It cannot have escaped your notice, if you are in the UK, that there is a lot of fuss about this year’s World Book day £1 book offering. The problem centres around the fact that four of the books are by celebrities and one is a Marvel Comic. Librarians and authors have been incensed by this, pointing out that in the past these WBD books have been successfully promoted as tasters, and children have gone on to read and love the authors represented – authors such as Malorie Blackman, Cressida Cowell, Robert Muchamore, David Almond to name but a few. This article from the Guardian sums up the situation perfectly. I know my Facebook feed and Twitter feed have been full in the last couple of days of people really angry about the fact that WBD isn’t about encouraging children to read books by excellent children’s authors, but seems to have fallen prey to the cult of celebrity instead.
This isn’t a new thought. There have been questions about Zoella’s book club before, with opinion divided on what her choosing criteria are. But this is different. First World Book Day is turned into Dressing up Day – mostly by primaries and often nothing to do with books – and now there are fears that World Book Day is becoming just another outlet for already overexposed celebrities.
What do you think? Do you think it is harmless, that children should just read? or do you support the authors who feel that their talent is being degraded by celebrities writing children’s books because, after all, how hard can it be? Very hard – judging by the Carnegie and Greenaway Award Winners!
Join in the debate!
I expect you have all heard by now who the long-awaited winners of the prestigious Carnegie and Greenaway awards are. But if you hadn’t, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys won the Carnegie and There is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith won the Greenaway. In addition, the Amnesty Honour Award went to Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon and The Journey by Francesca Sanna. Read more about the books and the acceptance speeches here. This year there was an emphasis on the refugee crisis, and coincidentally the awards came at the start of refugee week.
The ceremony was a special one, as it is 80 years since the Carnegie Medal was created, and 60 years since the Greenaway, so it was also a celebration of all of the past winners of the award, many of whom were at the ceremony. This book award has remained the gold standard for authors and illustrators, promoting what is best in children’s books throughout the years.
Angela Yates and Emma Hopkins, librarians at Swanshurst School Library, sent me this fantastic story about the achievement of two of their Year 8 pupils.
“We have been running four C&G shadowing groups in our school library during lunchtimes each week throughout the duration of the shadowing scheme, with almost 80 students involved. We celebrated the official awards last Monday with our own lunchtime award ceremony for group members, rewarding achievements such as best review, video review and picture.
This year as part of the shadowing scheme students entered a national creative writing competition organised by Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society Ltd (ALCS) on the theme ‘what reading means to me’. One of our students, Aleena Ali in Year 8, was one of three national prize winners.
Aleena’s reward of a box of books was presented to her at our award ceremony by our head teacher. Aleena’s work is now on the ALCS website and will be published by ALCS News next month.
At the national C&G awards ceremony, in her acceptance speech for ‘Buffalo Soldier’ Tanya Landman quoted at length from a review posted on the shadowing website by Firoza Ahmed, also in Year 8 at our school.
With well over 11000 reviews on the website, it was an outstanding achievement for Firoza to be noticed in this way! Tanya Landman wrote a lovely letter to thank Firoza and is sending her a signed book.”
Both Firoza and Aleena are in the same shadowing group and English class at Swanshurst School in Birmingham. Aleena’s prizewinning article can be read here. Swanshurst’s Carnegie Shadowing page is here, and their Greenaway page is here. What an inspiration, and how proud the school must be of these two girls!