Monday, April 25, 2011

Looking for change – going out on a wire to find a new favourite book

I get a bit frustrated sometimes at the fact that the same books, or authors, always seem to crop up on lists of recommended books. Of course we all love Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell) and The Gruffalo(Julia Dondaldson). The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle) is a staple in the homes of young children and many children can’t imagine going to bed without Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown). Similarly, you’re hard pressed to find a child who can’t relate to Max in Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak).

These are all great picture books – of course we want to recommend them. They are books that you want to share with parents, to ensure that all children have a chance to experience them. They have delighted children for many years and families can’t help but pass them down through the generations. They’re well loved and well known, which make them perfect for gifting. But if parents, friends, experts and librarians are always recommending these same books, it does beg the question -what are we missing out on?

I once read an article that said parents should read children three books a day and aim for variation. The article recommended that these three books included one of the child’s favourites; a classic fairy tale and something new to help the child and parent) discover new books. Of course, involving the child in the selection processes will help encourage success. If we stick to this three book rule, then we get the best of all worlds – classics, favourites and the chance to discover something new.

Finding new books is actually quite a fun task. Follow blogs and read book reviews to get an idea of newly published books. Talk to friends and family to find out what books they love and most importantly take time to browse your local library. Ask librarians to point out new titles and recommend books. Visit bookshops and ask the book sellers to recommend something new. Pick up books you haven’t looked at before and try reading them aloud.

It’s all about diversifying reading habits and giving children the chance to explore something new.You can have fun exploring books along the way. There is nothing wrong with sticking to the favourites. Of course, those books have stood the test of time and are favourites for a reason. They were once newly published and someone had to recommend them to others. If we support new authors and new titles then maybe in 40 years time these books will join the classics on all the lists of recommended books.

Tracy Lowe is the Early Years Training Manager at Scottish Book Trust.
She runs training programmes on a wide range of topics linked to early literacy, including brain and language development and use of songs,rhymes and book sharing with children under five. Check out her blog at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ursula Moray Williams Exhibition

The Enchanted Country – Hampshire celebrates Ursula Moray Williams’s

Several generations of children have enjoyed books written – and in many cases illustrated – by Ursula Moray Williams, such as Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat and
Adventures of the Little Horse. She wrote 68 books between 1931 and 1987, which can be enjoyed by a wide range of age-groups, and she used a variety of styles of illustrations, from lively figure-drawings to intricate scissor-cuts. The centenary of her birth on 19 April 1911 is being celebrated through a series of events, mainly in herhome county of Hampshire, providing a chance to celebrate her long career, and theways in which her early surroundings inspired the characters and settings in many of her books.

An exhibition, The Enchanted Country: the extraordinary world of Ursula Moray
Williams, is touring venues in Hampshire and elsewhere. Using copies of photographs
and other archive material provided by her family, it tells the story of Ursula’s life and career, and in particular will explore the ways in which her Hampshire childhood influenced her writing. Her early years growing up as a twin near Petersfield, playing with hobby-horses and walking past a shop which sold wooden model horses,influenced such books as The Twins and their Ponies as well as Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse. From the age of 11 until her marriage she lived at North Stoneham Park, between Eastleigh and Southampton, a magnificent, yet unfinished and dilapidated, mansion set in magical grounds, which inspired such books as A Castle for John-Peter, Grandpapa’s Folly and the Woodworm-Bookworm, and
Bogwoppit – which features cuddly yet ferocious animals living beneath a mansion
closely based on North Stoneham. She was a keen member of the local Girl Guides,
and many of her early stories were written for Hampshire Brownies. The exhibition
also covers her later life, showing how her work as a juvenile court magistrate
inspired her to include children from troubled backgrounds in her later writing.

Copies of early editions of many of her books, and translations into other languages
of some popular works, are included in the display, together with two toy Bogwoppits
made by Ursula herself. Browsing copies of a selection of the books are also being
made available for visitors to enjoy.

The exhibition is now on show in the foyer of Hampshire Record Office in
Winchester, where it will remain until 28 June. The foyer is open on Mondays-
Fridays, 9am-5pm, and Saturdays 9am-4pm (closed 22-25 April, 29 April, 2 May and
30 May). It will then tour to Surrey History Centre in Woking from late July until theend of August, returning to Hampshire for showings at Petersfield Museum, 5 Sept-20Oct, and Eastleigh Museum in Nov-Dec, before heading north to Tewkesbury Library
in 2012.

A number of events have been arranged to complement the exhibition. The first
full biography of the author, Through the Magic Door: Ursula Moray Williams,
Gobbolino and the Little Wooden Horse, was published by Northumbria Press on the
same day that the Winchester exhibition opened. Its author, Colin Davison, who has
collected the material for the exhibition, will be giving a number of talks including a free half-hour lunchtime lecture in Hampshire Record Office at 1.15pm on Thursday 28 April, ‘Through the Magic Door: the extraordinary life and work of Ursula Moray Williams’ (no booking required). Colin will also be speaking at Surrey History Centre on 23 July and at Petersfield Museum on 24 October, and a number of children’s events are being planned, including the chance to make a collage, Ursula Moray Williams-style, at Petersfield Museum in half term week, 25-29 October.

A special evening has been arranged at Hampshire Record Office on Wednesday
11 May, 7pm-9pm. Colin Davison will speak in more detail about her links with
Hampshire, including North Stoneham, and Harry Willis Fleming will set this in the
context of the story of this mansion, built for his family in the first half of the 19th century. Light refreshments will be available, there will be a chance to meet two of Ursula Moray Williams’s sons, get copies of the biography signed by Colin Davison,and see an additional display. The evening costs £7.50 per person, and advance booking is essential, on 01962 846154.

More information about the events at Hampshire Record Office can be found
at or by phoning 01962 846154.
Surrey History Centre’s website is at
and information about Petersfield and Eastleigh Museums can be found at and

David Rymill
Hampshire Record Office
01962 846146 / 846154

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Anthony Browne at the Illustration Cupboard

An evening with Anthony Browne
Playing The Shape Game
Thursday 14th April 2011
5.30pm onwards

Anthony Browne will be in attendance at the gallery this Thursday from 5.30pm onwards to sign copies of his biography, Playing the Shape Game, written by his son Joe and published by Jonathan Cape. (£25)
He will be happy to dedicate books, meet and talk to fans and collectors. Families are most welcome and entrance is free. No booking is required for this event and refreshments will be served.

A showcase exhibition of Anthony Browne original illustration artwork will accompany this event, and all artwork will be available for purchase from the gallery.
Preview of this can be seen at
Signed books are sold at cover price.

22 Bury St
St James’s
+44 (0)207 976 1727

Thursday, April 07, 2011

From Jam Tarts to Jabberwockys

WONDERLAND COMES TO OXFORD Tea parties galore as Oxford – and the Red Queen, Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit, not to mention Alice herself, start to get ready for Alice’s Day 2011. This year’s brillig event takes place on Saturday July 9 with a host of activities planned in historic and world-class locations, many of them known to Lewis Carroll and the real Alice – from Christ Church and the Bodleian Library, to Oxford Castle and the Botanic Gardens.

Highlights will include an outdoor Jabberwocky performance by Mad Dogs theatre group, Mad Hatter’s tea parties, outdoor film screenings, colourful tales by leading storytellers, waterland walks along the River Thames – with White Rabbits and other Wonderland characters along the way. Alice enthusiasts young and old will enjoy a unique chance to view special exhibitions of Alice memorabilia, take part in panel discussions and listen to talks from distinguished experts – all in the city of the Dodo, where Lewis Carroll first told one of the best-loved children’s stories in the world.

More than a dozen Oxford organisations are involved in Alice’s Day, which is coordinated by the Story Museum. Director Kim Pickin said; “We are buzzing with ideas for Alice’s Day, but Tea will play a big part! We’re encouraging people to dress up for the day, bring a picnic and join in this family day, where once again nearly all events are free.”

The Story Museum will be announcing more surprises as plans progress. In the meantime, enthusiasts can enjoy a treasure trove of all things Alice and view pictures from previous years at See below for short listings entry.