Monday, December 14, 2009

The shame of children held in UK detention centres

PADDINGTON BEAR has joined more than sixty leading children’s authors and illustrators in condemning the government’s arrest and detention of asylum seeking children in prison-like conditions. Jacqueline Wilson, Quentin Blake, Michael Rosen and Julia Donaldson are among more than sixty writers and illustrators who have signed a letter to the Prime Minister condemning the detention policy and supporting calls by leading doctors for its immediate cessation. ‘I call on every single person who hears of what's going on with the detention of asylum-seeking children to write, petition and demonstrate against it,’ said former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen. Internationally acclaimed writer Beverley Naidoo and illustrator Karin Littlewood visited children locked up in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre on Monday. They performed a workshop for 14 children aged 5 to 16. After the visit, Karin Littlewood said: ‘Usually at our workshops children ask, “Can I take this home with me?” None of these children asked me that. It made me think – where is home for these children?’ She added: ‘You only have to think, what would you feel if that was your family, your sister, your daughter or nephew, being locked up?’
Beverley Naidoo said: ‘We spent a morning with delightful, thoughtful young people, which brings home the fact that our government should not be asking Serco to lock up innocent children. It is done in our name and we should say a loud No.’ Michael Bond sent a message from Paddington Bear: ‘Whenever I hear about children from foreign countries being put into detention centres, I think how lucky I am to be living at number 32 Windsor Gardens with such nice people as Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Mrs. Bird, who looks after the Browns, says if she had her way she would set the children free and lock up a few politicians in their place to see how they liked it!’ Notes to editorsThe UK Border Agency arrests and detains between 1000 and 2000 asylum-seeking children every year, although there is no evidence that families with young children abscond. Dave Wood, UKBA Director of Criminality and Detention, told a Parliamentary Committee in September 2009: ‘Whilst issues are raised about absconding, that is not our biggest issue. It does happen but it is not terribly easy for a family unit to abscond.’Source: Hansard <>
Medical establishment’s protestThe Royal Colleges of Paediatrics and Child Health, General Practitioners and Psychiatrists and the Faculty of Public Health on Wednesday issued a joint statement condemning the Government’s detention policy and calling for it to end ‘without delay’.
The Lorek report NHS paediatricians and psychologists, Lorek et al, reported in the international peer-reviewed journal, Child Abuse & Neglect, (October 2009) that children locked up at Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre were ‘clearly vulnerable, marginalized, and at risk of mental and physical harm as a result of state sanctioned neglect.’ The doctors recorded children’s ‘sexualised behaviour’, older children’s tendency to wet their beds and soil their pants, the ‘increased fear due to being suddenly placed in a facility resembling a prison’, the ‘abrupt loss of home, school, friends and all that was familiar to them.’
Parliamentary Motion94 MPs have signed Chris Mullin MP’s parliamentary motion EDM1982 urging the Government to stop detaining children:
On-line petitionIn only two months, more than 2500 people including hundreds of health professionals, lawyers, teachers & social workers, Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster, dozens of leading writers, plus Emma Thompson and Colin Firth signed a petition calling on the Government to stop detaining children. <>
WOMEN FOR REFUGEE WOMEN arranged Naidoo & Littlewood’s visitContact: Natasha Walter020 7065 0772
END CHILD DETENTION NOW coordinated the author letter Contact Esmé MadillMobile 0777 3350018

Dear Mr Brown,
As writers and illustrators of books for children, we urge you to stop detaining children whose families have sought asylum in the UK.We strongly support those doctors represented by the Royal Colleges of Paediatrics & Child Health, General Practitioners and Psychiatrists, the Faculty of Public Health and the Children’s Commissioner Sir Al Aynsley-Green, in the concerns they have expressed about the trauma being experienced by children whose families have sought asylum in the UK.
These children have already had their worlds torn apart and witnessed their parents in turmoil and in stress. No wonder that paediatricians and psychologists report that child detainees are confused, fearful, unable to sleep, suffer headaches, tummy pains and weight loss and exhibit severe emotional and behavioural problems (Child Abuse and Neglect 2009; 33: 573 - <> .
The UK Border Agency asserts that ‘Treating children with care and compassion is a priority’, but it continues with the policy of child detention which has been shown to harm children. The Government must end child detention, now.

Beverley Naidoo
Michael Rosen
Jacqueline Wilson
Michael Morpurgo
Quentin Blake
Carol Ann Duffy
Michael Bond
Benjamin Zephaniah
Philip Pullman
Jackie Kay
David Almond
Jamila Gavin
Lynne Reid Banks
Tim Bowler
Meg Rosoff
Francesca Simon
Elizabeth Laird
Jeremy Strong
Louisa Young (Zizou Corder)
Mary Hoffman
Linda Newbery
Gillian Cross
Julia Donaldson
Catherine and Laurence Anholt
Bernard Ashley
Tony Bradman
Catherine Johnson
Celia Rees
Ifeoma Onyefulu
Karin Littlewood
Niki Daly
Chris Cleave
Bali Rai
Eleanor Updale
Prodeepta Das
Debjani Chatterjee
Moira Munro
Anne Rooney
Elen Caldecott
Frances Thomas
Gwen Grant
John Dougherty
Julia Green
Karen King
Katherine Langrish
Leila Rasheed
Leslie Wilson
Mary Hooper
Ann Harries
Ann Turnbull
Rosemary Stones
Shereen Pandit
Nicki Cornwell
Valerie Bloom
Anna Perera
Maya Naidoo
Graham Gardner
Alan Gibbons
Jan Needle
Anthony McGowan
Paul Stewart
Chris Riddell
Katharine QuarmbyAlly Kennen

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Adrian Mitchell Celebration

It is hard to imagine a more fitting or joyous evening to celebrate the talents of Adrian Mitchell than yesterday evening (9 December) at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The platform full of poets and musicians, the stage decked with bunting and the tone of the evening from the very outset fitting for the man. The evening began with music in the auditorium whilst we took our seats then the performers wandered on to the stage, chairs being moved, Clive Rowe appealing to us in the cheaper seats and then Michael Rosen calling the proceedings to order in the nicest and best possible way. Carol Ann Duffy showed why she is such an exciting Poet Laureate and the list of names continued with all the poets reading a poem of their own and one of Adrian's - the musicians playing and (mostly) his daughters - all blessed with wonderful voices - singing his songs.

To name names and to make all of you jealous the line up was (in no particular order) Michael Rosen, Brian Patten, Jackie Kay, John Hegley, Michael Horovitz, Patience Agbabi, John Agard, John Berger, Andrew Marr, Carol Ann Duffy, Liz Lochead, Roger Lloyd Pack, Roger McGough, Jonathan Pryce, Pete Moser, Mike and Kate Westbrook, Andy Roberts, Joanna Macgregor, Clive Rowe, Caitlin Stubbs, Beattie Mitchell, Sasha Mitchell and a whole further wonderful line up of musicians and singers.

The poems and the music was in turn humourous and reflective. And best of all no one hogged the limelight. The evening was filmed but whether this was purely for their own record I don't know, but it would make a great DVD.

All performances were greeted with tremendous applause, but none more so than the fine song Victor Jara of Chile sung by Beattie Mitchell and accompanied by Andy Roberts on guitar. Andrew Marr mentioned that Adrian's play Jubilee Singers where you can hear this moving song will be on Radio 4 sometime next year.

The evening over-ran but didn't feel a second to long and was bought to a close by his wife, Celia, and a rousing rendering of Marie Lloyd from Mind your head.

What did feel too long was the grid-lock on the A13 because LimeHouse Tunnel was closed for some reason - but arriving back in Suffolk in the early hours was a small price to pay.

The last collection of Adrian Mitchell's poems Tell me lies has just been published by Bloodaxe, illustrated by Ralph Steadman and available for just £10.95 direct from the publisher if you don't have a local friendly bookshop and his last children's collection Umpteen Pockets from Orchard Books and wonderfully illustrated by Tony Ross plus Shapeshifters with extraordinary illustrations by Alan Lee is published by Frances Lincoln.

You can read the interview with Adrian Mitchell on the Carousel website under issue 30 - this took place during the summer of 05 and as Adrian had admired Chris's blue jacket he wore it at the celebration last night.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Postman Pat live at a theatre near you!

Premier Stage Productions are bringing Postman Pat and his brand new live show ‘A Very Royal Mission’ to theatres across the UK from February 2010. The tour will play 150 dates in over 90 venues across the country, opening at Epsom Playhouse on 13 February. For further tour details see below and also visit the new dedicated tour website where new dates will be announced.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books

John Fardell, Lari Don and Keith Gray have been named as this year’s winners for the 2009 Royal Mail Awards, Scotland’s largest children’s Book Prize which is voted for exclusively by Scottish children themselves.

Author/Illustrator John Fardell won the Early Years category (0-7) for his first picture book Manfred the Baddie (Quercus), Lari Don won the Younger Readers category (8-11) for her first book First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts (Floris Books) and best-selling teenage fiction author Keith Gray won the Older Readers category (12-16) for the acclaimed Ostrich Boys (Random House). They will each receive £3,000 and a prize presented to them by Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years who commented:
"These awards play a valuable part in helping children to discover the joy and pleasure of reading a great story. Nearly 30,000 children have been reading from the selected lists and voting for their favourite books and it's impressive that so many have been involved. That's why I am delighted to be at the Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children’s Books and help hand out the prizes to these worthy winners!"

Record numbers of children took part in the voting process this year, with nearly 30,000 children from all over Scotland actively involved in the awards compared to 18,000 in 2008 and just over 10,000 in 2007.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Skellig on the London stage over Christmas

Live on stage at the Bloomsbury Theatre!14th December - 23rd January 2010 Based on the Whitbread award-winning book by David Almond, this spellbinding adaptation comes to the Bloomsbury Theatre following a sell-out run at the Shaw Theatre last autumn. promises to be a truly unique treat this Christmas! Watch the trailer online at Ages 7+ Tickets:Full Price £17.50Concessions £13.50Children £12.50Family of Four £54 (not available on line)School rate £9.50, teachers go free (call for details)Group discounts available for bookings of ten or more. Box Office: 020 7388

BookTrust Teenage Prize 2009

Neil Gaiman is winner of the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2009.

The Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody ‘Bod’ Owens, a child abandoned in a graveyard after the vicious murder of his parents and sister by The Man Jack. Raised and educated by the ghosts that live there, Bod encounters terrible and unexpected menaces in the horror of the pit of the Sleer and the city of Ghouls. It is in the land of the living that the real danger lies as The Man Jack is determined to find Bod and finish him off.

Neil Gaiman is listed as one of the top ten living post-modern writers, and is a prolific creator of works of prose, poetry, film, journalism, comics, song lyrics, and drama. He is the creator of the iconic DC comic series The Sandman, the only comic to ever make the New York Times Bestseller list. His books have been adapted for a number of successful films, most recently the animated adventure Coraline.

In his acceptance speech, Neil paid credit to the authors that had inspired him: ‘Sometimes when we look big, and seem to see further, it's because we are standing on the shoulders of giants. The field of children’s literature has seen many giants, and those of us who toil in the field make our contributions using what we've learned from those who came first. ‘I'm proud of The Graveyard Book. But I know I got to stand on the shoulders of giants in order to write it. There were two writers of children's fiction who influenced The Graveyard Book. Foremost, obviously, Rudyard Kipling, and his short story collection The Jungle Book; less obviously Pamela "P.L" Travers, and her Mary Poppins stories. And everyone else: the writers I learned from as a young reader, and the writers I've learned from as a writer: a host of other craftsmen and women I learned, or borrowed, or stole from, to build The Graveyard Book.

This year’s shortlist was: Auslander by Paul Dowswell (Bloomsbury)The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury)Ostrich Boy by Keith Gray (Definitions)The Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine (HarperCollins)The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant (Puffin)The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Walker)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Perform a Poem website

Michael Rosen launched Perform-a-Poem, the first e-safe site for children's poetry performances, at the National Theatre on 3rd November.He said:“I’m hoping that Perform-a-Poem will give an opportunity for children and teachers to experiment and play with poetry in an exciting way. All poems have a voice; sometimes this voice is best heard silently, but most poems enjoy being spoken and performed, because this is how we get to feel a poem.”
Perform-a-Poem, a unique poetry performance website for primary school children, encourages children to write, choose, perform, film and edit poems. Their poetry video performances can then be uploaded by their teachers, and browsed and enjoyed by children in other schools as well as families and friends.
To browse the site log on to <>

Friday, November 06, 2009

Illustrated Children's Books

A copy of this beautifully produced book published by Black Dog Publishing arrived yesterday when I was sweeping up leaves. At first glance the book looks splendid, but that was before reading the text. Review follows shortly on the review section of this blog. enid stephenson

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mal Peet and The Guardian Award

The popular writer for young adults has won the Guardian Award for Children’s Fiction with his novel Exposure, the third book featuring cynical sports journalist Paul Faustino

Walker Books congratulates Mal Peet on his recent award success for his blistering account of celebrity and the power of the media in making and breaking people’s lives. Mal Peet is no stranger to awards success, having won the Carnegie Medal for his novel Tamar and the Branford Boase and Smarties Award for Keeper, his first Paul Faustino novel. Inspired by Othello, Exposure is an engrossing, revealing read for older teenagers and adults, tackling issues of race, fame, poverty and greed. Mal Peet's writing appeals to a wide audience, but it has been particularly praised for its ability to appeal to male teenagers. Believing that writing for teenagers does not necessarily mean writing about teenagers, Mal's cast of characters are primarily adult. The quiet star at the centre of this novel, as with his previous books Keeper and Penalty, is Paul Faustino (who some might say bears a few similarities to the author himself!).

On his recent Guardian award win, Mal says,

“I’m totally thrilled to win the Guardian prize. I’ve been buying the newspaper for 35 years, so I’ve worked for it! In fact, if you subtract the prize money from what I’ve spent at the newsagents, the Guardian is way ahead on the deal! I don’t mind – the Guardian prize is very special. It’s judged by other writers so it’s pretty likely that if you win it, you deserve it.”The announcement of the award coincided with a rather exciting week for Mal. He says, “It’s turned out to be a great week. I just delivered my new book to Walker. Always a nervous event, it’s called Life: An Exploded Diagram and is about a teenage love affair, nuclear missiles, mad families and explosions. Life doesn’t get much better than when you finish a novel and win the Guardian prize in the same week as your birthday and your wedding anniversary. I pass people in the street and hear them mutter, ‘who’s that grinning loon?’.”

Friday, October 09, 2009

Crossover Books

I enjoyed listening to John Connolly on R4's Today programme this morning, Friday 9 October. You can catch him on Listen Again - push the timer along to about 2.47 mins into the programme. He was talking with John Humphries about his latest book and then the dreaded word Crossover happened and here is a rough transcription of what was said:

John H: Crossover books are meant to appeal to both children and adults

John C: That's a word if any author used they should be beaten with a big stick. It is a marketing exercise...cynicism...books that are aimed to draw in an adult readership and to do that you have to wink over the shoulder of the children to the adults.

John H: You patronise the adults or you go over the head of the child

John C: You patronise both. You infantalise the adult and you patronise the child so everyone loses out.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Guo Yue during a spell binding performance to a full house of school children at The Purcell Room, London on 8th October. Guo Yue and his wife Clare Farrow told the story of Little Leap Forward (published by Barefoot Books) with photographs, traditional Chinese Music (Guo Yue is a professional musician), kites and much more. The story is Guo Yue’s own story about how one little boy made a gesture, in the middle of a Revolution, that asserted his individuality and compassion, and belief in freedom. Guo Yue and Clare Farrow are also doing workshops in schools and have three more performances – The People’s Theatre, Newscastle (9 October) and two performances on 4th November at the Library Theatre in Manchester.The Children’s Bookshow is a national tour of the best children’s writer’s and illustrators which takes place in the autumn and presents a brilliant line up of writers in theatres across England. For more information see

London Children's Film Festival

Lucky London children being able to easily attend this excellent 8 day festival - 21-29 November - based mainly at the Barbican. Authors Michael Rosen and Frank Cottrell Boyce will be there, a whole range of British and international films, workshops and a retro tv treat from the 80s including Count Duckula and Dangermouse (what happy memories!).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

SLA School Librarian of the year 2009

Congratulations to Lucy Bakewell of Hill West Primary School In SuttonColdfield - the SLA School Librarian of the Year 2009.
Photograph by Philip Paul .

Virtual writer in residence

Catherine Forde, the best-selling author of such acclaimed teen novels as Fat Boy Swim, Sugarcoated and most recently Bad Wedding, is Scottish Book Trust’s second Virtual Writer in Residence. She will be following in the successful footsteps of Keith Gray who inaugurated the role last year, and took up the post on Monday 5 October. You can see her first creative writing tips and tasks at

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Quentin Blake at the National Theatre

Quentin Blake will be appearing on stage at the National Theatre in two platform events over the coming weeks.

Saturday 3rd October 2009 at 10.30am Roald Dahl Day To celebrate the fourth annual Roald Dahl Day, his principal illustrator Quentin Blake will draw live on stage, in the company of actors who read from Dahl’s ever-popular books.
This platform is followed by a book signing, but please note that Quentin will only be able to sign one book per person.

Friday 13th November 2009 at 6pm Quentin Blake and David Walliams Little Britain’s David Walliams is joined by his illustrator to talk about his new children’s book, Mr Stink, a hilarious tale of family secrers….and a tramp in a shed.
Followed by a book signing.
Tickets are £3.50, or £2.50 for concessions.

To book please contact the National Theatre Box Office on 020 7452 3000 or go to

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bath Children's Literature Festival

The Festival opened on September 18th with a hugely successful discussion between Lorna Bradbury (Deputy Literature Editor of the Daily Telegraph) and Malorie Blackman. She captivated her audience by telling them about Double Cross the fourth book in the Noughts and Crosses trilogy!!
Carousel were delighted to sponsor a session in the Guildhall for families and young children. With an audience of about one hundred excited readers they learnt how Annette and Nick Butterworth created their wonderfully warm and reassuring stories about Jake, the well meaning dog who enjoys life but gets into lots of scrapes. Enthusiastic child artists joined in the game of Squiggles and left with their creations rolled up under their arm.
Bathed in sunshine, it was a pleasure to walk between the different venues for a packed programme of events for children of all ages. The Festival’s final weekend is February 26th – 27th. For details of events visit

Monday, September 21, 2009

Book Trust Teenage Prize Shortlist

Auslander by Paul Dowswell (Bloomsbury)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury)
Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray (Definitions)
The Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine (HarperCollins)
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant (Puffin)
The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Walker)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Writer in Residence, Book Trust

Ghanaian performance poet becomes Booktrust’s second online writer in residence
The Ghanaian author and performance poet Nii Ayikwei Parkes has been announced as the second author to take on the role of Booktrust online writer in residence. As well as performing his unique brand of poetry on major stages across the globe, Nii Parkes is an established author of poetry and fiction for both children and adults – he has had his poem ‘Wrong Side’ memorised by pupils across the UK and his poem ‘Tin Roof’ was featured by the ‘Poems on the Underground’ initiative in June 2007. A socio-cultural commentator who has sat on broadcast panels with literary heavyweights such as Margaret Atwood and A.S. Byatt, he is the author of the novel Tail of the Blue Bird and the co-founder and Senior Editor of flipped eye publishing.
Nii takes over from the Booktrust Teenage Prize winner Patrick Ness, who during his time in post wrote a much fêted exclusive addition to the award-winning The Knife of Never Letting Go. The writer in residence programme will run for two years, with a new author taking up the position every six months.
Nii will take up his tenure from today, Monday 14 September 2009.
During his time in the post, Nii will contribute one new poem to be published on the Booktrust website, a fortnightly blog, a video interview by schoolchildren, writing tips and advice on getting published, as well as hosting a special poetry event.
Nii Parkes commented:
"I am delighted and honoured to be Booktrust’s second-ever online writer in residence, taking the virtual baton from the excellent Patrick Ness. Every writer is (or should be) a reader first, and Booktrust does more to get people reading than any organisation I know (my nine-month-old daughter has already devoured eleven books endorsed by Booktrust). I am particularly looking forward to the opportunity that this residency offers
to interact with readers, to share my experience, to explore the nuances of translation as people consume stories - for stories are only the starting point; the real tale lives in the contemplation the stories trigger, the dialogue they generate after the last page is closed."
Nikesh Shukla, Booktrust Website Editor:"Nii Parkes is the Freddie Flintoff of publishing: a true all-rounder- he’s a performance poet, an author, a publisher, an editor and the hardest working man in the biz. He was an obvious choice to take over from Patrick Ness as our new writer in residence, and we’ve scored a century by getting him. Nii’s self-made career has given him a wealth of knowledge of the publishing industry and he will be a huge inspiration to aspiring writers. As someone who is immersed in technology and social networking media too, it’ll be great to collaborate with him on new and exciting multimedia online projects for Booktrust."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Handa's Hen

going on tour! It opens at The Polka Theatre in Wimbledon on 26 September and ends at The Albany Theatre in Deptford on 27 December - calling at 12 other venues, in and out of London.Details can be found:-
on the Little Angel website on What's On) and the Walker Books website (click on What's On) Two actresses, fifty-five puppets, movement and song are combined in this production. Come to Handa's Kenyan village where Mondi the hen has gone missing. Handa and her friend, Akeyo look everywhere. They find lizards, frogs, spoonbills and lots of other animals. But where is Mondi - and what's her secret?

Writing Competition

To celebrate the publication of Wishing for Tomorrow, Hodder Children’s Books are running a writing competition judged by Hilary McKay. Two lucky winners will receive a beautiful Victorian writing set and a signed copy of Wishing for Tomorrow. Four runners-up will receive a signed copy of the book.
To enter, choose ONE of the writing scenarios below. Send your entry (maximum one side of an A4 sheet) to:
Wishing for Tomorrow Competition
Hodder Children’s Books
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH
Closing date: 31st October 2009
1. In Wishing for Tomorrow. Ermengarde desperately misses her best friend, Sara Crewe. Alice, the maid, encourages her to write to her absent friend to tell her about life at the school.
Imagine you are writing to Sara Crewe describing a typical day at your school.
2. In A Little Princess there is a poor hungry rat called Melchesidec who befriends Sara when she is banished to the attic. In Wishing for Tomorrow, Ermengarde looks after him when Sara has gone, and also makes friends with Bosco, next door’s pampered cat.
Imagine you are an animal who befriends a schoolgirl. Write a diary entry about a typical day spent with her at her school. Remember that you are writing from the point of view of the animal!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Second Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture

Photograph from left to right:Morag Styles, Reader in Children's Literature and Education at Homerton College, Cambridge/ Michael Rosen / Philippa's Pearce's daughter - Sally Christie and her son. Outside Homerton College where Michael Rosen delivered the second Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture - What is children's poetry for? : towards a new, but child-specific, 'Apologie for Poetrie' (Sir Philip Sidney, 1595). The 2010 lecture will be given by Michael Morpurgo at Seven Stories, The Centre for Children’s Books and the 2011 lecture by Philip Pullman, at Homerton College. For more details visit
An excellent lecture - Michael Rosen overcame the poor microphone sound which gave a disconcerting hiss...

Booktrust Roald Dahl Funny Prize Shortlist

The Funniest Book for Children Aged Six and Under:

The Great Dog Bottom Swop by Peter Bently illus Mei Matsucka - Andersen
Octopus Socktopus by Nick Sharratt - Alison Green Books
Elephant and Joe is a Spaceman by David Wojtowycx - Alison Green
Crocodiles are the best animals of all by Sean Taylor illus Hannah Shaw - Frances Lincoln
Mr Pusskins best in show by Sam Lloyd - Orchard
The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg ilus Bruce Ingman - Walker

The Funniest Book for Children aged Seven to Fourteen:

The Galloping Ghost by Hilda Offen - Catnip
Eating things on sticks by Anne Fine illus Kate Aldous - Doubleday
Grubtown Tales: Stinking rich and just plan stinky by Philip Ardagh illus Jim Paillot - Faber
The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams illus Quentin Blake - HarperCollins
Purple Class and the half-eaten sweater by Sean Taylor illus Helen Bate - Francis Lincoln
Ribblestrop by Andy Mulligan - Simon & Schuster

Bill Bailey, one of the judges, comments: It was great fun judging the prize, mainly because the standard of the books was so's so hard to choose between them, and at one point it got so tense we got through a whole plate of chocolate's tough this judging lark.

Write Aways Second Conference

All Join In: Participation and Inclusion in Literacy a one day conference at the Leeds Hilton 23 October 09 from 9.30 - 4.00 for teachers and librarians. Details on Reduced fee booking until the end of September.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Just Read Campaign

The initial meeting of the "Just Read" Campaign took place in early June. Stimulated by the BBC4 documentary, Just Read, which featured Michael Rosen working with a school in Cardiff, a group of authors, illustrators, retailers, teachers, literary agents, librarians, publishers and national literacy organisations gathered to discuss how a campaign could help all schools become book-loving schools.

Michael Rosen led the first session by asking "How can we defend reading for pleasure". Amongst the positives were that it creates empathy and understanding; provides fun; improves communication skills; stimulates the imagination. The meeting was against the overuse of extracts/worksheetsp; a negative or unenthusiastic attitude to books in class; judging children's reading; lack of communication between teachers/librarians and the industry.

It was agreed that a plan with clear steps that can be taken by groups and individuals should be created.

Further information about the campaign will be given on this blog as and when we hear of it!

And no this is not a late post...I've simply been waiting for a contact address for the campaign which has now arrived. So if interested contact

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Children's Book Show

This autumn a few writers and illustrators will be on tour to ten theatre venues around the country. Full details on It may well be my imagination but it seems less people are taking part this year.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Croft Castle

Nothing to do with books, but just a wonderful place to go this summer. There are various items of tree art but this one really took my eye...and lots of running space for children. Croft Castle, Yarpole, Herefordshire - an NT place. The old, dead oak is 46' high and was wrapped in heavy duty red cotton drill fabric by the artist Philippa Lawrence.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Illustration Cupboard Summer Exhibition

First British Exhibition of Graphic Artist Kevin O'Neill is now on show at the ever enterprising Illustration Cupboard Gallery which can be found at 22 Bury Street, St James London SW1 - nearest tube Green Park. Perfect for teens and older. Illustrations, signed books etc for sale.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Visiting Schools - part 4

If you can go to the BBC Home page, then to I Player (at the very bottom) click on BBC 2 and click on Newsnight Thursday 16 July then push the line under the picture until you get 40 mins in and you will see an excellent encounter between Anthony Horowitz and Anthony Browne on the merits or otherwise of the VBS system. Highly recommended.

School Visiting Perils part three

Story from BBC News website 16 July :

...Government officials have suggested many authors will not need checks to visit schools. A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said "These checks have been misunderstood. Authors will not have to register with the Vetting and Barring Scheme if they work with children once or infrequently. In fact, people working in schools will only be required to register if they work with children on a regular basis. This is because visitors to schools, even if they are supervised by a teacher at all times, are being placed in a unique position of trust where they can easily become deeply liked and trusted by pupils. We therefore need to to be sure that this trust is well placed in case pupils bump into them out of school where a teacher is not present. While we fully accept that the vast majority of workers or volunteers would never abuse their position of trust, parents would not want adults working regularly with young children, even on a voluntary basis, without any sort of background check at all."

Gives me a shiver ... Of course no one wants children to be abused or put into any kind of danger. But, and this for me is a Mount Everest of a But, we do want children to talk and engage with adults. And we do want adults to talk and engage with children. That is how we all learn and live and enjoy life. And yes of course reasonable care should be taken...but should we monitor (for example) all corner shops where the kids go in, spend pocket money and have a bit of banter with the shopkeeper on a very regular (daily) basis? Of course not. The whole logic seems deeply flawed. An author could be liked and trusted after one visit and then where are you? What constitutes regular? Hints of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible"
Enid Stephenson

School Visiting Perils part two

There is a further story about this in The Independent today...see their website
I have tried to give the full link but for some strange reason it fails...but it is listed under Editors Choice.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Visiting Schools - new perils

Children's Authors heading the front page of The Independent today, whatever next.

When putting the various news blogs in I keep clear of comment but this seems so very stupid I can't resist. I can't imagine why a Labour Government should be contemplating this, or indeed any Government. Surely the very simple solution is that whenever anyone visits a school to speak a paid member of the school staff should be present at all times.

I was sorry to read that the new Children's Laureate, Anthony Browne and another good children's author, Gillian Cross should fail to see the slippery slope this ruling would begin.

Where would the vetting stop? What about those booksellers taking books into schools? What about parents taking games after school? The list is endless. In fact the logical conclusion is for everyone in the country to be vetted ...1984 here we come quarter of a century on.

Enid Stephenson in her personal capacity and not speaking for anyone else at Carousel as I haven't spoken to them!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Old Possum’s Children’s Poetry Competition 2009

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.

The British Council partnership, established last year, will continue to encourage entries to the ‘International Learner category’ for children based outside the UK who are learning English as a foreign or second language.

The Old Possum’s Children’s Poetry Competition will encourage children to write poems of their own and help teachers to bring poetry alive in the classroom. A teacher’s guide to accompany the competition will be available to download from the Children’s Poetry Bookshelf website ( from early September, along with further information about the competition.

Carol Ann Duffy is joined by a distinguished panel of people who either write poetry for children or are passionate about it: John Agard, poet and playwright, whose Young Inferno has just won the 2009 CLPE Poetry Award; Antonia Byatt, Director of Literature Strategy at Arts Council England; Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales, playwright and translator; Janetta Otter-Barry, Publisher of Janetta Otter-Barry Books, an imprint of Frances Lincoln; and Roger Stevens, poet, author, musician and founder of the Poetry Zone website.

The Old Possum’s Children’s Poetry Competition is generously supported by Old Possum’s Practical Trust.

For further information about the Competition please contact:
Hilary Davidson email
or Chris Holifield email
at the Poetry Book Society tel 020 7833 9247

Anthony Browne Exhibition October 2009

New Children’s Laureate, Anthony Browne, is exhibiting with Images of Delight at
Cox & Power’s sensational space in London’s Marylebone High Street.

This is Anthony’s first solo show in which all of the artwork is for sale and will include rarely seen sketches from such classics as Gorilla (1983),
Alice in Wonderland (1988), Willy’s Pictures (2000)and Into the Forest (2004), as well as magnificent finished pieces.

The Exhibition will run for two weeks, from Saturday 17th October until Saturday 31st October 2009 and all of Anthony’s books will be available across the road at Daunt Books.

Fans of Anthony Browne’s work will be able to meet him on the open days,
Saturday 17th and Friday 23rd October, from 11am-1pm and 3pm-5pm.

CLPE Poetry Award 2009

The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education is delighted to announce that the winner of the CLPE Poetry Award for 2009 is:

John Agard: 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.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

What are you like? Exhibition

The original idea for the exhibition, curated by Quentin Blake, was taken from a Victorian parlour game in which you draw pictures of your favourite things to create a cryptic self-portrait. For this exhibition, 45 people in the public eye were asked to illustrate eight favourite things from a list of twelve, in order to create a self-portrait.

Contributors were asked about their favourite animal, book, clothes, comfort, food, pastime, place, possession, music, shoes, weather and their pet aversion (the thing they love to hate!). The contributors to the exhibition were all selected for having the skills to express themselves visually, and were encouraged to use whatever medium they most enjoy. Among the famous people whose work appears in the exhibition are: Andrew Marr, Anna Ford, Brian Eno, Eric Clapton, Eric Carle, Jack Penate, Jan Pienkowski, Sir Paul Smith and Shirley Hughes.

The resulting works are diverse in style: from Quentin Blake’s instantly recognisable pen and ink drawings of people and Shirley Hughes’ enchanting watercolours to Lauren Child’s unique combination of text, drawing and collage and a series of polaroid photographs by portrait and fashion photographer Mary McCartney.

The exhibition is running at Manchester Art Gallery from 4th July to 31st August and at Wingfield Barns in Suffolk from 4th to 30th September.

For more details, including opening hours please visit

Saturday, June 27, 2009

British Airways Lands top Thai Children’s Writer

Award-winning author, Jane Vejjajiva from Thailand took part in two days of workshops on 22 and 23 June as part of the ‘Reading Round the World’ programme run by Outside In, supported by the British Airways Community Investment Programme.

Over a hundred children from three Hounslow schools all had the opportunity to take an imaginary trip to Jane’s homeland at the British Airways Community Learning Centre near Heathrow where they had a multi-sensory experience of Thailand through Jane’s novel The Happiness of Kati.

The ‘Reading Round the World’ project is the brainchild of Outside In (the UK organisation dedicated to promoting and exploring world literature), which is bringing a host of international authors and illustrators to the UK during 2009.Reading Round the World’ is funded by the Arts Council of England, with additional partnership funding including the British Airways Community Investment Programme and The Royal Embassy of Thailand.

Jane was born in 1963 in London. Her family returned to Thailand when she was three and she grew up in Bangkok. Having cerebral palsy from birth limited her movements and books opened a whole new imaginary world to her. The Happiness of Kati was Jane’s first novel for which she won the S.E.A. (Southeast Asian) Write Award in 2006It has become a bestseller with more than two hundred thousand copies sold in Thailand and has been translated into English, Japanese, Korean, German, Spanish, Italian and French. The Happiness of Kati has also been made into a feature film which was released in January 2009.

Cambridgeshire Children's Picture Book 2009 Award

The winner of the fourth "Read it Again!" Cambridgeshire Children's Picture Book Award is "Evil Weasel" by Hannah Shaw.

Read it Again! is a unique award for a first time picture book where the words and pictures are the work of one individual. It is organized by Cambridgeshire Libraries and was first launched in 2006 This year over 8,000 children from over 70 schools and Children's Reading Groups in Cambridgeshire participated, reading, discussing and voting for their favourite book from a shortlist of 8 outstanding titles.

Around 300 children from 16 local schools attended the award presentation ceremony at The Burgess Hall, St Ives on Tuesday 16th June and had the opportunity to meet 6 of the shortlisted authors, one of whom had travelled from Amsterdam to attend the event.

Author/illustrator Gillian McClure praised the award as a valuable means of encouraging and promoting new talent. There was great excitement as she opened an "Oscars style" golden envelope to reveal that "Evil Weasel" was the winner. A huge cheer followed. Hannah received a clock made by local artist and clockmaker Greg Ryder and each of the other finalists received an engraved paperweight.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Carnegie and Greenaway Awards 2009

Siobhan Dowd has been posthumously awarded the 2009 CILIP Carnegie Medal for her fourth and final novel, Bog Child (David Fickling Books). The CILIP Greenaway Medal was awarded to Catherine Rayner for Harris Finds his Feet (Little Tiger Press). The awards, which are selected by librarians, were announced at a presentation at BAFTA in Piccadilly, central London, today (25th June).

Dowd died in 2007, aged 47, and her Carnegie Medal was collected by her editor David Fickling of David Fickling Books. He praised the "sheer effortless brilliance" of Dowd’s writing and commended the Carnegie judges for granting the award posthumously.

Catherine Rayner, the Greenaway winner, had only one other title published before her winning book. Her début title, Augustus and His Smile, was shortlisted for the same prize in 2007. In Harris Finds His Feet, Harris the hare goes out into the world with his grandad, learning about the joys of growing up.

During an acceptance speech on behalf of Dowd, Fickling hit out at the cuts facing library provision, one of the main routes for children to access books. He said: "Our library culture is at the basis of our whole literary culture. This is the culture that produced a book industry that is the envy of the world. To a great extent, the economies of the children’s publishing business are based on years of brilliant library support. But now we are letting it slip away and it is time to wake up and realise what is going on.

"Libraries are struggling to survive on less and less funding and children have access to fewer books. Children need stories. Siobhan believed that stories help children to think and if they can think, then they are free."

Royalties from all Dowd’s sales will go to the Siobhan Dowd Trust, which has been set up to help disadvantaged children in care who do not have access to books. Details of the trust’s work will be announced in the autumn.

Fickling added: "Siobhan hoped that setting up this trust would provide practical support in UK and Irish communities by getting books into places where there are none. She saw the trust as the seed of a big movement to make sure that book support is provided where it is wanted. It is about offering open possibilities, new life and excitement to children by making books accessible."

Dowd came to writing late in life when she returned to the UK having spent several years in New York as the programme director of American PEN’s Freedom to Write Committee. Fickling said: "I first heard of her in 2004 and within three years she had delivered four books, each one different, each one remarkable."
report by C Horne The Bookseller.

The summer edition of Carousel, which is just published, contains an appraisal of Siobhan Dowd's work. And no, we didn't know ahead that she had won!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Anthony Browne, sixth children's laureate

Author and illustrator Anthony Browne is the new Children's Laureate.

Anthony - who has been awarded just about every prize going -, books include Gorilla, Zoo and the Willy series of adventures, takes over from poet Michael Rosen.

The post is awarded once every two years to an eminent children's writer or illustrator to celebrate outstanding achievement in their field.

He said he wanted to encourage more children to enjoy reading and books, particularly picture books.

"Picture books are for everybody at any age, not books to be left behind as we grow older.

"The best ones leave a tantalising gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader's imagination, adding so much to the excitement of reading a book.

"Sometimes I hear parents encouraging their children to read what they call 'proper books' (books without pictures), at an earlier and earlier age.

"This makes me sad, as picture books are perfect for sharing, and not just with the youngest children.

"As a father, I understand the importance of the bond that develops through reading picture books with your child.

"We have in Britain some of the best picture book makers in the world, and I want to see their books appreciated for what they are - works of art," he added.

Anthony Browne said he was looking forward to the challenge...
He becomes the sixth person to hold the position, and was presented with his Children's Laureate Medal and a £15,000 bursary by former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion at a ceremony in London on Tuesday. The venue, the Paramount Club on top of Centre Point, had great views across London but proved completely impossible for conversation - dreadful acoustics and everyone felt they had to shout. However the speeches were miked and models of coherent brevity!

Everyone present enjoyed the comment by Lord Chris Smith that it was "very nice not to be an MP these days". He headed the appropriate government department ten years ago when the Laureate was set up and, modestly, said he was glad to help in a small way and that the post was an excellent idea. Julia Eccleshare (chair of the Laureate panel) commented that Michael Rosen's energy "hit them with a blinding flash and an incredible debt of gratude is due to him". Michael Rosen said that "now is a vital stage in the history of the book...books let us reflect on who we are and where we are going...worksheets (in schools too often replacing books) are discrimatory and deny millions their basic rights" and he concluded by citing two project to watch and support, namely the Campaign for the Book and Just Read.

Andrew Motion said: "Anthony Browne is an absolutely distinctive and extraordinarily skilful artist - someone whose work entrances children, and has influenced an entire generation of illustrators. His pictures and stories give deep and immediate pleasures, while also insisting that we - children and adults - return to them. And when we return, we have a gradually expanding sense of discovery."

The award is now funded by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and administered by Booktrust, and sponsored by Waterstone's and further supported by a wide range of publishers.

Viv Bird, chief executive of Booktrust said: "The role of the Children's Laureate is that of ambassador and champion for children's literature. As managers of the award, Booktrust has been delighted with the enthusiasm and contribution made by each of the Laureates, and welcomes Anthony's appointment wholeheartedly."

Quentin Blake (1999-2001)
Anne Fine (2001-2003)
Michael Morpurgo (2003-2005)
Jacqueline Wilson (2005-2007)
Michael Rosen (2007-2009)

Anthony included children on the day, firstly by playing the Shape Game with them (and I think we'll be hearing a lot about that in the future) and secondly by staying and talking to them after the formal part of the proceeding finished. That seems typical of the man. I well remember biting my nails as he passed round his artwork at a session in the Hungate Bookshop, Norwich for the current project at the time - Alice in Wonderland (see pictures at the top of the article). Of course his trust in his young audience was completely justified. Good luck to him from all of us at Carousel. And you can read an editorial from him in the next issue due out next month.

Wendy Cooling

Wendy Cooling at Buckingham Palace (2nd June) just after
receiving an MBE for services to children's books from HRH the Queen

Red House Children's Book Award


Former journalist and editor Sophie McKenzie has scooped the overall prize in the prestigious Red House Children’s Book Award 2009 for her thrilling teen novel, Blood Ties.
It is second time lucky for McKenzie, as her novel, Girl, Missing, won the older readers’ category in 2007.
Blood Ties (Simon and Schuster) won both the older readers’ category and overall prizes in the award, which is owned and co-ordinated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.
The winning novel is a gripping thriller that explores issues of genetic engineering and personal identity.
McKenzie learned of her win at a glittering awards luncheon at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens yesterday (Saturday) which was attended by more than 200 people, including 80 children from across the country, all of whom were involved in the voting.
Stunned McKenzie, who won a silver trophy, said she was honoured to win this unique literary prize.
“Blood Ties is my favourite book so I am completely overwhelmed that the readers have chosen it as theirs, too,” she said.
“I am delighted and it is a huge honour, but this isn’t really about an award, fantastic though it is to have won it, it is a celebration of reading. It’s stories above everything.
“I passionately love stories as they help us understand the world around us and the work the Federation of Children’s Book Groups does in getting children to love books and reading cannot be underestimated.”
Two other category winners in the 29th annual award were also announced at the event: Allan Ahlberg’s beautiful picture book The Pencil (Walker), illustrated by Bruce Ingman, has taken the younger children category, while Kes Gray’s fun story, Daisy and the Trouble with Zoos (Random House) has clinched the younger readers’ category.

Illustration Cupboard Summer Exhibitions

John Huddy says: "We ease from spring into summer with no less than three specialised exhibitions here at the gallery in Bury St.
We are delighted to host for the first time in the Britain Shaun Tan, rising star from Western Australia. Original artwork and a selection of limited giclée editions are on view on the ground floor.

Opposite and complementing Shaun’s work is that of the unfailing fabulous Angela Barrett. A small selection of her original work for the recently published Sylvie and the Songman was featured in our winter show and we are now pleased to exhibit more of these exquisite paintings, temptingly priced from £250 to £1550. Short-listed for this year’s Kate Greenaway Award for The Snow Goose we congratulate Angela on reaching the final selection and wish her every success in winning this prestigious award; woefully overdue.

Following the success of John Vernon Lord’s exhibit of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, we have continued to show this work on our first floor gallery for those who were unable to attend our May event. A selection of the limited edition books published by Artists’ Choice Editions is still available."

On show until 21 June
Shaun Tan – Tales from Outer Suburbia
Angela Barrett – Sylvie and the Songman
John Vernon Lord – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Signed first edition books are also available for purchase at cover price from our website at

For further information - and how to find Bury Street in London's Mayfair - please visit our blog at


Author Anne Cassidy has won the 2009 Angus Book Award for her novel Forget Me Not. Published by Scholastic Children’s Books, this is a sympathetic, shocking and compelling narrative, which reveals the hidden secrets and truth behind two abductions.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Brother William's Year Book Launch

Not many books get the chance of being launched in the private gardens of Westminister Abbey but this extremely enjoyable picture book showing a monastry garden throughout the year was written by the Westminister Abbey gardener.

Jan Pancheri is the youngest child in a large family, she used to entertain herself and others by writing and telling stories. She has been at Westminster Abbey for 5 years and knew from day 1 that she would write a book around the gardens. The atmosphere is very special, contact with the soil in general and specifically Westminister Abbey gardens has an healing effect and brings its own spirituality.

The first photograph is the May Irises with June Digitals (see months in book) from within the garden itself, then the author and third photograph is the entrance to the little cloister (illustrated inside front cover). These three pictures were taken by Garden Designer Penny Hinves for Carousel.

The final picture comes from the publisher.
Pic credits - left to right:
Monk; Maurice Lyon Director, Frances Lincoln Children's Books; Canon Jane Hedges of Westminster Abbey; Rufus the dog; Jan Pancheri - author; Yvonne Whiteman, Editor; Monk.

We are all born free wins another award

In the photographs:

Jane Ray at Saxmundham during the Halesworth Arts Festival

Top photograph
Back row from left to right
Judith Escreet (Frances Lincoln), Marcia Williams, Margaret Mallet (judge)Nicky Parket (Amnesty International) and Janetta Otter Barry (Frances Lincoln)
Front row from left to right
Chris Usher (Amnesty International) and Jane Ray.

We Are All Born Free, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books in association with Amnesty International has won a Special Award, 2009 English 4-11 Best Children’s Illustrated Book Award.

Jane Ray and Marcia Williams represented the 30 artists who donated their work to the book at the award ceremony on 20th May at the British Academy, London.

You can read more about this fine book in Carousel issue 40 - backnumbers available from Carousel, details on home page.

Bisto Book of the Year

Siobhan Dowd has won the Bisto Children’s Book of the Year for her novel Bog Child (David Fickling). Dowd died in August 2007, aged just 47, after a long illness. The award was accepted on her behalf by her sister, Oona Emerson, who was presented with the Bisto Children’s Book of the Year Trophy and a cheque for €10,000. The money will be donated to The Siobhan Dowd Trust, established to help disadvantaged children to improve their reading skills and experience the joy of reading. Dowd won the same prize last year, with The London Eye Mystery. A look at her books will be published in the summer edition of Carousel.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Macmillan Prize Artists at Foyles Gallery

The winners of the 2009 Macmillan Prize for unpublished children's picturebook illustration are on display in The Gallery of Foyles on Charing Cross Road until Friday 15 May. The first prize (£1,000) was awarded to 22-year-old Fridtjof Olsen for The Owl Who Chased the Moon. Second prize went to Russian-born Ekaterina Trukhan for her book Victor, and third prize to Rebecca Patterson for The Deep End,

The judges - illustrators Nick Sharratt and David Roberts; Kate Skipper, Picture Books Buyer at Waterstone's; critic Nicolette Jones; Macmillan Children's Books MD Emma Hopkin; and Art Director Anne Glenn - looked at 273 portfolios before choosing the winners. The standard was, they agreed, higher than ever this year. The exhibition is open daily from 10am-6pm.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Booktrust Short Story Competition

Yes You Can!

Enter Booktrust’s short story competition to be President for a Day

Booktrust is inviting young writers to enter a short story competition to win a place on the judging panel for their internationally acclaimed Booktrust Teenage Prize 2009.

The charity that encourages people of all ages to enjoy reading is challenging young writers aged 11-16 to write a 500-word short story with the title President for a Day.

The deadline for competition entries is 27 July 2009. The guidelines and entry form are available for download from the website

The authors of the four best short stories will win a place on the judging panel for the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2009.

They will join Times journalist Alyson Rudd, author Marcus Sedgwick, librarian Judi James, writer and translator Daniel Hahn and Aniketa Khushu, a young judge whose short story won her a place on the judging panel last year.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books Shortlist

Early Years (0-7 years)

- MANFRED THE BADDIE by John Fardell (Quercus)
- PINK! by Lynne Rickards and Margaret Chamberlain (Chicken House)
- STICK MAN by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Scholastic)

Younger Readers (8-11 years)

- DINO EGGS by Charlie James (Bloomsbury Children's Books)
- THE ELEVENTH ORPHAN by Joan Lingard (Catnip Publishing)

Older Readers (12-16 years)

- CRASH by J.A. Henderson (OUP)
- OSTRICH BOYS by Keith Gray (Random House)
- THE RECKONING by James Jauncey (MacMillan)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

John Vernon Lord Exhibition

The Spring Exhibition at The Illustration Cupboard, Bury Street, London W1
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by John Vernon Lord.

A warm welcome to all awaits at this outstanding exhibition of artwork by John Vernon Lord for this new edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
This is the first occasion John has offered his original artwork for sale at exhibition and provides collectors and enthusiast will a refreshing opportunity to see a favourite old story in an unusual and original light.

Closes 16 May - though double check this date if visiting as an earlier date is mentioned on the Illustation Cupboard website.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Inaugural Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children's Book Award

Takeshita Demons, by Cristy Burne, a fast-paced adventure story about a Japanese schoolgirl who confronts the demons from her grandmother’s tales, has won the first Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award.

Created in memory of Frances Lincoln, the prize of £1,500 plus the option for Janetta Otter-Barry at Frances Lincoln Children’s Books to publish the novel, is awarded to the best manuscript for 8-to-12 year olds that celebrates diversity in the widest possible sense.

Presenting the award to Cristy Burne on 30th April 2009 at Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books, John Nicoll, Managing Director of Frances Lincoln said:
“Frances was passionate about nurturing new talent on the Frances Lincoln Children’s list, and this award is just the sort of initiative she would have wanted to support.”

Kate Edwards, Chief Executive of Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books added:
“The Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award has been an invaluable experience for Seven Stories. The overwhelming response and the diversity of storytelling have shown there’s a very real place for this award in the world of children’s books. We believe the publication of Takeshita Demons will help to improve the range and richness of stories available for children to read. The strength of our partnership with Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and the enthusiasm of the judges have
made the award an uplifting experience and a great success.”

Accepting the award, Cristy Burne said:
“This award is a tremendous opportunity for writers to showcase and share voices and stories from all over the world. I am thrilled that Miku and her adventures have met with such a great response and I can’t wait to share her with a wider audience. I’m extremely excited to be working with Janetta and her team.”

Friday, May 01, 2009

Carol Ann Duffy

I'm absolutely delighted that Carol Ann Duffy has been named as the new Poet Laureate. She is good to read and one of those rare poets who are a pleasure to hear reading their own poetry.

Do go and look at her books for children, as well as of course her adult poetry. She is extremely well served by the illustrator Jane Ray so take a peek at, for instance, "Lost Happy Endings" and "The Stolen Childhood and Other Dark Tales".

She was interviewed by Chris Stephenson for Carousel in 2003 (issue 24) - extract follows:

Her writing for children, poetry in particular, is an integral part of Carol Ann's output. "I don't write down a gear. They come from the same source. Different focus perhaps, and perhaps with more simplicity...As an adult poet, you car a lot of baggage about with you, like an old lobster with bits of worn-out shell hanging from its body. I have to fight more to get that same simplicity".

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ten years of the Children's Laureate

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A Platform discussion took place yesterday, Monday 27 April, on the Olivier stage to celebrate the first decade of the Children's Laureate. I sneaked a quick photograph - being well aware that you never take pics in the theatre - and so it is rather unclear but does show from left to right Professor John Mullan and then in order of their laureateshipness (is there such a word?) Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen. The new laureate will be announced on Tuesday 9 June.

The session began by John Mullan asking the Laureates in turn how they approached the task. The range of approaches was fascinating.

Quentin Blake: He decided not to take up the limited time by talking to schools but to talk to teachers, parents, publishers indeed anyone involved in the children's book world in an attempt to get everyone to take the business seriously. He published the excellent "Words and Pictures" (Jonathan Cape) and a fine exhibition of illustrations from A-Z at the National Gallery.

Anne Fine: "You were free to do things that would normally be a cheek...". She set up the home library set of book plates where you can still access book plates provided by some the best illustrators around; the Clear Vision Project which included braille picture books; three poetry anthologies "A Shame to Miss" and countless speaking engagements.

Michael Morpurgo: "I had the distinct advantage of being a reluctant reader...and of being a fairly late convert to reading, so I have all the zeal of a convert!" He told tales around the country from the far north to the deep south and abroad from Russia to Soweto.

Jacqueline Wilson: She wanted to emphasise the importance of reading a story at bedtime; appeared in many unexpected for an author places ie. carnivals; took part in the Laura Bush Reading Festival and so visited the White House; visited Buckingham Palace for the 80th birthday celebrations of the Queen and introduced HRH to the range of children's authors present.

Michael Rosen: "I don't really look for dignity and found the post a wonderful challenge... There is a terrific range of children's books available but perversely in schools between the ages of seven and fourteen most are not using books as anything but an optional extra and spend their time working on worksheets". He urged everyone to visit the free exhibition at the British Library "Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat - 250 years of poetry from children"; talked of meetings with ministers/teachers/librarians you name it and of his forthcoming (August from Puffin)"Michael Rosen's A-Z The Best of Children's Poetry from Agard to Zephaniah".

The time - all too brief - then opened out into a discussion of adaptations of books whether by illustration, television, film, cartoon or theatre.

Children's Laureates Choice of Children's Books

The full list of titles on The Laureates’ Table is as follows:

Chosen by Quentin Blake:

1. Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain by Edward Ardizzone (published 1936)

2. Queenie the Bantam by Bob Graham (1997)

3. The Box of Delights by John Masefield (1935)

4. Rose Blanche by Ian McEwan and Roberto Innocenti (1985)

5. Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (1902)

6. Snow White by Josephine Poole (1991)

7. Stuart Little by E.B. White (1945)

Chosen by Anne Fine:

8. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (1963)

9. Absolute Zero by Helen Cresswell (1978)

10. Just William by Richmal Crompton (1922)

11. Journey to the River Sea by Iva Ibbotson (2001)

12. Lavender’s Blue by Kathleen Lines (1954)

13. A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (1885)

14. Sword in the Stone by T.H. White (1938)

Chosen by Michael Morpurgo:

15. Five Go to Smuggler’s Top by Enid Blyton (1945)

16. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton (1939)

17. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (1838)

18. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (1902)

19. A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear (1846)

20. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

21. The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde (1888)

Chosen by Jacqueline Wilson:

22. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868-9)

23. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)

24. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge (1872)

25. The Family From One End Street by Eve Garnett (1937)

26. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit (1906)

27. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (1936)

28. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers (1934)

Chosen by Michael Rosen:

29. Clown by Quentin Blake (1995)

30. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)

31. Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner (1928)

32. Not Now, Bernard by David McKee (1980)

33. Fairy Tales by Terry Jones (1981)

34. Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton (2008)

35. Daz 4 Zoe by Robert Swindells (1990)

Incidentally you can see all these in Waterstones Book Shops as they are one of the sponsors of the Children's Laureate. If you go to their website you will see they have some strange authors for some of the titles... (Never too certain about one set of bookshops sponsoring a national post). I understand from the Today Programme interview this morning, 28 April, with Anne Fine and Michael Morpurgo that they were asked to provide lists of 12 books. AF regretted the loss of "Frog and Toad" I wonder what other books missed out. When asked why most of the books were not recent they explained that they were all a bit long in the tooth and these, on the whole, were books from their own childhood reading.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Carnegie and Greenaway Shortlists

Carnegie shortlist:
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Macmillan)
Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks (Penguin)
Airman by Eoin Colfer (Puffin)
Bog Child by Siobhan Down (David Fickling)
Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray (Definitions)
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Walker)
Creature of the Night by Kate Thompson (Bodley Head)

Greenaway shortlist:
The Snow Goose by Angela Barrett & Paul Gallico (Hutchinson)
Varmints by Marc Craste & Helen Ward (Templar)
The Savage by Dave McKean & David Almond (Walker Books)
Little Boat by Thomas Docherty (Templar)
How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham (Walker Books)
The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins)
Harris Finds His Feet by Catherine Rayner (Little Tiger Press)
Molly and the Night Monster by Chris Wormell (Jonathan Cape)

The winners will be announced on 25 June.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2009

Dear Friends,

I am glad to inform you that Tamer Institute for Community Education has been awarded the prestigeous Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award it is the best gift to our children and to Palestine in these traumatic difficult period!

Tamer Institute for Community Education awarded the 2009 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

The 2009 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award has been awarded to the reading promotion organisation the Tamer Institute for Community Education, which works in the West Bank and Gaza.

The jury’s reasons:

With perseverance, courage and resourcefulness, the Tamer Institute has stimulated Palestinian children’s and young people’s love of reading and creativity for two decades. Under difficult circumstances, the Institute carries out reading promotion work of an unusual breadth and versatility. In the spirit of Astrid Lindgren, the Tamer Institute sees the power of words and the strength of books, stories and the imagination as important keys to the courage to face life, self-esteem and tolerance.

Press photos and information on the award winner are available on the award website at

Press material is also available in Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish and German. A presentation of the award winner is attached. To book interviews with the award winner and representatives of the jury, please contact or call + 46 (0)76-540 10 17.

The award will be presented by HRH Crown Princess Victoria on 2 June in the Stockholm Concert Hall in the presence of the Swedish Minister for Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth.

This year’s award is the seventh. The previous winners are Sonya Hartnett (2008), Banco del Libro (2007), Katherine Paterson (2006), Philip Pullman (2005), Ryôji Arai (2005), Lygia Bojunga (2004), Christine Nöstlinger (2003) and Maurice Sendak (2003).

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) is the world’s largest prize for children’s and young people’s literature. The prize totals SEK 5 million (equivalent to approx. USD 578,000, 445,000 EUR) and is awarded annually to a single recipient or to several. Authors, illustrators, storytellers and those active in reading promotion may be rewarded. The prize aims to strengthen and increase interest in children’s and young people’s literature globally. The award is designed to strengthen children’s rights at global level. An expert jury names prize-winners who are nominated by institutions and organisations worldwide. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is administered by the Swedish Arts Council.


Larry Lempert,

Jury Chair, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Tel.: +46 (0)76 123 12 20 | Email:

Erik Titusson,

Director, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

Tel.: +46 (0)76 540 10 08, +46 (0)8 519 264 00/08 | Email:

Agnes Lidbeck,

Information Officer, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

Tel.: +46 (0)76 540 10 17, +46 (0)8 519 264 00/17 | Email:

Tamer Institute for Community Education

The Tamer Institute for Community Education in Ramallah is an independent organisation that has carried out reading promotion work for children and young people in West Bank and Gaza since 1989. The Tamer Institute was founded to give children access to books and alternative learning as children’s and young people’s schooling, leisure time and lives suffered from the troubles in the area. The Tamer Institute also hands out reading passports. Holders get a stamp for every book they have read. This is a clear symbol of the fact that there are no borders for those who can read books. As Astrid Lindgren said: “Good children’s literature gives the child a place in the world and the world a place in the child”.

The Tamer Institute is the hub of a network that works with writing workshops, storytelling, drama and literary discussion for children and young people. They supply libraries with children’s books and they train librarians and parents. A national reading campaign is organised every year, culminating with National Reading Week. In 2008, the campaign reached 52,000 children in refugee camps and remote villages and communities, who took part in literary discussion, drama and drawing and writing workshops.

The Tamer Institute also carries out youth activities. The young people, who have often participated in Tamer’s work since they were children, publish their own newspaper, Yara´at, among other things. They use it to publish their thoughts, poems and stories. When the Tamer Institute was founded, there were virtually no Palestinian children’s books. The organisation has now published more than 130 titles and several of the children who attended the Tamer Institute’s writing workshops have started to write their own books as adults.

Despite difficult circumstances, the Tamer Institute works tirelessly on many levels to create a better situation for Palestinian children and young people via literature. Their conviction that words can tear down walls has resulted in innovative reading promotion activities of an unusual breadth, for which reason the Tamer Institute has been awarded the 2009 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Caroline Lawrence wins the Classical Association Prize 2009!

The prize, which is worth £5000, is awarded for 'a significant contribution to the public understanding of Classics'. The council agreed that 'The Roman Mysteries', with their exemplary combination of entertainment and education, thoroughly fulfilled this criterion. The award was presented on Sunday 5 April, at a ceremony held in Glasgow.

This will be the fifth year the prize has run, having previously been awarded to: Barbara Bell for the 'Minimus' primary-school Latin project, Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden for the 'War With Troy' project, Tom Holland for his book 'Persian Fire', and Peter Parsons for 'City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish'.

See Caroline’s blog on the ceremony here - and Mary Beard’s blog on the prize here -

Monday, April 06, 2009

Scottish Young Writers

Winners of innovative young people’s writing initiative announced

The winners of Scottish Book Trust’s innovative young people’s writing competition were announced today (31st March 2009) at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, selected from nearly 250 young people from across Scotland and abroad who had submitted stories.

The winner is:
· 1st place: Emma Brown, age 14, St Andrew’s and St Bride’s High School, South Lanarkshire,
for her story, The Death Predictor
Joint runners up:
· Mathias Sean Lord, age 16, Alværn Ungdomsskole, Norway for his story, Alone
· Louise Paterson, age 16, St Columba’s School, Renfrewshire for her story, The Heat of Time

All 11 shortlisted teenagers were subsequently invited to apply for the Scottish Book Trust young people’s mentoring scheme, a new initiative to help three young people hone and develop their writing over a period of 6 months. The mentoring will consist of a mixture of face-to-face and online tutorials with Scottish Book Trust’s virtual writer-in-residence Keith Gray, as well as a visit to a top UK children’s fiction publisher and a meeting with a children’s literary agent.

The three successful applicants for Scottish Book Trust’s young people’s mentoring scheme are:
· Charlotte Gordon, age 13, Thurso Academy (Highlands)
· Katie Hart, age 14, Bearsden Academy (East Dunbartonshire)
· Mathias Sean Lord, age 16, Alværn Ungdomsskole (Norway)

After the short ceremony at the National Library of Scotland, 10 of the 11 shortlisted students stayed on for an exclusive writing workshop with Keith Gray.

Skellig on television

The new film of SKELLIG, based on the multi-award winning novel by David Almond, is premiered on Sky1 at 7pm on Easter Sunday, 12 April, 2009.
All star cast includes Tim Roth as Skellig, John Simm and Kelly Macdonald as the parents, Bill Milner as Michael, Skye Bennett as Mina.

More info at the Skellig website:

Friday, March 06, 2009

Michael Rosen and the Homemade Orchestra

Michael Rosen and the Homemade Orchestra, led by saxophonist Tim Whitehead and composer and keyboardist Colin Riley, are to premiere their collaborative work, Nonsense, with a "playfully surreal UK tour of music and words". The project is funded by Arts Council England.

A "groundbreaking project aimed at a family audience", Nonsense combines new music - jazz, classical and electronica - with spoken word. Rosen himself will narrate the verses, accompanied by the Orchestra, and the performances will navigate "baked bean storms", "jellyfish under the rug", and "lonely toads in the middle of the road" in "an eccentrically joyful journey through an ever-changing musical landscape".

Dates so far confirmed are Sunday 3 May, Town Hall, the Cheltenham Jazz Festival (box office: 08445 768 970; tickets: £10/£5); Tuesday 5 June, the Spark Children’s Festival, De Montfort Hall, Leicester (box office: 01162 333 111; tickets: £10); Sunday 14 June, St George's, Bristol (box office: 08454 024 001; tickets: £10/£7; family ticket: buy four tickets and get the cheapest free); and Sunday 20 September, Scarborough Jazz Festival (box office: 01723 357 869; tickets: TBC). Further dates to be announced shortly.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Blue Peter Awards 2009

The three category winners in the Blue Peter Book Awards 2009 are:

Book I Couldn't Put Down and overall Blue Peter Book of the Year: Shadow Forest by Matt Haig (Corgi)
Most Fun Story with Pictures: Mr Gum And The Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton, illustrated by David Tazzyman (Egmont)
Best Book with Facts: Horrible Geography Handbooks – Planet In Peril by Anita Ganeri, illustrated by Mike Phillips (Scholastic)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Red House Children's Book Award

The shortlist for the Red House Children’s Book Award (RHCBA) has been announced. The award - unique in being chosen by children throughout the country - is administed by the Federation of Children's Book Groups (FCBG) and sponsored by Red House. Publishers submitted 838 books this year.

Books for Younger Children: Pencil by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman (Walker Books); Beware of the Frog by William Bee (Walker Books); A Lark in the Ark by Peter Bently, illustrated by Lynne Chapman (Egmont); The Three Horrid Pigs and the Big Friendly Wolf by Liz Pichon (Little Tiger Press).

Books for Younger Readers: Cows in Action: Wild West Moo-nsters by Steve Cole (Red Fox); Daisy and the Trouble with Zoos by Kes Gray (Red Fox); The Cat Who Liked Rain by Henning Mankell (Andersen Press).

Books for Older Readers: Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford (Puffin); Blood Ties by Sophie McKenzie (Simon & Schuster); Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine (Harper Collins).

Voting is now open to find the category winners and an overall winner. Anyone under the age of 16 can participate by simply logging onto the RHCBA website, and completing the voting form before the closing date of May 11.

A personal comment: delighted to see The Pencil has made the short list - if I had my way it walk off with every prize going! enid stephenson

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Seven Stories Writers & Artists Group Exhibition, Cambridge

The Exhbition is at the New Hall Art Collection, in what used to be New Hall and is now Murray Edwards College, until 14 march. There is also a seminar on Creating a Picture Book for Children on Saturday 28 February.

Seminar on creating a Picture Book for Children
28 February 2009 10am- 4pm
£20 (£16 student) including materials and lunch in The Long Room, New Hall Art Collection at Murray Edwards College

This practical seminar will provide a unique environment in which to trial your ideas for a children's picture book.

Free - lance illustrator and tutor, Sylvia Lynch will offer help and instruction in the application of ideas, page layouts and storyboards, up to the construction of a dummy book. Professional advice on approaching publishers and notes related to further study will also be included.

This workshop is given in collaboration with the Seven Stories Writers and Artists Group (SSWAG), who will be exhibiting their work in the Temporary Exhibitions Gallery, 15 February – 14 March

For more information and to buy tickets, please contact Amanda Rigler on 01223 769404 or by email at

Friday, February 20, 2009

Family Portrait Week

Family Portrait Week (14_21 March 2009) is an exciting concept to raise awareness of the importance of family portraiture while also raising substantial funds for The Variety Club of Great Britain, one of the UK’s major children’s charities.

Take advantage with this special offer of a complimentary portrait sitting and print to every family that donates £25 direct to the Variety Club of Great Britain.

To make your donation and book your sitting, (which can take place within six months and will be supplied by qualified Master Photographers) or for more information, please visit Donations and bookings can be made from Sunday 1 March 2009.

National Portrait Gallery, London


Family Art Workshops: Write Stuff
Saturday 21 March 2009, 11.30 and 14.30
Third Saturday of every month. In celebration of World Poetry Day, meet some of the Galleries famous poets before creating a bound book of your own to fill with your own poetic creation. Suitable for ages 5+.

Storytelling for Families: The Perfect Performance
Saturday 21 March 2009, 14.00 and 15.00
Drop-in sessions on the third Saturday of every month. A magical story of a young dancer's dream to see her favourite dancer perform. Based on the portrait of Margot Fonteyn. Suitable for ages 3+. No ticket required. Meet in the Ondaatje Wing Main Hall. Sessions will last about 30 minutes.

Baby Baby a play by Vivian French

BABY BABY by Vivian French, directed by Jemima Levick

Adapted from the ground=breaking book published by Barrington Stoke, BABY BABY had attracted sell-out crowds from Shetland to Glasgow. Due to demand, it now relocates to the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh from March 3rd - 5th before travelling to Easterhouse, Glasgow; Cumbernauld, Aberdeen; Kirkcaldy and Castle Douglas.

Two teenagers - both completely opposite in character but united in one problem. Both are pregnant! Aimed at 13+, it is a hard-hitting play with a highly relevant message for today's young people.

For further information: or 0131 248 4847.

Waterstone's Children's Book Prize

Congratulations to first time writer Michelle Harrison for winning the 2009 prize with her novel The Thirteen Treasures" published in paperback by Simon and Schuster Children's Books.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Possible Library Closures

It appears that at a time when all councils are anxious to save money libraries are under threat. If you are concerned and hear of possible closures why not contact the Campaign for the Book - see earlier blog.

It has just been reported by a Swindon councillor that the council's cabinet has recommended the closure of FOUR libraries within the authority.

Free access to books is something we have taken for granted for so long and is vital, I think, for the health (physical and mental) of the nation.

Little Angel Theatre Show

Handa's Hen

Handa's Hen opens at The Little Angel Theatre, Islington on 25 April 2009, and runs for two months. It's for 2 - 5 year olds.

Colourful puppets,movement and song are combined in this production. Come to Handa's Kenyan village where Grandma's black hen, Mondi has gone missing. Handa and her friend, Akeyo look everywhere. They find fluttery butterflies, stripy mice, jumpy crickets, baby bullfrogs and lots of other animals. But where is Mondi - and what's her secret?

Theatre website is: (on site from 23.2.09)

Phone no: 0207 226 1787

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Letter to Culture Secretary from Alan Gibbons

This is the text of an open letter to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham from the Campaign for the Book.

Dear Andy,
As you will know, Wirral council has voted to close eleven of its 24 libraries in the face of huge popular opposition
You said last October at a conference in Liverpool that you were 'committed to the provision of a comprehensive library service' and that this was 'absolutely non negotiable.'
I understand that you have a duty as Culture Minister to assure that, under the 1964 Libraries Act, there will be a 'comprehensive and efficient service.'
If democracy means anything you must surely act. I understand that you are an Evertonian and a supporter of the 'People's Club.' I call on you to become the people's champion and stop these philistine cutbacks, which are taking place just a stone's throw from Liverpool, the 2008 City of Culture.
Evidence from the US, Canada and many areas of the UK indicates that the recession has led to increases of library usage of up to a third. Many councils are building new libraries or transforming existing ones into thriving centres where books and information technology co exist in an exciting symbiosis.
We must not throw away this vital cultural and community lifeline.
Please act and act now to prevent Wirral becoming a byword for cultural vandalism.
Yours faithfully,
Alan Gibbons
Author and organizer of the Campaign for the Book

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Library Cuts: News from Campaign for the Book

Dear all,
You may have heard that the Wirral cuts have gone through. I enclose my statement below. The full story is on I am in Bahrain on a speaking tour so I have a limited address book with me. Please circulate this wildly.
Best wishes,
Alan Gibbons

Alan Gibbons comments:
“This is a very grim day for everyone who lives on the Wirral but also everyone who believes in the power of books to excite, nurture, nourish and inspire. The decision of the councillors who voted to push through the closure of eleven libraries in the face of huge popular protest amounts to nothing other than a calculated act of cultural vandalism. The only reason given for the reduction of service during this whole sorry saga was cost-cutting. Not one councillor engaged with the arguments of those who opposed this wretched philistinism. It is a bit rich for council leader Steve Foulkes to welcome the level of consultation. The whole point of consultation is to listen to the people you represent. Consultation without negotiation is a sham. Councillor Foulkes has ignored the arguments of the public in a graphic assault on local democracy. Once upon a time they burned books, now they close the doors and bar the community’s access through ill-conceived service reductions.
“Several Lib Dem councillors broke ranks. Sadly, not one Labour councillor had the decency to do the same. The Campaign for the Book is non political but I know that many of its supporters are life-long socialists and Labour voters. It is galling for them to see Labour councillors forcing through policies which will impact negatively on the right to read.
“Ironically, on the same day that Wirral’s decision was announced, it came to light that there has been a big jump in library membership across Cumbria. Almost 5,000 people joined the library between September and December last year, a 39% increase on the same period in 2007.
“Councillor Barbara Cannon said: ‘These are difficult times and the county council is working hard to help people through the recession. The library service is a resource that is there for everyone to use and I am heartened to see that people are recognizing this and joining up.”
“The Campaign for the Book agrees with that statement and wonders why Wirral council does not understand that, in a recession, people seek a refuge in culture. They want bread but they want roses too. We will continue to oppose this retrograde step. We call on all supporters to write to Andy Burnham at the DCMS asking for him to rule whether the council is providing a comprehensive and efficient service as required under the 1964 Museums and Libraries Act. If this fails then yes, councillor Foulkes, we will work with you to salvage a decent service from the carnage your administration has wrought in local communities. The Campaign for the Book will never shirk its responsibility to the reading community.”