Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Departing Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson says "We don't take Children's Books seriously enough" - Oh but we do, we do!

Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom
Julia Donaldson raised both barrels and let rip at the media with her recent piece for the Telegraph (I need a proofreader or more time, DOH it's not the Guardian!).

"We don't take children's books seriously enough" said Julia. By "We" I'm guessing she meant perhaps the mainstream media, who to be fair only take children's books seriously when they sell in sufficient numbers to turn their authors into megastars, or perhaps provide a side order of controversy to shift copies of your favourite newspaper.

Truth is that Children's Books are taken very seriously by the people who matter. Teachers, Librarians and of course us parents take them very seriously because for a very long time now, children's books have evolved into finely tuned works that are as far removed from the works of AA Milne, Kenneth Grahame and Enid (bless her) Blyton as you could possibly imagine.

Perhaps the problem (as Julia perceives it) is that the methods of spreading the good word about children's books have changed. Whereas traditionally, parents, librarians, teachers and of course all the folk directly involved in producing children's books have relied on fairly old fashioned methods used to find out about those very books, the world has moved on. Julia Donaldson's piece made no mention of the blogosphere, the internet, no mention of e-books, no mention of social media or parenting networks. Though you may argue that these aren't methods of mass transit for news about children's books, they are the very methods that a lot of folk use to get information about new children's books, or just find out what's striking the right chord with people.

That last point - perhaps this is why publishers, authors and illustrators see beyond the traditional broadcast methods and feel more affinity with the coal face - the folk who are actually going out and buying their books rather than being on someone's editorial payroll to talk about them. Feedback is important and though there's a case to argue that some feedback methods are better than others, surely being able to find out directly whether a book hits the right note with the very audience you're pitching it at, rather than someone who's been completely worn out through a career of seeing book after book, manuscript after manuscript.

For what it's worth we follow and read a lot of book blogs and are always keeping up with what fabulous book bloggers and book folk are saying on Facebook and Twitter (again social media were not mentioned in Donaldson's article). Let's hope the new children's laureate passes a little recognition our way (as in the way of the passionate folk who enthuse daily about children's books). Children's books aren't just important to us, they're a huge part of our lives.