Friday, 15 May 2009

Diversity and perversity

The winner of the first Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Award is Christy Burne with Takeshita Demons. Her novel, about a Japanese schoolgirl, will be published by Frances Lincoln and she wins £1,500.
Geraldine Brennan wrote a thoughtful piece about the award and the need for more diversity in children's books in the Times:
and opened the floodgates to a horrifying reaction in the comments. The very least was along the lines of "they should publish their own books."

And these are responses to a broadsheet article, albeit online. I've found the same with the Guardian website. It's so bad that I've almost decided never to read online comments on anything, since they always seem to bring out a hang 'em and flog 'em, send 'em all back where they come from squad of commenters, who, I hope, represent a tiny minority of the population.

More news from Frances Lincoln is that Janetta Otter-Barry, former Children's Editorial Director, is to have her own list. Janetta will publish about twenty books a year in a very hands-on way as commissioner and editor. For the main FL children's list, Maurice Lyon will be Editorial Director. And both lists will continue to have a strong multi-cultural flavour.

This is in accord with the beliefs and principles of their founder, Frances Lincoln, who died unexpectedly, aged 55, in 2001. Since then the company has been run by her widower, John Nicoll, who has continued to publish children's books that accord with Frances's philosophy.

How pleased she would be with the new developments.

Monday, 11 May 2009

May books

May 7th and thereabouts has become a very popular date for publishers to bring out new titles for juniors and teens. Here is a selective list:
N.M. Browne Warriors of Ethandun
Fiona Dunbar Tiger-Lily Gold
Adèle Geras Dido
Liz Kessler Philippa Fisher and the Dream-maker's Daughter
Katherine Langrish Dark Angels
Tabitha Suzuma Without Looking Back
Leslie Wilson Saving Rafael

Now, I have not managed to read all of these yet but I can tell you that two of them at least are corkers. I read Saving Rafael some time ago in proof and thought it very strong. It's basically a love story of a German teenage girl in Berlin before and during WW2 and her Jewish friend Rafael. Some of it makes for very bleak reading but it's not a run-of-the-mill tale of star-crossed lovers and Leslie Wilson keeps you guessing till the last minute about whether they will escape and survive. An earlier novel of hers, Last Train to Kummersdorf, was very well received.

Completely different but very accomplished is Katherine Langrish's Dark Angels. This writer arrived on the scene with her three books about trolls ( a trollogy?): Troll Fell, Troll Mill and Troll Blood. Dark Angels is different again, a story set in the 12th century, about a boy called Wolf who escapes from a punitive monastery and finds a wild elf-child, who has been abandoned by her people.

Both of them are captured by Sir Hugh, a crusader and troubadour, and taken back to his home, where his daughter Agnes is intrigued by both of them. Sir Hugh is maddened by grief for his dead wife and believes that the elves could restore her to him. So it falls to Wolf to try and teach the child to speak.

But a plot summary doesn't really do this book justice. I loved the way the final part spiralled into some very weird places but never out of control.