n an unusual move, bestselling children’s author and illustrator Cornelia Funke, whose fantasy series Inkheart and Mirrorworld have been globally popular, cites creative differences with her U.S. publisher, and a growing wish to be free of restrictions on her artistic output, as the motivating factors in her decision to start her own press, called Breathing Books. Funke’s partner in this endeavor is Mirada Studios in Los Angeles.
At issue was a request by Funke’s publisher Little, Brown, to move the first chapter of The Golden Yarn – the third title in her Mirrorworld series – to a different place in the book. After returning from a book tour in Germany where her publisher had released The Golden Yarn this February, Funke says she was “stunned” by the email she received from her editor at Little, Brown in the U.S., who she says was also speaking on behalf of the author’s U.K. editor. “It said, ‘We love the book, Cornelia, but could you please change the first chapter? It’s a birth scene. That’s a little drastic for our audience. Could you please put that somewhere else?’ ”
Breathing Books is releasing The Golden Yarn in November with a new design, cover, and title. “I will publish the “Reckless” series under the European sub-titles,” she says, “which are The Petrified Flesh, The Living Shadows, and The Golden Yarn In the U.S. the books were called Reckless and Fearless, and the third would have been Heartless. “From the very beginning, I had the problem of Little, Brown placing the Mirrorworld series in the 9–12 age group when I had told them it was age 14 and up,” Funke says. “The last seven years were bitter at times because of that argument.” She is grateful to Little, Brown, though, for giving her the rights back to the whole series, which has sold over 150,000 copies in the U.S.
The New Zealand Daily Herald has criticised, in unequivocal editorial, the selection of Into The River by Ted Dawe as New Zealnd Post Children’s Book Award winner:
Good, well-written stories that go to the heart of a reader and touch the truth of any human experience, including sex, can help a young mind rise above smut. That is why it is a worry when a national award for children’s books is given to a novel that needs to carry a warning.
Some booksellers, we report today, are refusing to display Into the River by Ted Dawe, which took top prize in the recent New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. One explained that it was “unnecessarily graphic” and contained themes the bookseller considered inappropriate for young teenagers.
It contains obscenities and shock references that worthwhile literature does not need. We can only wonder what the judges were thinking, or how much worse the other entries could have been.
Nobody has to wonder at the embarrassment of the award organisers. Last week they sent out parental warning stickers to shops stocking the book, advising them to put it on its covers. The 2013 Kiwi Kids Good Book Guide lists it for children aged 13 and over but one national booksellers’ chain has told all its managers to mark it for over-15s.
The editorial ends, “Teenagers would never say so, but they do not want this sort of fare from their school any more than they would want it from their parents.
It is not prudish or patronising to maintain a certain standard, it is re-assuring them that quality exists and people they respect can recognise it. For many, their early teenage years might be the last in their lives when they read literature worthy of the name.
Reading it might not be easy but it can reward the effort with pleasure far exceeding anything that needs an age warning. The only warning that Dawe’s material really needs is that reading it almost certainly will be a waste of time.”