By father and son team, Tony and Tom Bradman, this is first in a series of Short Histories.
By father and son team, Tony and Tom Bradman, this is first in a series of Short Histories.
From the celebrated cartoonist Gary Northfield – author of The Terrible Tales of the Teenytinysaurs! – comes a brand-new illustrated chapter book series set in the time of the Romans.
from an interview in
Do you count yourself a history buff?
Absolutely not. I have to read history books now to research my novels and new Horrible Histories but I’m not a historian and some of the things historians write, I find hard to swallow. These people are out to sell books and I’m starting to spot the distortions and the way they twist facts and make assumptions so I don’t really like historians at all and if anybody called me one, I’d probably set fire to their house!
Highly recommended piece by Rowan Pelling [for the full feature follow the link underneath]
children’s books have always reflected the social concerns and anxieties of their era. Even the first great “golden age”, which stretched from the late Victorian period through to the Edwardian era, giving us The Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan, The Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Rabbit, was hardly haphazard in its yearning for more innocent, pastoral times. These were uncertain, fast-changing years when vast industrialisation was afoot, imperial powers were jostling for supremacy, and the social order was threatened.
Sometimes the refuge was greater for the writer than the reader. JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, with its deeds of heroism and climactic Battle of Five Armies, is a fiction that has far more resonance when you know it was written between world wars. Tolkien’s grim experience in the trenches of the Somme are never far from your mind when small, decent Bilbo faces terrible peril. Nor is it surprising that these themes become darker in the post-Second World War Lord of the Rings, when comedy and innocence of The Hobbit gives way to a more epic battle of good and evil. How can it be otherwise in a world that’s witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust and nuclear weapons?
CS Lewis’s Narnia chronicles, published, like Tolkien’s trilogy, in the 1950s, display a similar nostalgia for a disappearing England – a pastoral land of dryads and naiads, where boys are valiant, girls are pretty and tend to the sick, while darker-skinned races are viewed with suspicion.
Paddington Bear, however, was more forward thinking. When the book appeared in 1958, the young Peruvian émigré was representative of a wider displacement of peoples in the post-war years and an influx of foreign-born workers, hoping to make a new life in Britain. This undercurrent became a central theme in the recent Paddington film, in which a calypso band on a street corner emphasises Notting Hill’s multi-cultural heritage. Mr Brown’s grumpiness at his household being invaded by an exotic guest was emblematic of a population’s apprehension over immigrants.
It’s hardly surprising that a more anarchic energy emerged alongside the radical politics of the 1960s. Books such as Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were fuelled by wonderfully unruly humour, signalling to young readers that breaching boundaries was an excellent thing. Meanwhile, less fantastical books brought social realism to an audience who found it hard to relate to nostalgic visions of Albion. Charles Keeping’s Charley, Charlotte and the Golden Canary, the 1967 winner of the Greenaway Medal, features working-class neighbours who are separated when one family moves to a tower block only to be reunited by a caged bird. Similarly, Philippa Pearce’s A Dog So Small tells the story of young Ben, whose London flat is too small to house the dog he pines for.
The apogee of the age’s paranoia and anxiety is played out in Richard Adams’s global bestseller Watership Down, published in 1972. Adams was a civil servant, but his concern for peace, animal rights and the environment were from the hippie textbook. The same plea for the true magic found in the miracles of flora and fauna underpins Ursula le Guin’s majestic Earthsea quartet. Young Will in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series is another keeper of rural Britain, flitting through Cornwall and Wales on his Arthurian quest.
Meanwhile, Raymond Briggs’s groundbreaking Fungus the Bogeyman brought its scatological humour to the relentless – and perhaps pointless – routine of the disabused night worker.
Having kept her silence in the immediate aftermath of the National Book Awards, Jacqueline Woodson (in a dignified piece written for the New York Times) finally gave her response to Daniel Handler’s remarks:
As I walked away from the stage to a standing ovation after my acceptance speech, it was the last place in the world I thought I’d hear the watermelon joke — directed by the M.C., Daniel Handler, at me. “Jackie’s allergic to watermelon,” he said. “Just let that sink in your mind.” Daniel and I have been friends for years. Last summer, at his home on Cape Cod, he served watermelon soup and I let him know I was allergic to the fruit. I was astonished when he brought this up before the National Book Award audience — in the form of a wink-nudge joke about being black.
In a few short words, the audience and I were asked to take a step back from everything I’ve ever written, a step back from the power and meaning of the National Book Award, lest we forget, lest I forget, where I came from. By making light of that deep and troubled history, he showed that he believed we were at a point where we could laugh about it all. His historical context, unlike my own, came from a place of ignorance.
Terry Deary (who has just had a non-fiction book for adults published) interviewed by the Daily Express:
“Children’s books are so low status,” he says. “You’re an author? Great. You’re a children’s author? You’re right down there. You’re a children’s non-fiction author. You are not even on the radar. That is the perception among adults anyway. ”
“The people who are respected in this world are people like JD Salinger who wrote Catcher In The Rye and almost bugger all else and is hailed as a genius.
“Once you get past a dozen books, you’re a hack.”
He seems relatively happy to see himself as a hack: “There is space in this world for writers who are geniuses and there is space for people who just fill up space with entertaining stuff and then go out of print.”
The Gentle Author laments the passing of a historic printing firm…
When I started publishing books, I knew we must print them in England and support the survival of our home print industry. It was my privilege to work with Butler & Tanner, one of the greats of the golden age of British printing, which sadly went into administration yesterday with the loss of one hundred jobs. Thus a company that started in 1845 is no more and its history ends here.
For Spitalfields Life Books, they produced The Gentle Author’s London Album, Brick Lane by Phil Maxwell, and a week ago I visited them for the printing of Underground by Bob Mazzer – one of the very last books to be produced by Butler & Tanner – which is to be published on 12th June.
from a guest post by Kathryn Erskine (author of Seeing Red) on the FCBG blog:
Story asks, “How would you handle this situation? What role would you have played? What do you want the story’s world to look like? What role will you play in your own world?” Because it’s the real life Reds out there, the readers of this book, who will determine our future world.
The best stories make us laugh and cry, rejoice and regret and, often, resolve to make our world a better place. They give us characters who are so real we feel as if they are friends or family — or perhaps even ourselves. They show us who we were, who we are, and who we could be. In the end, story not only makes us human, but also reveals and encourages our very humanity.”
The ABC of It – an exhibit at the New York Public Library (now through Sunday, March 23, 2014) – is an examination of why children’s books are important: what and how they teach children, and what they reveal about the societies that produced them. Through a dynamic array of objects and activities, the exhibition celebrates the extraordinary richness, artistry, and diversity of children’s literature across cultures and time.
Lizzy Ratner writes about it in The Nation:
As a walk through the The ABC of It makes clear, the exuberant, centuries-old history of children’s literature is also one of subversion, rebellion, experimentation and inclusion. It’s the story of public libraries creating reading rooms and free programs for children and, in the process, blasting open the gates of literature to young people from all backgrounds. And it’s the story of women like Pura Belpré, the New York Public Library’s first Puerto Rican librarian, who began writing her own Spanish-language picture books in the 1930s to fill the void in culturally resonant literature available to her students. It is even the story of books like The Poky Little Puppy, which was one of the first titles churned out by the mass market children’s imprint Little Golden Books in the 1940s; though the guardians of high culture clucked, the book, which cost just twenty-five cents, was one of the first to be both affordable and available to kids across the country.