Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Beware - The Thornthwaite Inheritance

Under threat as I was from exploding tennis balls I still had the opportunity to enjoy a great evening in the Bloomsbury Boardroom in the company of Gareth P Jones, his family, friends and an assortment of other guests all of whom had gathered to celebrate Gareth's latest title The Thornthwaite Inheritance.  Packed full of plots, innovative ways in which to potentially kill your sibling (don't try them at home!) and some very dark humour the book is a great addition to Gareth's growing output.  When he is not writing he is producing television programmes and children be thankful that his imagination has now taken him on another journey to yet another story!
A great evening full of laughs, not only at the name badges and unfortunate accidents due to befall each of us this was a great opportuinity to celebrate true talent and toast Gareth's success, long may it continue!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Clarice Bean is 10!

On Tuesday evening we celebrated the 10th birthday of the utterly fabulous Clarice Bean.  Author Lauren Child joined friends, family, booksellers, librarians and others in a small and hidden gem in the heart of London - The House of Barnabas once a women’s refuge now conference and meeting venue.  We were lucky enough that the rain held off allowing us to enjoy a relaxed evening in the garden.  Everyone there was given a personalised Clarice Bean badge and the excitement buzzing in the air was palpable.

A number of well-loved children’s books and their characters are celebrating birthday’s and other anniversaries this year and in order to help this one stand out a limited edition linen-bound copy of Clarice Bean is being published.  Lauren will find herself busy personally signing each copy and she was thrilled to be able to talk to some of her young fans during the evening.

Lauren explained how she was thrilled to have made it to 10 years old with Clarice, a character very close to her heart, because she tried for a long time to find anyone to accept the story, constantly being told the picture books in the first person would not work.  Luckily she has proved the publishers wrong and gone from strength to strength.

It was a very special birthday and party and a real pleasure to be able to celebrate with Lauren, Orchard Books, her publishers, and the assembled guests.

Animals are not Rubbish

The Animals are not Rubbish’ competition on Monday 13th kicking off a busy week last week.

Run by the Orion publishing group in conjunction with the Born Free Foundation and Waterstone’s children under the age of 12 were challenged to design and make a model of an endangered animal entirely from recycled material.  With over 250 entries from groups and individuals around the country the entries were outstanding and Lauren St John, whose idea the competition was explained how impressed she had been with the standard and variety of entries.

The judging she explained had been great fun but a big challenge!  She had been blown away by the response and enthusiasm shown.

During the evening Bill Travers of the Born Free Foundation explained their work and Lauren took the opportunity to explain her passion for their work, her own background and the influence it has had on her work and mention her ‘Last Leopard Fund’  that will raise money for some very special rescue work around the world.

The winners of the competition were the Phil and Jim Art Club at SS Philip and SS James Primary School in Oxford for their Dodo made of individual bees – an extinct animal made up of endangered animals.

Visit for pictures of all the entries and more information.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

CLPE Poetry Award 2009

Thunder and lightning could not keep us away from the announcement of the winner of the CLPE award for poetry and in the event it was probably very appropriate weather for the winner this year was John Agard with his updated version of Dante's Inferno.

Introduced by Julia Eccleshare, director of CLPE (Centre for Literacy in primary Education) who also took the opportunity to mention the new library in which we were all sitting, the award was presented by last year's winner Jackie Kay.

Chosen from a shortlist of some great work - Allan Ahlberg Collected Poems, Sharon Creech Hate That Cat, Sophie Hannah & John Hegley (eds) The Ropes and JonArno Lawson Inside Out - John was clearly thrilled to have been selected for this year.  He explained a little about his background and inspiration for the work in answer to Jackie's questions, had us all laughing at his references to school life and teenagers and wowed us with a fabulous reading from the poem.  He read a canto of his own choosing and one selected by Jackie before mingling with the crowd answering interesting questions about Dante, his own work and having a good chat!

It was a lovely, very relaxed and low key evening that deserves mention for the important role that it plays in bringing excellent poetry for children to the forefront of the hearts and minds of publishers, teachers and of course librarians!

(Pictures to follow)

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Rising Stars

Last night Random House Children's Books hosted a sparkling evening showcasing their brightest and newest picture book illustrators, their very own rising stars.

Joel Stewart, Katie Cleminson, Hannah Shaw, Lizzie Finlay and Louise Yates displayed examples of their published picture books, work in progress, sketchbooks and portfolios for us to pour over. Whilst we all happily chatted they were able to fill us in with stories of how they came to be such talented author/illustrators, where they get their inspiration from and the directions they would like to take their work in. From Louise who lives in an old school to Joel who has included a bagpipe player in his latest work as a dedication to his father, Katie who has a love of lemurs, Lizzie with her bright colours and Hannah with gorgeous flamingos each of them has a wonderful story to tell.

That there are so many Rising Stars being published at a time when picture books are fighting for their share of the market is a testament to the skill of these illustrators. Their work engages the child as a reader, with drawings that leap off the page and shows a true understanding of art. The work is understated and subtle and this even applies to the brightness of some of the palettes! These five illustrators are creating books that will last and be valued by children for many years to come.
(Four of the five illustrators - Lizzie was stuck on a train)

It was a great pleasure to spend time talking to them and a lovely opportunity to understand more about the way in which they work, how they came to be children's book illustrators and have a sneak preview of their latest projects. It was a charming and exciting evening.

Campaign for the Book Conference: A report from Linda Newbery

Libraries are priceless. Books change lives. We all know this – we being people who are engaged with books and readers, whether professionally or privately. But the wider world of politicians and educationists seems – alarmingly – to regard books as dispensable, replaceable by internet technology; to see literacy as a matter of standards to be met and boxes to be ticked. Enjoyment of reading comes a long way down the list of priorities, if it’s mentioned at all.

Alan Gibbons has launched his campaign with passion and commitment, and has achieved a wonderful and important feat in bringing together people from the hitherto fragmented children’s book world to protest against the closure of libraries and the dismissal of school librarians, to fight for the continuation (or in some cases restoration) of schools’ library services, and to make it a statutory requirement that every school must have a well-stocked library. This day conference, held at King Edward’s School in Birmingham, hosted by librarian Jean Allen, brought together speakers from various backgrounds and interest groups. After the conference had been opened by author Celia Rees and year 10 student Charlie Alcock, the first item was a Question Time session, with Ed Vaizey, Shadow Minister for Culture, Lib-Dem MP Richard Younger Ross, Roy Clare of the MLA (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council), Jonathan Douglas, direction of the National Literacy Trust, Miranda McKearney of the Reading Agency, and Alan Gibbons himself, chaired by author Steve Skidmore. Questions were raised about school libraries, public libraries and schools’ library services – how to safeguard them and how to prevent cuts from threatening their existence. Various speakers said that library provision should come under the aegis of central government rather than devolve to local authorities, while Ed Vaizey spoke in favour of a central cultural services agency which would include responsibility for libraries.

In the second session, Facing the Challenges, we heard from librarians Clare Broadbelt, whose school librarian post had recently been made obsolete, and Cath McNally from the Wirral. Clare told us of the promises made by senior management that although the library would no longer exist, there would be a Reading Centre – which, strangely, has failed to materialize. Cath McNally was moved almost to tears as she told us of some of the people who would be most affected by the loss of the branch library; libraries should form user groups now, she suggested, in advance of any threatened cuts. Joy Court, chair of YLG (Youth Libraries’ Group) spoke of the different status schools’ library services have in various authorities, and of the importance of raising their prestige in order to secure adequate funding.

Author Gillian Cross introduced her session, Seizing the Opportunities, by stressing that we must not be a negative campaign. Marilyn Mottram of UKLA and Miranda McKearney of the Reading Agency spoke of their work with teachers and readers, and Southwark head teacher Martyn Coles told us how the library is seen as central to the life of his school. The collapse of the national literacy strategy for primary school was announced last week, giving opportunities for flexibility in teaching and learning and reduced dependency on objectives and outcomes.

After small-group sessions which included workshops led by author Bali Rai, Christine Lewis of Unison and Tricia Adams of the School Library Association, the final address, on Literature and Freedom, was given by authors Beverley Naidoo and Frank Cottrell Boyce. Quoting Susan Sontag, Beverley Naidoo summed up: “Our libraries should be regarded as our country’s precious treasure chest.”

Of course, no one present needed much convincing, but our task now is to continue to unite and to make our presence felt. Alan Gibbons, in his closing remarks, said that this conference was a launchpad; campaigning will continue no matter which party is in power; whenever a library is threatened or a librarian made redundant, the Campaign for the Book will be there, and, quoting Sting, “We’ll be watching you.”

Congratulations to Alan and to host Jean Allen for organising such an inspirational day, and for making everyone present feel that together we can bring about change. If you’re not involved in the campaign yet and would like to be, visit

Linda Newbery