Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Goodbye Margaret Mahy

Renowned children's author Margaret Mahy died yesterday. Mahy, a New Zealander, was the first author from outside the UK to win the Library Association's coveted Carnegie Medal for best children's book, in 1982 for The Haunting, an honour she received again in 1984 for The Changeover, both of which, in common with many of her titles, feature supernatural themes. Mahy also received the Hans Christian Andersen Award, given for a lasting contribution to children's literature. Many of her books are in stock in the Andersonian Library at J808.3. View our holdings here.

(Guest post by Alison Forde)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Books from Scotland Author of the Month

Books from Scotland has chosen a children's author for its July Author of the Month. She's Catherine Rayner, prize-winning picture book author and illustrator. Follow the link to read more about her. Catherine's latest award is from UKLA for Iris and Isaac (see post below) and she is also currently short-listed for the Scottish Children's Book Awards for Solomon Crocodile. See below for these and other books - highly recommended.


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Do children's books need age certificates?

The author GP Taylor appeared on BBC Breakfast yesterday to argue that that children's literature has become too frightening and should be marked with an age certification system. There was a debate a few years ago about age-ranging (see previous posts), and some publishers do now put guidance on the back covers of their books, but it was largely considered a bad idea. At least, however, it was guidance they were talking about and they weren't saying that no child under a certain age can read a certain book. Guidance is fine, as long as it is not totally prescriptive (and doesn't appear on the book cover to embarras the nine-year old whose favourite book is labelled 7+). Children develop and mature at different ages, both emotionally and in their ablity to read, so the same book can be enjoyed by different people at different stages. Librarians want to encourage young people to read, and telling them they are either too young or too old for a book is likely to hinder that process in my opinion.

The counter-argument was put by Patrick Ness who appeared on the BBC alongside Taylor. The Guardian published a summary of both sides and today has Charlie Higson arguing "Let's not revive this dead debate about reading ages on books." The debate has also spilled onto Twitter, between these three (@GPTAYLORAUTHOR, @Patrick_Ness and @monstroso) and others. Which side are you on? I'm with Ness and Higson, as you can probably tell - this seems to me to be verging on censorship. If you want guidance on children's books, either for your own children or for those you teach, ask someone who knows about them - but remember, you are the one who knows the child, and the child is the only one who knows for sure what he or she likes. You won't get expert advice if you buy books in the supermarket, but independent booksellers can help, or, of course - ask a librarian! There's a very sensible post on Voices for the Library which makes exactly that point.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Branford Boase / UKLA Awards

A couple of children's literature awards were announced at the end of last week. First, the Branford Boase went to Annabel Pitcher and her editor, Fiona Kennedy for My sister lives on the mantelpiece. The story tells of ten-year-old Jamie Matthews. Five years ago his sister's twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb and Jamie, his dad and teenage sister Jasmine have moved to the Lake District for a 'Fresh New Start'. In fact, things have got even worse for the family. The book has been shortlisted for several other awards but this is its first win.

The UKLA Awards have also been awarded as follows:

3-6 Catherine Rayner for Iris and Isaac
7-11 Gill Lewis for Sky Hawk
12-16 Patrick Ness and Jim Kay (recent winners of the Carnegie Medal) for A monster calls

If you are a member, you can borrow all the above titles from the University of Strathclyde's children's literature collection, or try your local library.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Abandoned, alienated and homeless - the perils of being in children's literature

In an article in the most recent edition of Children's Literature in Education, Goodbye yellow brick road,  available via our SUPrimo, the authors Melissa Wilson and Kathy Short, report on their analysis of prize winning children's literature between 2003 to 2007 and claim that in writing for children, childhood is no longer carefree, with home as a safe haven, from which they set out on an adventure, but rather home is the source of abuse, abandonment and uncertainty, where parents are absent, ineffective or dysfunctional. In a response in today's Guardian Francesca Simon proposes that the trend is simply a solution to the perennial problem that children's literature requires the removal of parents in order for the action to take place in an adult free theatre - and that in modern settings it is simply not possible for children to roam freely as they did, in for example, Swallows and Amazons.
Perhaps it is just that modern children's literature reflects a realism previously absent, in many areas where childhood was previously idealised, and that today's readers enjoy and identify with this realism.

(Guest post by Alison Forde)

Friday, 6 July 2012

Encouraging the reluctant reader

Reluctant readers, especially boys, have been in focus this week starting with the National Literacy Trust's report from the Boys' Reading Commission which found that the gender gap is widening and 76% of schools are concerned about boys' underachievement in reading. Michael Morpurgo picked up this theme in a blog post for the Guardian Teacher Network in which he says "The truth is, when it comes to the enjoyment of reading, we are failing far too many children and boys in particular" and then comes up with seven suggestions to deal with this. There's a lot in it about teacher education and the role of libraries and librarians with which I heartily concur. Follow the links to find out more - you can add your own suggestions for books to encourage reluctant readers to the Guardian's ongoing debate here.

In the spirit of Michael Morpurgo's remarks about libraries, I also recommend you look at the University of Strathclyde Library's pages on reluctant readers and books for boys.

PS 9/7/12 Just discovered a useful blogpost, Here come the boys, from the Literacy Advisor (Bill Boyd) which has a lot of useful suggestions to add.