THE 2004 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
The AGM was held on the Thursday 8 July 2004 in the National Library Auditorium. Please find copies of the Minutes and President’s Report attached.
Following the AGM Lynne Jackett, DNW & NCC Research Librarian, entertained the Friends with an illustrated talk about her recent work-related travels to Washington, Chicago, Toronto and London, and her recreational visits to Italy and Vientiane, Lao PDR. As well as talking about the launch of the ICDL and conference presentation (covered in previous Newsletters), Lynne encouraged anyone visiting Washington, DC to take a tour of the palatial Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.
She showed slides of the splendid Thomas Hughes Children’s Library within the Harold Washington Public Library in Chicago.
Thomas Hughes, author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, was shocked by the tragedy caused by the Chicago Fire of 1871, so he organized a campaign in England to gather donations of books for Chicago. Almost every living English author made a contribution of his works. The collection of 8,000 volumes was the beginning of the Chicago Public Library. This library is noted in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest public library building in the world. It is named in honour of Harold Washington a soldier, a lawyer, a U.S. Congressman, and the first African American Mayor of Chicago (1983).
As well as speaking at the ALA/CLA Conference in Toronto Lynne visited the Osbourne Collection at the Lillian H Smith Branch of the Toronto Public Library. This was in a new building (opened in 1995) that replaced the former Boys and Girls House – the first dedicated children’s library in the world. Maurice Sendak designed the griffins that guard the entrance and the logo for the Osbourne Collection of books published before 1910. Toronto was very welcoming to conference delegates as visitors had been staying away because of the SARS outbreak. While Lynne was there many buildings still sported health signs and there was a free concert to celebrate the end of the crisis.
In London Lynne visited the Victoria and Albert Museum library. The highlight was seeing the manuscript of Little Tim and the brave sea captain, complete with an unpublished drawing of a Black sailor entrancing the ship’s crew with a story. The Royal Albert Hall was also celebrating children’s literature with Harry Potter banners flying in celebration of the launch of the latest HP book.
(pen name of Patricia Rubinstein)26.5.1915 – 28.11.2003
Antonia Forest will always be remembered by her fans for that remarkable fictional family, the Marlows. Its idiosyncratic members feature directly or indirectly in all but one (The Thursday kidnapping) of her 13 novels.
Four of the books are set in Kingscote, an exclusive girls’ boarding school. We first meet the Marlows in Autumn term when the twins, Lawrie and Nicky, are about to join their four sisters at Kingscote. They are determined to live up to the illustrious family reputation but although they certainly make their mark, it is not quite in the way they had anticipated. Three more school stories follow : End of term, The cricket term and The attic term.
Interspersed with the Kingscote books are five holiday adventure stories where the sisters’ two brothers and their Catholic boy-neighbour, Patrick Merrick, come more to the fore. The two remaining novels, The player’s boy and The players and the rebels, concern Marlow and Merrick ancestors and the part they played in Tudor politics.
Forest’s special genius is perhaps highlighted in her school stories. Here, within the formulae of traditional girls’ boarding school stories she exploits to brilliant effect the tensions, antagonisms and ambitions which always surface in an enclosed community. The reader soon becomes just as involved in the controversy over the new desk and the issues concerning the guide trek or the school play as the characters themselves. In fact, it is in Forest’s concentration on character that her power lies. Rarely, however, does she actually tell the reader what the characters are like. Rather, she reveals personalities through careful and subtle use of dialogue. Her use of the dry understatement is a particular pleasure.
Although the Marlow chronicles were written over 34 years, they cover only two and a half years in the lives of the characters. But so skilful is the integration of events and so consistent and convincing the evolution of the characters, that the time discrepancy is barely noticeable.
Forest never pandered to fashion and when, in the 1980s, a publisher reprinting her books wanted to make certain changes, her response was curt ” reprint meant ‘word for word, comma for comma, not a mutilated updated version revised to take account of current fads and vocabulary.’ ”
Antonia Forest was a very private person. She never married and few people apart from her closest friends knew her real name till after her death. She rarely gave interviews and her book jackets were bereft of biographical information or photographs. Born in Hamptstead, London, Forest was the only child of Irish and Russian-Jewish parents. She was educated at South Hampstead High School and University College London where she studied journalism but did not take it up. While at school she played cricket and netball, acted in school (and later, university) plays and won poetry medals for verse-speaking. Despite working briefly in a library and, during the war, as a civil servant, Forest always wanted to write professionally but (interestingly) as an adult novelist. Autumn term was to have been a one-off only. She eventually moved to Bournemouth where she lived for the rest of her life; writing, gardening and reading widely. Ships and the sea were a lifelong interest. Forest was a devout Catholic (she converted from Judaism in 1947) and an ardent monarchist.
Elements of her personal experience are, of course, to be found throughout her books and it is these that give her books their distinctive flavour. Illuminating details of her life and writing emerge in an interview she consented to give Sue Simms for Folly magazine (no.15, July 1995). She explains, for example, that although she had played as a child with the next-door family of six, this had nothing to do with the large number of Marlows. It “was simply because large families are good for fiction!” And how sad to realise that the two Marlow stories then in the pipeline must (presumably) never have been finished. We will not now ever know what the future held for that enchanting family.
Antonia Forest’s books have been highly acclaimed but even in England they have never been as well known as they should have been. In New Zealand, her books initially had quite a following but today their English upper middle-class background and outsider language (“blissy’, “natch”) could well turn children off. While Wellington Public Libraries still hold nine of Forest’s titles, these are likely to be borrowed mainly by adults whose enthusiasm for her books was kindled in childhood. Indeed, it’s thanks to the devotion and tenacity of those original child-readers that titles have been brought back into print and her writing publicised through web sites around the world.
Best of all, this indication of continued regard for her work led Antonia Forest to agree, before she died, to a complete reprint by the niche publishers, Girls Gone By, of all the Marlow stories. It will be truly interesting to see how they are received by a whole new generation of readers.
- An Antonia Forest Memorial Conference is being held in Oxford, England, from 8-10 July 2005. Anyone interested should contact Alison Grant (phone 04 476 4320).
- All of Antonia Forest’s titles are held in the National Children’s Collection and are available for viewing in the National Library Reading Room or they can be borrowed on inter-library loan through your local library.
All Forest’s books were first published by Faber in hardback. Some were later reprinted in paperback those marked (*) by Faber and those marked (+) by Puffin.
Antonia Forest biography
Antonia Forest [obituary] in The Times (12 Dec. 2003) http://www.timesonline.co.uk
ECCLESHARE, Julia Antonia Forest : children’s writer with a Devoted Readership, in The Guardian (Tues 9 Dec. 2003)
FISHER, Margery Who’s who in children’s books. 2nd ed. Leicester : Brockhampton, 1975
A. THE MARLOW SERIES
1. Autumn term (1948 )+
2. The Marlows and the traitor (1953)*
3. Falconer’s lure (1957)
4. End of term (1959 )+
5. Peter’s room (1961 )*
6. The Thursday kidnapping (1963)
7. The Thuggery affair (1965 )*
8. The Ready-made family (1967 )*
9. The cricket term (1974 )+
10. The attic term (1976 )+
11. Run away home (1982 )
B. PLAYER SERIES
1. The player’s boy (1970)
2. The players and the rebels (1971)
Well-renowned children’s author Paula Danziger passed away on July 8, 2004, following complications arising from a heart attack in June. She was 59. Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in New York, Danziger knew since the second grade that she wanted to be a writer. Throughout her career, she wrote a collection of children’s stories, including The cat ate my gymsuit, The divorce express and, more recently, the Amber Brown series.Danziger loved to travel and meet young kids all over the world. She was embraced by her audience for her ability to relate to children through the characters in her stories. She was often known for “borrowing” children (only the ones she knew) for her inspiration.
The Amber Brown character was conceived during one of her trips with her niece.Danziger was also the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Children’s Choice Award from the International Reading Association and the 2003 Garden State Children’s Book Award. She spent most of her time in New York City and London, England.
She is survived by a brother, three nephews, and a niece. The Amber Brown Fund has been set up in memory of her. Donations for this fund will be used to allow authors and illustrators to speak at local schools and libraries.
FROM THE RESEARCH LIBRARIAN
It has recently been a quiet time for hosting researchers, but I was very please to be able to show the collections to Dr Peter Schneck, President of IBBY, and Frau Schneck (from Austria). They looked at the early New Zealand titles held in the Dorothy Neal White Collection and at the German language titles held in the National Children’s Collection. Dr Schneck donated Kleine verbundete / little allies (Austrian children’s literature in exile) to the NCC.
A number of groups have visited for tours of the collections and talks about New Zealand children’s books and picture books. There have been several donations from individuals and a large one to the NCC from Wellington City Libraries. I gave repeat presentations of my talk for the Friends, Here, there and back again, to Reference Services and the Alexander Turnbull Library staff meetings and was gratified to see staff from other parts of the Library (mostly cataloguers) in the audience at both events.
Conservation staff have begun work on the dust jacket repair and mylar covers funded by the most recent grant from the Macklin Bequest ($3,350). Dull, damaged-looking books disappear from the shelves, only to return looking bright and almost new a week later. Mylar (a conservation quality, firm, inert plastic) could almost have magical properties, so remarkable is the transformation!
Much of my recent activity has been focused on the National Children’s Collection. I decided to restore the collection to its original sequences (storybook fiction and picture books), rather than the size-based sequences we have had since moving into this building in 1987. A division by genre, rather than an arbitrary height measurement, seemed more logical to me, especially as clients generally want to look at either picture books or storybook fiction. The new arrangement should prove easier for visitors and staff. The separation of the picture books from the storybooks had to be achieved in some haste as the Retrospective Cataloguing Team were ready to begin creating online catalogue records for the NCC on the day I returned from four weeks holiday on 25 August. Kathryn Hay, a library assistant from Document Supply, was a dedicated and able partner in identifying the picture books among the storybooks and amalgamating them with the larger format picture books. By the end of October Linda Hall and her cataloguing team had completed work on the Fiction sequence and had begun cataloguing the picture books. They should have completed cataloguing the non-fiction by late April. It is a thrill to see this long-held dream becoming reality day by day. Libraries around the country will now be able to inter-library loan and these books for their clients more easily and I am already finding it is much speedier to assess offered donations.
Dorothy Neal White & National Children’s
Collection Research Librarian
Joan Aiken, who died in January aged 79, was a popular and prolific author who infused her work with a sense that the strange and quietly terrifying live just around the corner.
She wrote 92 novels – including 27 for adults – as well as plays, poems and short stories, although she was best known as a writer of charmingly quirky children’s stories, notably The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (1963).
Influenced as a child by John Masefield, Mervyn Peake and by the C S Lewis trilogy Out of the Silent Planet (she hated his Narnia series), Joan Aiken created Gothic fantasy “alternate” worlds as the backdrop for unsettling and often outrageous plots notable for their dramatic force, colour and strength of imagination.In The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, two cousins, Bonnie and Sylvia, have their ancestral home stolen from them by their evil guardian, Miss Slighcarp. Set in the bleak north country in an “alternate”, but still recognisable, Victorian England in the reign of the Stuart King James III, the book won the 1965 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and was made into a successful film in 1988.
The names of Joan Aiken’s characters were indicative of her style. Some were perfectly normal, but others included Miss Hooting, a “retired enchantress”; Mrs Moleshin the cook; “assistant principal” Madame Legume; and ship’s captain Jabez Casket with his first mate, Dutiful Penitence. Her writing was deadpan and direct, her characters strongly defined, personified abstractions such as those in morality plays.
But it was not just names and odd details that gave Joan Aiken’s stories their distinctive charm and humour, it was their unpredictability and strange dream-like juxtapositions. A Joan Aiken story might begin with a BBC man visiting a village in the country, as in The Rose of Puddle Fratrus, and end up with an intelligent computer, a cursed ballet and a mysterious recluse. In Midnight is a Place, machines crush children to death, herds of man-eating hogs rampage in subterranean sewers and a wicked old gentleman is “charred to a wisp” in the burning remains of his ill-gotten house.
“Stories are like butterflies,” she said, “which come fluttering out of nowhere, touch down for a brief instant, may be captured, may not, and then vanish into nowhere again.”
Joan Aiken’s prose style drew heavily on fairy tales and oral traditions in which plots are fast-moving and horror is matter-of-fact but never grotesque. Sometimes she included song lyrics and rhymes; sometimes characters speak in British dialects, or parodies thereof (as in, “Losh, to be sure, yon mountain’s unco wampish.”)
Notwithstanding the unpredictable quality of her plots, there were recurring elements. There are slightly scatty but independent-minded young women who end up marrying slightly scatty but charming young men. Mysterious, corridor-ridden Gothic houses figure prominently, along with a variety of curses and enchantments. And there is always a strong sense of right and wrong. When writing for children, Joan Aiken never pretended that life is easy, or that wickedness, horror and hardship do not exist; indeed, she believed it was vital for children to explore such things. At the same time, she believed that children needed the reassurance that virtue would always triumph in the end.
Joan Delano Aiken was born at Rye, Sussex, on September 4 1924 into a literary family. Her father, the American poet and writer Conrad Aiken, would win the 1930 Pulitzer Prize for his Selected Poems. Her Canadian mother, Jessie McDonald Aiken, was also an author. Her father left home when Joan was very young and, when she was five, her mother remarried. Her new stepfather was another writer, Martin Armstrong.
Joan Aiken and her elder sister were educated at home by their mother who, on top of the basic curriculum, taught them Latin, French, Spanish and German, and read them great works of literature from the family library. By the age of seven Joan was reading Edgar Allan Poe, Rudyard Kipling, and all the children’s books from “Alcott to Wiggins”.
Her literary upbringing would be evident in her later novels. Nightbirds on Nantucket (1966), for instance, incorporates a pastiche of Melville’s Moby Dick with Captain Casket’s obsessed pursuit of Rosie, the pink whale.
Alone much of the time, young Joan took solitary walks in the fields surrounding the family house, and to amuse herself she concocted stories which she began writing down from the age of five; when her younger brother grew old enough to tag along, she invented more stories to tell him when he grew tired. Both children created imaginary countries and often swapped details about their own fantasy lands. Joan incorporated some of the characters she had invented as a child in her later novels.
At the age of 12 she was sent to Wychwood, a boarding school in Oxford, where she found that, although she was far better educated than anyone else, she did not know how to socialise. Finding it difficult to make friends, she continued to write, completing her first full-length novel at the age of 16. At 18 she had her first short story accepted for publication: The Dreamers tells the story of a man who stews his wife in a pressure cooker.
War had broken out when Joan Aiken left school, and she found a job at the BBC filing Spanish and Portuguese letters and ruling lines on the back of index cards to save paper. In 1941 the BBC broadcast some of her short stories on their Children’s Hour programme. In 1943 she moved to the reference department of the London office of the United Nations, where she collected information about resistance movements. She continued to work for the UN until 1949.
In 1945 she had married Ronald Brown, a news agency journalist with whom she had two children. Their marriage coincided with a rich story vein, and in 1953 a collection of short fiction called All You’ve Ever Wanted and Other Stories was published.
But while she was writing The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, which she began in 1952, her husband became ill and she put the book aside. He died in 1955.
To make ends meet, she took a job as a copy editor for Argosy magazine, then moved to J Walter Thompson, writing advertising jingles for Dairylea cheese in the day, then knocking up a couple of short stories in the evening. The advertising world would form the backdrop for a number of stories, including Trouble with Product X (1966), about a young female advertising executive who gets caught up in a deadly twist while on a photo shoot for a new product. Eventually, in 1963, she returned to and finished The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. The success of the book enabled her to give up her job in advertising and spurred her to write the second and third books in the Wolves Chronicles series: Black Hearts in Battersea (1964), in which Dido Twite makes her first appearance; and Nightbirds on Nantucket (1966). In 1969 her novel The Whispering Mountain (1968) won the Guardian Children’s Book Award, and in 1972 Night Fall won America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award for juvenile mystery.
Over the next 30 years Joan Aiken produced many novels, short story collections, poetry, plays and even a “how-to” book intended to guide authors for young adults, entitled The Way to Write for Children (1982).
Notable among her later books were the Arabel and Mortimer series, chronicling the adventures of Arabel and her pet raven Mortimer, who goes about saying “Nevermore!” and eating everything in sight, from pastries to clocks and staircases. The stories were adapted as a series for BBC children’s television. She also wrote several “sequels”, or pastiches, of Jane Austen’s novels, including The Watsons, Mansfield Park and Emma.
A tiny figure with prodigious amounts of energy, Joan Aiken eschewed modern conveniences such as the computer, and always wrote her stories on an ancient typewriter. When she was not writing, she enjoyed painting and gardening at her home at Petworth, Sussex.
In 1976 she married the American painter Julius Goldstein, who predeceased her. She is survived by a son and a daughter of her first marriage.
Introducing Emma MacDonald
Emma MacDonald joined friends of Dorothy Neal White Committee in 2003. She first became involved with Friends of DNW in 2002 when she undertook research for her MLIS using the collection. Her research examined the use of stereotypes and archetype of female character in children’s literature.
She grew up reading Milly Molly Mandy, the Little Vampire, Famous Five, Encyclopaedia Brown and her favourite, the Littlest Witch (who never had matching socks, much like Emma herself). Emma’s philosophy for life is derived predominantly from Dr Seuss, she still cries every time she reads Oscar Wilde’s the Selfish Giant and considers Tomie dePaola retelling of the Clown of God one of the most beautiful books ever produced.In the past few years Emma has worked at Crown Forestry Rental Trust, Child Youth and Family and the Treasury and is currently working at the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology.
Celebrate Christmas with the Friends of the Dorothy Neal White Collection
in the Mezzanine Meeting Room at Wellington City Libraries, Victoria Street, Wellington with festive drinks and nibbles at 5.30 pm on Wednesday 8 December 2004
where we will enjoy the return, by popular demand, of Harry Ricketts speaking about
“Antonia Forest – literary allusions”