here, they missed out on a phenomenon that moulded the minds, morals and desires of a generation.
I wasn’t a young reader when the books were published. Even if I had been, I don’t think they would have been for me. But as a reviewer and commentator, I do in retrospect feel ACHUKA should have been more positive and welcoming, and mucked in more.
Emma Lee-Potter celebrates Enid Blyton in an anniversary year and admires some new illustrations by Laura Ellen Anderson, whilst personally finding them a little ‘too hip’.
In honour of this year’s anniversary Hodder Children’s Books is republishing all 21 Famous Five adventures, complete with dashing new covers by illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson. Meanwhile, a collection of short stories, Good Old Timmy, is being released to mark World Book Day. Diehard Blyton fans like me will be reassured to find that after updating the language in 2010 to make the tales more appealing to today’s generation (‘mother and father’ became ‘mum and dad’, ‘pullover’ became ‘jumper’ and ‘awful swotter’ was changed to ‘bookworm’) the publisher has abandoned the idea and gone back to the previous text.
Anderson’s new illustrations are stunning, capturing the stories’ classic charm and jolly japes but even so, these new incarnations of Julian, Dick, Anne and George are slightly too hip for me. In my eyes the children will always be wearing old-fashioned Aertex shirts tucked into baggy, knee-length shorts and carrying knapsacks filled with ham sandwiches and slices of fruitcake.
Louisa May Alcott based her characters in Little Woman on her own family and Google is commemorating her 184th birthday with a Doodle displaying the main cast.
Critics of AA Milne’s children’s books focus on their syrupy sentimentality but to see only treacle is to miss the point, thinks Sarah Burnside, writing in The Guardian:
… To read the books and only see treacle is to miss the point. Certainly they are sweet, and if you can read the final story without feeling sad you must be the kind of person unmoved by the most manipulative of Pixar movies; that is, a monster. But Milne is also the sort of narrator who will coolly write that “Owl looked at [Rabbit] and wondered whether to push him off the tree”.
Revisiting the stories, I was surprised to find them as funny as I had at age eight. The Rather Twee Capitalising Of Everything can be grating but it certainly drives the point home: when Pooh, trapped in Rabbit’s front door, requests to be read a “Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness”, you really feel his pain.
Milne is an acute observer of human behaviour. One story opens: “It was going to be one of Rabbit’s busy days. As soon as he woke up he felt important … It was a Captainish sort of day, when everybody said, ‘Yes, Rabbit’ and ‘No, Rabbit’, and waited until he had told them.”
We have all, I feel, worked with someone like Rabbit.
They were both born in 1926, developed a mutual admiration and became two of Britain’s most loved figures, but they had never managed to meet until today.
Happily, Her Majesty the Queen and Winnie-the-Pooh have finally come face to face in a new adventure for the “Bear of Very Little Brain” published to celebrate their joint 90th birthday year.
The story, which is written by Jane Riordan and illustrated by Mark Burgess, after the style of the instantly recognisable drawings by E. H. Shepherd, makes reference to the fact that Christopher Robin had visited Buckingham Palace once before – when he went “down with Alice” to see the changing of the guard in a 1924 poem by Milne.
With a string of celebrity endorsements from Britain’s best loved children’s writers, including Philip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson, the success of The Phoenix marks the welcome return of the classic British comic. Launched in 2012, and rated ‘the second best comic in the world’ by Time Magazine, 30th October 2015 will be a defining moment for The Phoenix when it publishes Issue 200; the first independent comic in the country to reach that issue since 1969.
“The Phoenix Comic is such a treat. Each week, there are stories and illustrations to appeal to all tastes. The stories are funny, thrilling, colourful and a joy to read. It truly is a comic for everyone. Here’s to the next 200 issues and beyond. Happy reading!”
MALORIE BLACKMAN, Children’s Laureate 2013-2015
“I love the Phoenix. It stimulates the mind, sharpens the appetite, refreshes the soul. It celebrates that wonderful marriage between words and pictures that gave birth to the comics form at the very beginning of the twentieth century, and which has produced so much delight ever since. Its blend of excitement and wit and sheer raucous fun is exactly what readers need today and will go on needing as long as human beings love stories. Viva The Phoenix!!”
“Happy 200th issue Phoenix ..wishing you many many happy returns and hoping that today is as packed with fun and brilliance as … well as a copy of the Phoenix!”
FRANK COTTRELL BOYCE
“I don’t know if you can describe how I feel when I see a new Phoenix. It’s like there’s a big firework inside me and it goes off, and I just have to read it.”
MATHILDE, AGED 8
A milestone in the history of the British comic, The Phoenix 200th issue celebrations will include an array of exciting new comic strips, exclusive strips from young Phoenix readers, new partnerships and involvement from the most celebrated names in British publishing. As well as endorsements and support from children’s authors including Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman and Frank Cottrell Boyce, issue 200 will feature an exclusive front cover created by Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell and a trail for a new strip launching in 2016 called Philip Pullman’s John Blake by Philip Pullman and Fred Fordham.
Alongside established favourites like Mega Robo Bros by Neill Cameron, The Adventures of Von Doogan by Lorenzo Etherington, Corpse Talk by Adam Murphy and Evil Emperor Penguin by Laura Ellen Anderson, Issue 200 of The Phoenix will feature two new series; a new action comedy called Battle Suit Bea about a girl who finds a robot-suit from Bunny Vs Monkey artist Jamie Smart; St. Georgia and the Ends of the World by Robin Boyden, a story set in a medieval world and featuring Georgia, a genius inventor girl plus two exclusive strips from young Phoenix readers, Jordan Vigay, 14 and Jonny Toons, 11 who are already creating their own comics inspired by The Phoenix. Their involvement will launch a new Phoenix Search for a Star competition where a young Phoenix reader will see their story published in the magazine in early 2016. Entries are open from Issue 200 and will close by the end of November. Further information will be available on www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk
Tom Fickling, Editor of The Phoenix says: “One of the most important things to us at The Phoenix is to encourage children to use their imaginations to create their own comic stories. Jordan and Jonny are both young talents who have a passion for making comics and I’ve lost count of the amazing number of things they’ve sent in or shown me. Issue 200 is a chance for us to support them and inspire other children to get creating!”
The Phoenix is also delighted to announce a new partnership with children’s charity READATHON, which encourages millions of children to read and raises money for children in hospital through its sponsored reading event in schools. Copies of The Phoenix will be inserted into Readathon schools kits with special subscription rates and a free prize draw that will include comic workshops and goody bags of Phoenix Presents books titles. In addition, The Phoenix will announce a designated comic artist who will take the Readathon in Residence role working with children in a hospital for one year.
Tom Fickling, Editor of THE PHOENIX says: “Readathon have a long and proud heritage of helping children to develop the reading habit. As raising literacy levels for all children is a central goal for The Phoenix I can’t think of a better partner for us to work with. Comics are a great tool for encouraging reluctant readers and research shows that reading leads to a happier and healthier life. So it is vital we establish the reading habit when we are young!”
Justine Daniels, Chief Executive of READATHON says: “We are delighted to be partnering with The Phoenix, a beacon in children’s comics who, like us, recognises there are all sorts of ways for children to start a life-long love of reading. At Readathon, we believe that reading should be fun and that all reading is of value. The Phoenix is a fantastic comic that sparks a child’s imagination and makes reading fun. We encourage pupils to read whatever they fancy when taking part in Readathon’s sponsored read, and for some children, comics are just the ticket.”
The 200th issue also sees The Phoenix being stocked in WH Smith for the first time and the launch of a loyalty scheme for those children who buy the comic weekly from independent booksellers and a twitter takeover by Phoenix artists using the #HappyPhoenix200 hashtag.
Raggedy Ann has endeared herself to young readers for a century – both as a rag doll toy with button eyes and red yarn hair and as the character of a bounty of stories by the late Johnny Gruelle (1880–1938). Next month Simon & Schuster is commemorating the milestone with a varied lineup of releases starring Raggedy Ann and her similarly spunky brother, Raggedy Andy.
These include facsimile 100th-anniversary editions of Gruelle’s original picture-book anthologies, Raggedy Ann Stories and Raggedy Andy Stories, and The Raggedy Ann 100th Anniversary Treasury, a large-format picture book that compiles five of Gruelle’s original tales and new illustrations by Jan Palmer, all from Little Simon. Also due out are new editions of six Ready-to-Read books from Simon Spotlight. First published in the early 2000s, these reissues feature refreshed interior art and new covers reflecting the updated look of the early-reader line.
A birthday tribute to Richard Adams in the Irish Times
It’s one of the most popular children’s books of all time, selling over 28 million copies to date in 53 languages. For the past two decades Guess How Much I Love You has captured the tender bond between parents and children everywhere.
What many parents don’t realise, however, is that the universal story, which reappeared this week in a special 20th anniversary edition, was written by a man from Northern Ireland.
After 20 years, Sam McBratney’s endearing and universal story of Big and Little Nutbrown Hare, is still sharing its message of love with readers around the globe. It has become one of the world’s best-loved picture books.
It was written by Sam, a prolific author of books for older children, after his editor suggested he try writing his first picture book, with as few words as possible. The result was a simple story which has charmed generations of people of all ages, and come to signify a way of saying ‘ I love you’ for millions.
First published in 1994, Guess How Much I Love You has been a children’s favourite ever since. But increasingly the book has also become popular with adults as a gift for weddings, Valentine’s Day and special occasions. The timeless story has become a way of telling someone of any age how much you love them.
As well as the special anniversary edition of the book, the publisher is also bringing out a slip-cased, heart-shaped edition next week aimed at romantic adults.