Dorothy Neal White
Newsletter 44
April 2011



rabbitThe 2011 AGM of the Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection will be held on Wednesday 27 April 2011

In the Training Room (Poutama Ruma), Archives NZ, Ground Floor, 10 Mulgrave Street, Wellington

at 6pm (with drinks & nibbles from 5.30pm)

To be followed by:

A rabbity selection of stories and poems brought to you by your FDNW committee!
We do hope you can join us.


All the current committee members are happy to remain on the committee for 2011-2012.

The proposed Committee is:
Patron: Margaret Mahy
President: David Retter
Treasurer: Janet Blake
Membership Secretary: Trevor Mowbray
Correspondence Secretary: Barbara Robertson
Minutes Secretary: Lynne Jackett
Newsletter: Joan McCracken

Committee: Audrey Cooper, Alison Grant, Emma MacDonald, Mary Hutton, Mary Skarott.

If any other members would like to join this enthusiastic group please contact David Retter

Copies of the full minutes of the 2009 AGM are available on the website


A reminder that while the National Library building is being redeveloped the Dorothy Neal White Collection is available on-site at the Archives New Zealand Reading Room, 10 Mulgrave Street, Wellington. To see books from the National Children’s Collection you can visit the National Library Reading Room at 77 Thorndon Quay, Wellington. If you have registered as a client, you can request your books on-line to be available when you arrive. Otherwise, you will need to await the next batch delivery (usually every 1½ hours). The NCC will also remain available for inter-library lending. For more information, please refer to the National Library web site


Kate De Goldi wins 2011 Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal

Image of Kate de Goldi sourced from Booksellers NZ

Wellington author, publisher and broadcaster Kate De Goldi (pictured, left) is the 2011 winner of the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal and Lecture Award. The award, for a distinguished contribution to New Zealand children’s literature, is given annually by the Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust.

Cover of Kate de Goldi's The 10pm Question

Kate De Goldi’s achievements over two decades have made a very significant contribution to the continuing rise of children’s publishing in New Zealand,’ says Trust chair Dr Libby Limbrick. ‘Her versatility, creative use of language and reputation as a fine public speaker have earned her a special place among New Zealand writers.’ De Goldi began as a short story writer and poet, winning the American Express and Katherine Mansfield prizes, before writing a series of notable young adult novels.

In 2004, she and illustrator Jacquie Colley published their picture book Clubs, which went on to win the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Book of the Year, the Russell Clarke Award for illustration and a Spectrum design award for typography.

Her 2008 novel The 10 PM Question is regarded as a publishing phenomenon, a classic of New Zealand literature, again winning the top New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award, and popular with both youth and adult audiences. It has featured on the best-seller list for many months.

De Goldi’s further major awards have included an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Award, and in 2010 the $100,000 Michael King Fellowship to work on a study of the Wellington children’s book collector and mentor Susan Price.

Kate De Goldi will deliver her Mahy Lecture at the Storylines’ annual Margaret Mahy Day being held in Auckland on International Children’s Book Day, 2 April, which this year is also part of the Spinning Tales National Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators’ Hui.

Previous winners of the Margaret Mahy Medal include Joy Cowley, Lynley Dodd, Gavin Bishop, Maurice Gee, David Hill, publisher Ann Mallinson and educationalist Wayne Mills.

Booksellers New Zealand 3 February 2011

Shaun Tan wins Astrid Lindgren prize

World’s richest children’s literature award goes to Australian author-illustrator, described as a ‘masterly visual storyteller’

Shaun Tan
Shaun Tan Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian

The Australian author-illustrator Shaun Tan is the winner of this year’s Astrid Lindgren prize – the richest children’s literature prize in the world, with a purse of 5m kroner (£490,000).

Tan is the second Australian to be awarded the prize in its nine-year history, following Sonya Hartnett’s win in 2008.

In a Nobel-style live webcast from Sweden, Larry Lempert, the chair of the jury, described Tan as “a masterly visual storyteller” whose minutely detailed pictorial narratives touched everyone, regardless of age. “His pictorial worlds constitute a separate universe where nothing is self-evident and anything is possible,” the citation says.

The phone call informing Tan of his win was broadcast live on the internet and to an audience at the Bologna children’s book fair. Tan’s response was characteristically guarded: “OK, OK, thanks very much. That’s amazing. I’m going to have to take a little time to get used to it.”

Illustration from Tales from outer suburbia (Allen & Unwin, 2008)
Illustration from Tales from outer suburbia (Allen & Unwin, 2008)

Tan has illustrated more than 20 books including The Rabbits, The Red Tree, The Arrival, Eric, and, most recently, Tales from Outer Suburbia, which was hailed in the Guardian as possibly “the most beautiful book you’ll see all year” .

At this year’s Academy Awards, he won the Oscar for best animated short film for The Lost Thing, based on his book of the same title.

The Astrid Lindgren prize was set up in 2002 by the Swedish government to honour writers, illustrators and story-tellers working in the spirit of Lindgren, whose best-known creation is Pippi Longstocking. Maurice Sendak and Philip Pullman are among the previous winners of the prize, which focuses on work with “a profound respect for democratic values and human rights”.

Tan, the son of an architect, who grew up in Perth, is not afraid to put dark subjects into his books. Depression, environmental destruction and the loneliness of the immigrant are among the issues he has tackled in what he describes as “illustrated modern fables”.

In a Guardian interview, he said: “All fiction is false; what makes it convincing is that it runs alongside the truth. Drawing a good picture is like telling a really good lie – the key is in the incidental detail.”

Claire Armistead, The Guardian, Tuesday 29 March 2011

New Zealand children’s titles honoured in US

Great recognition for two New Zealand titles, both originally published by Longacre, selected for the 2011 USBBY Outstanding International Books List.

They are Kate De Goldi’s The 10pm Question (left – US edition) and James Norcliffe’s The Boy Who could Fly, (NZ title The Loblolly Boy).

Kate De Goldi’s The 10pm Question (left - US edition)

From the USBBY website:

USBBY selects an annual list of Outstanding International Books for children and young adults, which is published each year in the February issue of School Library Journal and as a bookmark. The Outstanding International Books (OIB) committee is charged with selecting international books that are deemed most outstanding of those published during the calendar year. For the purposes of this honor list, the term “international book” is used to describe a book published or distributed in the United States that originated or was first published in a country other than the U.S.

You can view the entire list at:

Posted by Graeme Beattie’s on his blog Bookman Beattie, Friday 18 February 2011

Judges Announced For The 2011 LIANZA Children’s Book Awards!

The judges for the highly acclaimed LIANZA Children’s Book Awards have been announced and the judges are excited about the challenge ahead of reading over 100 books covering a wide range of topics and across all children’s writing: from children’s picture books to junior and young adult fiction, non fiction and te reo Māori.

Key dates

Monday 30 May 2011 Finalists announced

Monday 8 August 2011 Awards Ceremony, Caffe L’Affare, Wellington

About the judges:

Belynda Smith recently moved to Christchurch having previously been the Co-ordinator of the Children’s and Teenage Services Librarians for North Shore Libraries, based at Takapuna Library.

Belynda has previously been on the Library Week Committee and is passionate about the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards and promoting and enjoying New Zealand Children’s Literature. Belynda returns as the Panel Convenor and we are looking forward to Belynda’s energy and wonderful humour throughout the event.

Pene Walsh, currently Library Manager for Gisborne District has always maintained a strong and active interest in children’s literature. Her library delivers a literacy programme for young people including weekly preschool programmes, curriculum based lessons for all school levels and active participation with children’s authors when possible.

Pene has been a judge for the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Award (now Montana Book Awards), LIANZA Children’s Book Awards and has undertaken assessments for the Margaret King Spencer Writer’s Trust which involves assessing an open range of unpublished manuscripts that includes material written for children. Pene continues to firmly believe reading and good books are the code to unlocking any child’s hidden potential and that good people who work in libraries, bookshops and schools are often the ones who are able to share that code with children.

Lily O’Donovan comes from one of those large families where stories are told and retold, and passed down, and are only ever occasionally embellished. Growing up, her favourite part of the day was that marvellous space – never long enough – between bedtime and lights out.

At the dawn of the 21st Century, when she discovered that some people will pay you to put children and books together, she knew that she had found her perfect job. Since then she has worked in primary and secondary school libraries, National Library and now at Wellington City Libraries. As well as reading she enjoys zombie movies, earl grey tea, and running in the hills.

Alice Heather (Judging Panel Convenor for Te Kura Pounamu) has been working at the National Library in Auckland, in the role of Māori Adviser for school Services for the last ten years. Alice now works part-time at the National Library and has returned to secondary school English teaching and is the teacher with library responsibility at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi.

Alice is an active member of Te Rōpū Whakahau and Te Hikuroa (Māori Librarians in the Auckland Region). Alice helped to set up Uiangapatai, the te reo Māori side of Anyquestions and is currently an operator for both services.

Notice from LIANZA

INTRODUCING… Audrey Cooper

For as long as I can remember books have been an important part of my life. As a child my family always knew that if I were missing they would find me with my head in a book.

One of my earliest experiences with books came about through visiting the old Wadestown Library when staying with my Gran on holidays. Perched at the top of a steep street (Pitt Street) and up a steeper flight of steps, it seemed to be in a world of its own. Mrs Meek, the librarian, presided, a kindly lady. Silence was the order of the day. That was fine by me. Who wants to talk when surrounded by all those lovely books? It was heaven.

 Millions of cats by Wanda Gag

Much later, as a trained kindergarten teacher, I had the fun of introducing children to picture books. Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel and The little house by Virginia Lee Burton, and Millions of cats by Wanda Gag were favourites among many.

At a later stage I lectured trainee kindergarten teachers on the art of storytelling. Later still I changed tack and became Manager of Whitcoulls Library Service, where I had the job of importing books for libraries in the Wellington area and further afield. The National Library and the Wellington Public Library were among my most important clients.

This was a satisfying career. I saw all the new books, often before they were published, and I was in daily contact with librarians, many of whom became friends. Every two years my holidays were spent traveling overseas to the UK, Europe, and Egypt. Travel helped develop an interest in Medieval History and Archaeology, which in retirement I pursue with lectures at Victoria University and reading.

I am a voluntary worker for ‘Save the Children’ and a member of Altrusa. I greatly appreciate the role played by the Dorothy Neal White Collection, and have been a committee member almost since its inception.

Audrey Cooper

[Editor’s note: Audrey was one of the editor’s of Notes-Books-Authors 1 Papers on the Dorothy Neal White Collection, edited by Audrey Cooper and Margot Crawford (May 1985)]


Historical Children’s Periodicals and Books Online

Many of you will have enjoyed using the printed material in the Dorothy Neal White Collection and National Children’s Collection for recreation and research. There are many online resources now available to the children’s literature researcher and enthusiast alike to supplement the printed book and periodical. Here is an introduction to some of the resources in the field of historical children’s literature.


19th Century UK Periodicals is a history and family history subscription e-resource that is available to view (onsite only) at the Alexander Turnbull Library reading room at 77 Thorndon Quay. Part 1: New Readerships: Women’s, Children’s, Humour and Leisure/Sport marks the advent of commercial lifestyle publishing in Britain and charts the rapid rise of modern magazine culture. Part 2: Empire: Travel and Anthropology, Economics, Missionary & Colonial contains periodicals from Australia, Canada, Ceylon, India, New Zealand and South Africa.

Of particular interest to users and Friends of the DNW Collection is the list of more than 30 children’s titles that are available as part of Series 1: New Readerships. Titles include: Aunt Judy’s Magazine, The Boys’ Own Paper, Chums, The Girls’ Own Paper, Little Wide-Awake and Peter Parley’s Annual, to name just a few. Searching is available in full text, and options to limit your searches mean that you can efficiently find just what you are looking for. For example, a search on “magic lantern” limited by children’s periodicals provides 78 relevant articles from a variety of publications. It is also possible to search in one publication only, so “magic lantern” in the Boys’ Own Paper gives a result of 32 articles. Articles are reproduced as they appear in the original publications, including illustrations, so none of their charm is lost.

The periodicals sequence is a well-used part of the DNW Collection and we hold a good selection of British publications, including such gems as The Boys’ Own Paper and Chums (titles can be searched for on the online catalogue). However, many of them are in incomplete runs. This e-resource will fill in any pre-1900 gaps in our runs, provide full text searching for the items we do have, as well as providing access to material we don’t hold at all.


For those who are interested in digitised historical children’s books, these freely available sites are well worth a visit:

Hockliffe Project. “The Hockliffe Project has been designed to promote the study of early British children’s literature. It will provide internet access to the full texts of The Hockliffe Collection of Early Children’s Books, owned by De Montfort University, and will accompany this archive with contextualising documents and research. The aim is to work towards a re-evaluation of children’s literature in its own infancy, and to let these rich and varied books speak for themselves.”—Hockliffe Project Homepage.

Frontispiece from Waihoura by WHG Kingston
Frontispiece from Waihoura by WHG Kingston

Baldwin Library of Children’s Literature digital collection (University of Florida). Access to nearly 6,000 digitised books, including the Boy Travellers series by Thomas W. Knox, The Redfords by Mrs Cupples, and Waihoura, or, The New Zealand girl by W.H.G. Kingston.

Internet Archive children’s library. Approximately 2,800 historical children’s books from around the world. Contributing libraries include University of California Libraries and The New York Public Library.

International Children’s Digital Library. Historical and modern children’s books from around the world, including examples from the National Library of New Zealand’s children’s collections.

Mary Skarott, Senior Research Librarian Childrens Literature

[Editor’s note: We are hoping that at a meeting later in the year Mary will be able to introduce Friends to these resources in person]


November 2010

The Friends celebrated the festive season with Christmas readings by members of the Committee.

The Friends celebrated the festive season with Christmas readings by members of the Committee.
The Friends celebrated the festive season with Christmas readings by members of the Committee.

The 2010 Christmas Social featured Mary Skarott reading Morris’s disappearing bag by Rosemary Wells
Photographer: Joan McCracken

Janet Frame Memorial Lecture

Cover of Joy  Cowley's autobiographical memoir Navigation (2010)
Cover of Joy Cowley’s autobiographical memoir Navigation (2010)

The 2011 annual lecture in memory of Janet Frame was held at 6.00pm on 3 March at the Marae at Te Papa. Hamish Keith welcomed the guests, pointing out that this year’s audience was the largest he had seen, obviously a tribute to this year’s presenter, Joy Cowley. Sir James McNeish then introduced Joy, paying tribute to her skills as a writer for both adults and children and for her continued popularity.

Joy’s talk was reminiscent of the material covered in her autobiographical memoir Navigation (2010). She talked about her early married life as a farmer’s wife caring for young children, and of her early struggles to get her writing accepted for publication. Some success was achieved when stories were published in the Listener and by School Publications Branch of the Department of Education (now Learning Media). Though she initially wrote for adults, early success with The duck in the gun (first published in the USA) set her on the path of writing for children where most of her future writing was concentrated. The silent one and Bow down Shadrach have become firm favourites with slightly older children.

Like many authors who write predominantly for children, Joy is often asked “when are you going to write a proper book?” She is very firm that writing for young people is just as demanding as writing for adults and often more rewarding. Telling stories to children and talking to them about books and writing continues to give her much pleasure. While she likes her books to have humour, it is important for them to have a moral purpose, exploring conflicts, racial and gender stereotypes. She mentioned particularly her long and successful partnership with publisher Wendy Pye.

While Joy’s personal life has not always been an easy one, her talk gave us a picture of a strong, resilient woman who cares for others and lives life to the full. Her talk was acknowledged with sustained applause after which she generously responded to questions. It was a most satisfying and enjoyable evening.

Mary Hutton, The Committee


It is with great sadness we note the passing of several notable children’s literature creators – four authors and a publisher.

Yvonne DuFresne

Yvonne Du Fresne, (1929 –2011) was a fiction writer whose works, set in the Danish-French Huguenot community, are among the finest literary examinations of non-British European cultures in New Zealand.

Born in Takaka, du Fresne moved to the North Island at age three and was brought up in the Danish-French Huguenot settlement of the Manawatu. Her writing shows a strong affinity with the region’s landscape.

Du Fresne trained as a teacher in Christchurch, qualifying in classroom music and voice teaching, and specialised in teaching music. As a teacher, she worked in Primary Schools, at Wellington Teachers’ College, and at the Correspondence School, for which she was also a drama scriptwriter. Three radio plays have been broadcast on National Radio, ‘The Spring’, ‘The Ship’, ‘A Little Talk About Our Winter District’.

 Farvel and other stories (1980) won the PEN Best First Book Award
Farvel and other stories (1980) won the PEN Best First Book Award

Her collection of short fiction, Farvel and other stories (1980) won the PEN Best First Book Award and was read over the radio as ‘Astrid of the Limberlost’. At this time du Fresne travelled to writers conferences at Aarhus and Kiel Universities on a travel award from the Danish Ministry of Culture.

This debut was followed by a novel, The Book of Ester (1982), and a collection of linked stories The Growing of Astrid Westergaard (1985). Astrid Westergaard features the same Danish New Zealand protagonist as Farvel and was also adapted for radio.

Both collections, writes Nina Nola in the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, ‘attempt to establish a connection between the non-British European migrants and Māori.’ The Womens Press published a selection of the stories as The Bear from the North (1989) with the subtitle ‘Tales of a New Zealand Childhood’. The Book of Ester also has a Hugenot protagonist, whom critics described as a grown up Astrid Westergaard. After the death of her Danish husband, Ester traces the course her forbears took to arrive in New Zealand, and finds consolation in the arms of a fellow Dane.

Frederique (1987) is deeply engaged with European history and the mythical world of Danish folklore. While visiting Denmark in 1980, du Fresne discovered an entry in her family records about a young woman – the Frederique of the title – who was wounded during the assassination of her parents by French Catholic agents in 1723. This story was the seed for the novel, set in 19th century New Zealand.

In Motherland (1996), Astrid Westergaard, returns to Denmark and has a reunion with her Danish relatives. ‘As romance flourishes,’ writes Janet Wilson in NZ Listener, ‘du Fresne brings into suggestive parallel the deeper exploration of Astrids psyche that love urges with the rediscovery of her roots in Jutland.’ ‘Interweaving Astrid’s story with an underlying enquiry about nationality, and brilliantly controlling the surface elements of mystery and romance, she has written more than a moving and believable story.’

Over her publishing career Yvonne du Fresne received a number of literary awards and scholarships in New Zealand and Denmark. After winning the best first book award for Farvel, she was twice runner-up in the New Zealand Book Awards for The Growing of Astrid Westergaard and The Book of Ester. While on a Writer’s Residence at Aarhus University Jutland, Denmark in 1999, du Fresne established future writers residencies for New Zealand writers at that university..

In reviewing Motherland in New Zealand Books, Heather Murray could as easily be describing du Fresne’s oeuvre when she writes: ‘[Y]es, it is a story of coming to terms with one’s heritage but du Fresne avoids the pitfalls of the well done-over topic. She writes so beautifully and puts such a new edge on it all, that the reader finds everything to enjoy.’

Yvonne du Fresne passed away in Wellington on the 13 March 2011, aged 81.
Book Council of New Zealand,-Yvonne.htm

Dick King-Smith. Picutre  the Guardian
Dick King-Smith. Picutre the Guardian

Dick King-Smith

Dick King-Smith (Ronald Gordon King-Smith), writer, born 27 March 1922; died 4 January 2011

Dick King-Smith did not become a published author until he was into his 50s

Dick King-Smith, who has died aged 88, was one of the most delightful of children’s authors, from one of the most unlikely backgrounds.

Enormously successful and popular – especially with The Sheep-Pig (1983), which was adapted into film in 1995 as Babe – he came to writing for children late in life, after two previous careers, in both of which he always claimed to have been a complete failure.

Farmer, teacher, writer – Dick’s life can be carved up into three neat but certainly not equal slices. Farming was his first love, but his lack of business sense, and particularly a disregard for numbers, forced him to abandon this career after 20 years of running a couple of farms at a loss.

His second, as a teacher, was also hampered by his relationship with numbers. He was moved from teaching juniors to infants because he could not manage long division. In his third career, the only numbers that mattered were his prodigious output – more than 100 titles – and his enormous sales figures, somewhere around 15m copies worldwide.

Dick was every inch a country gentleman, and no amount of sophisticated London publishing events changed that. He was delightfully old-fashioned, without being in the least an old fogey, and had disarmingly good manners – products of his comfortable gentry background in the West Country, where his family ran several paper mills, and education at Marlborough College in Wiltshire. Even when older and lamer, he had the upright posture of a Grenadier Guard. He served with that regiment in Italy with distinction during the Second World War, was wounded and invalided out.

He had an optimistic temperament, as well as an upper-class knack of understatement, coming from a world in which what he called “luck” – meaning having a cousin who offers to pay all remaining school fees and a friend who offers to pay off the mortgage – played a significant role.

Dick King-Smith's Alphabeasts Illustrated Quentin Blake
Dick King-Smith’s Alphabeasts Illustrated Quentin Blake

However, Dick’s enormous success as a writer cannot be put down to luck. Although he did not begin to publish successfully until he was in his 50s, as he began to struggle as a teacher, he had been writing for far longer. Individual poems were published in the Field in the 1950s and 1960s, and Punch published Alphabeasts, a collection of poems about animals, as a centre-page spread, with illustrations by Quentin Blake. (It was subsequently published as a book in 1990.) Even when he was not writing, Dick made up ditties and songs about his everyday activities, which he sang around the house as he did them.

The other spur to his writing came from even further back – his childhood love of animals, which he described in his autobiography, Chewing the Cud (2001): “As a child I had pets – rabbits, tortoises, rats, mice – and a toy farm which I played with endlessly. It was a pretty eccentric collection. I never minded much what went with what, so I included a giraffe among the dairy herd, but it absorbed me completely. I ran my farm in much the same way. I had animals that I liked. Now I see that it was rather a stupid way to run a farm, but at the time I felt I didn’t have to conform.”

As Dick’s first farm was owned by his father’s paper-mill company, which wanted it only to supply the canteen with eggs and milk, there was no immediate need to worry about profitability, but tougher times later forced him to abandon it. Dick gathered around him the animals that he loved, including pigs which, alongside dogs, remained his favourites. A second spell as a tenant farmer was no more successful, for the same reasons, and, despite hard work (especially on the part of Dick’s wife, Myrle), after its failure, Dick gave up farming for good.

When a brief effort as a sales rep also came to naught, Dick, at 49, set out to qualify as a teacher, and so found himself training in parallel with his elder daughter, Juliet. Launching into the classroom at 53, he taught at Farmborough primary school, Bath, for the next eight years. The fact that he was good teacher came as no surprise to his family, who knew that he loved acting and was always regarded as a natural storyteller and narrator – to the extent of being described at home as a dreadful show-off.

Dick found teaching rewarding, and it also stimulated him to return to writing, but now he had a clear audience in mind – children. His first book, The Fox Busters (1978), had its origins in his farming experience where he had imagined what might happen if, instead of the fox always killing the chickens, the chickens had turned against the fox. The feisty hens are a formidable brood and their successful efforts to defeat the fox are hilarious.

Cover of The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith
Cover of The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith

The Fox Busters was well reviewed, and Dick followed it up with a story about a sparrow, which his publishers rejected. Undaunted, he wrote Daggie Dogfoot, his first book about a pig, which was published in 1980. Three more books followed before he wrote The Sheep-Pig – a charming story about how a runt, won in a competition by the near-silent but wise Farmer Hoggett, latches on to the farm sheepdog and, thanks to its exceptional prowess as a sheep-pig, saves its own bacon – made an immediate impact. Dick won The Guardian children’s book prize for it and was hailed as the inventor of a new form of animal fiction.

During the next 20 years, he wrote with increasing energy. He was producing as many as seven or eight books a year, almost all about the animals he loved. Titles included The Hodgeheg (1987), a nicely told, darkly humorous story about how hedgehogs can avoid getting squashed on the road, which became the talisman for the Young Puffin Club.

Dick’s fame quickly spread beyond his stories. He and his animals, especially his dog Dodo, also became the stars of three television series, first Rub-a-Dub-Tub (1983), then Pob’s Programme (1985-87), and finally Tumbledown Farm (1988-89). Dick turned out to be a natural in front of the camera. Always humorous, he was an excellent and entertaining commentator on the animals and their characteristics. His very deep affection for all living creatures was never unduly sentimental. His brand of anthropomorphism is easy for a very wide audience to enjoy.

From the success of The Sheep-Pig, Dick went on to win many other awards, including children’s author of the year in the 1991 British Book awards and the children’s book of the year in 1995. That year, with the release of Babe, his books became all the more successful and he achieved a reputation that reached well beyond the children who read his books. He was appointed OBE in the 2010 New Year honours for his services to children’s literature.

Cover of The Crowstarver by Dick King-Smith
Cover of The Crowstarver by Dick King-Smith

Dick strayed away from animal stories rarely, and equally rarely away from humour. The two most notable exceptions are Godhanger (1996) and The Crowstarver (1999). Dick was an avowed atheist but in Godhanger, influenced by conversations with his son, Giles, a vicar, Dick wrote an animal story full of spiritualism and a search for an afterlife. He was anxious about the book, knowing that he was not on such sure ground, but it was a brave attempt and showed that he had a greater range of writing within him. The Crowstarver, set in the area where he had been a trainee farmer during the Second World War, is a touching story about a boy with learning difficulties. Dick won the Special Educational Needs award for it.

Dick married Myrle, who had been a childhood friend, in 1943, when both were serving in the forces. Theirs was a long and happy marriage. They had three children, Juliet, Giles and Liz, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, in whom Dick took the greatest delight. He was unusual for men of his generation in adoring babies, and in expressing it completely naturally. Myrle supported Dick in all his ventures and was his first reader, until her death in 2000. The following year, Dick married Zona Bedding, an old family friend.

After Myrle’s death, Dick felt that he should continue to write but found it harder to find the successful ingredients. While he became increasingly frail and his memory began to fade, he was still a demon at the Daily Telegraph cryptic crossword and remained the usual winner of a King-Smith family anagram game.

He is survived by Zona, his children, 14 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild.

By Julia Ecleshare in The Guardian, Wednesday 5 January 2011

Brian Jacques

A former merchant sailor whose children’s books sold millions worldwide has died aged 71.

Portrait of Brian Jacques sourced from the BBC
Portrait of Brian Jacques sourced from the BBC

Brian Jacques’ Redwall series of books were translated into 29 languages and sold 20m globally. He first wrote the series, set in an abbey populated by animals, for children at the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind in Liverpool.

The Liverpool-born writer’s weekly show, Jakestown, ran on BBC Radio Merseyside for more than 20 years. He died after a heart attack at the weekend and leaves a wife and two grown up sons. Mr Jacques grew up near to the docks in Liverpool and when he left school at 15, travelled the world as a merchant seaman. In the sixties, with his two brothers, he formed a folk group called The Liverpool Fishermen.

He wrote 21 novels in the Redwall series, which were also turned into a TV series and an opera. Some critics compared them to JRR Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings and Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Even as a child he showed literary talent. He was caned by a teacher who could not believe that a 10-year-old could write so well when he penned a short story about a bird who cleaned a crocodile’s teeth.

BBC 7 February 2011

Margaret K. McElderry

Margaret K. McElderry, a book editor who employed shrewd intuition, critical acumen and a nurturing way with authors to help shepherd children’s literature from a prewar cottage industry to today’s billion-dollar business, died on Monday at her home in Manhattan. She was 98.

Her death was confirmed by Emma Dryden, who for many years worked at Ms. McElderry’s side as an editor at Margaret McElderry Books, the first children’s imprint named for an editor. Ms. McElderry came to be called the grande dame of children’s publishing, having transcended the typical anonymity of book editors by riding the crest of the postwar baby boom, helping to provide it with a new breed of engaging, nonpatronizing literature.

She recruited authors with a newer sensibility, ventured into controversial subjects, like the ravages of war, and led the way in publishing foreign works.

Her faith in her taste was the cornerstone of her success. She trusted her first impressions of a work, saying the good ones almost compel readers to ask a single question: “What happens next?” In a 1996 profile, Library Trends, a professional journal, praised her “empathetic curiosity.” “She wouldn’t publish anyone whose writing she didn’t love,” said Susan Cooper, author of The Dark Is Rising, an acclaimed five-book series of children’s novels published in 1973. Ms. McElderry’s stable of writers and illustrators also included Margaret Mahy, Irene Haas, Eleanor Estes, Ashley Bryan and Helen Oxenbury.

Ms. McElderry was alert to commercial possibilities. “It doesn’t hurt to have a book that sells awfully well every once in a while,” she said.

She did not exactly glide to success. As a senior at Mount Holyoke, she was told by a counselor that she had nothing to offer the publishing industry, so she went to library school. Even after she had climbed to the peak of her profession in 1971 — having edited winners of many Newbery and Caldecott Medals — her boss baffled her by saying, “The wave of the future had passed you by.” So she sifted through a dozen job offers and moved on to Atheneum, where she was given her own imprint.

Her success in both the artistic and commercial realm showed in the many prizes her authors won. In 1952, she became the first editor whose books won both the Newbery (for writing) and Caldecott (for illustration) in the same year. Ms. Estes’s Ginger Pye won the Newbery, and Finders Keepers by Will Lipkind, with illustrations by Nicolas Mordvinoff, won the Caldecott.

Cover of The Changeover by Margaret Mahy
Cover of The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

Other titles became a cherished part of bedtimes for more than a generation, including Mary Norton’s Borrowers and Ms. Mahy’s Changeover, both of which won Carnegie Medals.

Her success with imports included a volume of Michio Mado’s poetry translated into English by Empress Michiko of Japan. She was the first editor to publish a children’s book translated from German after World War II, Margot Benary-Isbert’s Ark, which told of America’s former enemies trying to stay alive in the rubble.

Many said Ms. McElderry showed courage in 1950 by publishing The Two Reds by Mr. Lipkind and Mr. Mordvinoff, the story of a boy with red hair and a red cat. Fearing the title would evoke Communists, many booksellers refused to sell the book; F. A. O. Schwarz in New York removed it from a window display.

“The publication of this book restores one’s faith in the experimental daring of American publishers,” Louise Seaman Bechtel wrote in The New York Herald Tribune. Ms. Bechtel was the first editor of juvenile books at an American publishing house, Macmillan.

Margaret Knox McElderry was born on June 10, 1912, in Pittsburgh, and attributed her early love of stories to the folk tales her mother told while gardening. After graduating from Mount Holyoke, she followed her counselor’s advice to avoid publishing and graduated from the Carnegie Library School in Pittsburgh. She got a job in the children’s department of the New York Public Library at a salary of $1,320 a year. She dusted the office, answered the pedestal phone and helped read stories in city parks. After working for the Office of War Information in Europe during World War II, she took over the children’s department at Harcourt, Brace. After what she called “the slap in the face” of being told she was not part of the future, Ms. McElderry went to Atheneum, which merged into Scribner, which merged into Macmillan, which merged into Simon & Schuster. She kept her personal imprint through the corporate changes.

Editor Margaret McElderry Photographer: Sara Krulwich
Editor Margaret McElderry Photographer: Sara Krulwich

Ms. McElderry became known for her elegant personal style, although she deigned to wear jeans for casual Fridays. She edited with a red pencil and dictated e-mail messages for someone else to type. She had no compunction about sending rejection letters, including several to Carl Sandburg. But she always tried to explain why, Ms. Dryden emphasized.

In the 1970s Ms. McElderry married Storer D. Lunt, a former president of W. W. Norton, the publisher. He died about a decade later. She left no immediate survivors. She continued to edit books into her 90s as editor at large of her imprint.

Ms. McElderry saw children’s books as the foundation of the publishing industry. “If you don’t catch them young,” she said, “you won’t have any adult readers.”

Obituary by Douglas Martin, The New York Times, 15 February 2011

Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones, writer, born 16 August 1934; died 26 March 2011

Diana Wynne Jones at her home in Bristol Photographer: Jeff Morgan

Diana Wynne Jones at her home in Bristol
Photographer: Jeff Morgan

Like many good writers, Diana Wynne Jones, who has died aged 76 of cancer, worked for long years in relative obscurity, in her case sustained as a children’s fantasy author by a modestly sized but devoted young readership. That obscurity provided the freedom to develop her own voice without the distractions of having to build on perceived success. By the time real success found her, in Jones’s case almost by chance, she was a mature writer with a solid and varied body of work that was ready to be appreciated by a much bigger new audience.

Her intelligent and beautifully written fantasies are of seminal importance for their bridging of the gap between “traditional” children’s fantasy, as written by CS Lewis or E Nesbit, and the more politically and socially aware children’s literature of the modern period, where authors such as Jacqueline Wilson or Melvyn Burgess explicitly confront problems of divorce, drugs and delinquency.

Jones’s fiction is relevant, subversive, witty and highly enjoyable, while also having a distinctly dark streak and a constant awareness of how unreliable the real world can seem. Disguises and deceptions abound. Though avoiding criminally dysfunctional families or unwanted pregnancies, her cleverly plotted and amusing adventures deal frankly with emotional clumsiness, parental neglect, jealousy between siblings and a general sense of being an outcast. Rather than a deliberately cruel stepmother, a Jones protagonist might have a real mother far more wrapped up in her own career than in the discoveries and feelings of her child. The child protagonist would realise this, but get on with the adventure anyway.

Jones wrote from experience: her parents were neglectful of her needs, and those of her two younger sisters. The sisters often went hungry, and for years were banished to sleep in an unheated lean-to shed, to make room in case of visitors. Both parents were intellectuals and progressive educators, but were stingy not only with money but also with warmth and attention. The skinflint father bought the children a complete set of Arthur Ransome books as Christmas presents, but doled them out at a rate of one a year. In self-defence Jones began to write stories for her sisters and herself. When the Second World War broke out Jones and her family were evacuated to the Lake District, eventually living in the house once inhabited by the Altounyan children, on whom Ransome had based his Swallows and Amazons series. The great children’s author was still around, one day complaining angrily that the children were making too much noise. On another occasion, Diana’s younger sister and a friend had their faces slapped by a second Lakeland author who hated children but who was rich and famous because of them: Beatrix Potter. Jones’s distinctive scepticism about conventional children’s fiction must have started to set in early.

Later, when she went to St Anne’s college, Oxford, two of her lecturers were JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. Both were then engaged on their famous works of fantasy, but at that time fantasy was distinctly de trop at Oxford. The two professors were tolerated because they were also excellent scholars. Lewis boomed excitingly to crowded halls, while Tolkien muttered inaudibly to Jones and three other students.

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones

Years later, just as she was starting to write and publish professionally, and was taking bed-rest because of pregnancy, Jones read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings for the first time. This made her realise that a fantasy novel could be not only long, but seriously intended too.

As she became more certain of her own writing, she also grew more sceptical of the conventional tropes of fantasy, including those of Tolkien. This questioning became overt with the publication of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (1996). Presenting her book as a tourist guide to a foreign land, Jones, with affectionate but deadly effect, spoofed or parodied the numerous clichés that riddle those hordes of three-volume sagas about elves and quests.

Jones, of course, knew that her novels too were not immune from lampoon, but this book declared her self-awareness, the likeable distance so relished by her audience. Her growing band of readers also knew that Jones’s own novels easily transcended the routine stuff of rings and magic and ancient runes.

The first of the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling appeared in 1997, and by the turn of the century had become a sensational success. Other publishers were looking around for books they could market to the same vast audience, and were quick to realise that Jones had been fruitfully engaged in fantasy for nearly 30 years.

Superficial similarities may be a double-edged sword; one of her series of books features a wizards’ university. Among her most popular creations is the Chrestomanci series (novels and short stories – the first appeared in 1977), in which a nine-lived enchanter operates across multiple realities as a civil servant in charge of preventing the abuse of magic; the series includes an idiosyncratic school story, Witch Week (1982). Of the apparent coincidences, Jones said generously to this newspaper in 2003: “I think that she [Rowling] read my books as a young person and remembered lots of stuff; there are so many striking similarities.”

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Her career began as a playwright, with three plays produced in London between 1967 and 1970; her first novel, Changeover (1970), was adult humour; since then her work has been written for younger readers. Besides the two series already mentioned, she wrote the Howl books, beginning with Howl’s Moving Castle (1986; filmed in 2004 by Hayao Miyazaki), and two sequels, and the Dalemark sequence (1975-2003), dark-tinged fantasies set in that eponymous country.

Some of her best and most enjoyable books are stand-alones, in particular The Ogre Downstairs (1974), The Time of the Ghost (1981) and Fire and Hemlock (1985), each a remarkable blend of pathos and genuinely funny writing. Archer’s Goon (1984), extravagantly mixing fantasy with science fiction, was serialised for television by the BBC in 1992. Her most recent novel, the light-hearted Enchanted Glass, appeared last year.

Jones won innumerable awards for her writing, including three Carnegie commendations, the Guardian award and a lifetime achievement World Fantasy award. In 2006 she was made an Honorary DLitt by the University of Bristol. She was amused by the considerable academic attention her work attracted; reading in one paper that her work was “rooted in fluidity”, she remarked: “Obviously hydroponic, probably a lettuce, possibly a cabbage.”

Jones was born in London of Welsh parents; she met her husband-to-be, the Chaucerian scholar John A Burrow, just before she went up to Oxford; they married in 1956 and had three sons, Richard, Michael and Colin, all of whom survive her, as do five grandchildren.

Christopher Priest, The Guardian, Sunday 27 March 2011


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