Children’s booksellers and librarians urge that momentum from Cottrell Boyce debate continues

From The Bookseller:

Booksellers and librarians are urging that the momentum of the debate sparked by authors Frank Cottrell Boyce and Robin Stevens — who recently told BBC Radio 4’s “Today Programme” that a lack of critical discourse around children’s literature because of squeezed review pages and underfunded libraries was “narrowing down” choice for children — should continue.

The authors’ appearance on the radio show prompted The Daily Telegraph arts desk to pledge to review a new children’s book every week, and Cottrell Boyce has indicated that he’s had a substantial response to his call for change, writing on Twitter last week: “It feels like after years of remote rumbling, something seismic might be about to shift the landscape of children’s books.”

Annie Rhodes, bookseller at Norfolk Children’s Book Centre, told The Bookseller that the team “heard the radio programme and it has got us all talking.” She said they were “encouraged by the recent light shone on the children’s book world” and “do think it is important that children’s books receive as much attention and are as much a part of the literary world as books for adults.

She continued: “Any conversation that highlights the quality of good children’s literature can only be beneficial for children’s reading — the adults in their lives may learn a bit more about really good books from the reviews and will be able to buy or borrow books for children that go beyond what you see in the supermarkets and bestseller lists.”

Of the Telegraph’s reviews pledge, she added: “Any commitment like this from a major newspaper is good news for the children’s book world and for booksellers — a lot of our customers primarily read traditional print newspapers and learn about what is good from the reviews and we often see customers coming through the door asking for the book that was reviewed as the Times children’s book of the week, for example.”

Rhodes said she is “hopeful that this isn’t a brief conversation in the public eye”, that the “momentum” isn’t lost and that the debate “carries on, and that other newspapers and media outlets follow suit.” “We are excited to see what happens next,” she said.

Dee Lalljee, c.e.o. of The Bookery, which won Independent Bookshop of the Year at the 2022 British Book Awards, likewise said the team at the Crediton-based children’s bookshop “completely agrees” with Cottrell Boyce that a debate is long overdue.

“Not only is there zero national conversation about children’s books, but this is underpinned by a woefully inadequate understanding of the skills required to write and illustrate good children’s books, and the influence they have on children’s lives,” she told The Bookseller.

“As independent booksellers we work hard to champion new books and authors. Our schools team are committed to reviewing new children’s books and they collate annual lists to inspire reading for pleasure, taking these curated book lists to thousands of primary school children (and their teachers) across the county. With the pull of video games and screens, we need to be putting more effort into getting children reading. It’s absolutely crucial for good new authors to be supported and reviewed, and so important to children’s emotional well-being and development that they read.”

Likewise, Natasha Radford, co-owner of Chicken and Frog Bookshop in Brentwood, Essex, “completely agreed” that a conversation around which books find themselves in children’s hands and why was overdue, saying: “We steer away from celebrity titles. This is for several reasons, but mainly because I feel it’s important to provide more choice. Celebrity authors get an unfair percentage of the publicity budget, which pushes others out. If you’re already a big name, do you need so much publicity? I don’t think so.”

She continued: “I hope that [Cottrell Boyce] is right about the shift. It’s down to publishers — especially the big ones — to start celebrating their less-known authors. There’s a stigma around being ‘just’ a children’s author. This needs to be challenged. High-profile awards, broadsheet reviews, etc will help with this.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

1 thought on “Children’s booksellers and librarians urge that momentum from Cottrell Boyce debate continues”

  1. Rhodes said she is “hopeful that this isn’t a brief conversation in the public eye”,

    I suppose we could poll the public asking what they think about the conversation.

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