Last Friday I visited the friendly Marnel Infant School in Basingstoke. I had a lovely day talking to the children, reading and painting. I like school visits. Children are funny and inspiring. At the end of the day a third of them wanted to be writers, a third illustrators and the other third wants to be both.
The school also organised a session for parents. One of the things we discussed was “how to find a good picture book”.
On my way to the train station I popped into a Waterstones bookshop.I noticed 20 bookshelves. 5 of them were filled with a variety of Gruffalos including soft toys, 5 of them were dedicated to Peppa Pig and 10 bookshelves were for “picture books”.The picture books section was a bit chaotic, but it is o.k., because there weren’t too many books to look at.
Since hardbacks take too much space on the shelves, only paperbacks are allowed. Looking for a paperback book squeezed into a bookshelf is adventurous. A kind of lucky dip. You can’t read the title, or the name of the author on the spine, so you start randomly pulling out. Everybody does it, so the alphabetical order at the end of the day doesn’t work.
I was amazed what books I pulled out by chance. Oliver Jeffers, Anthony Browne, Korky Paul, I even found a copy of John Burningham’s ‘Mr Grumpy’s Outing’. There were other beautiful books I had never heard of. Later on I pulled out a copy of my book as well! Puffin Peter, how lucky I am.
I have absolutely nothing against the Gruffalo and I don’t mind Peppa. I have been doing books for too long not to be bitter or surprised, but I feel sorry for people who think they can pop into a bookshop and perhaps discover and buy a nice picture book by a new author.
I am talking about the culture of selling books. Do soft toys in bookshop take less space on a shelf than an out-facing cover of a new picture book?
World Book Day is approaching and just as every year the media will for one day talk about books for children and the importance of books and how vital it is to read to children. Maybe a real author will be invited on the television! It will be over soon.
Wouldn’t be nice if World Book Day was at least every month, if the media, newspapers and magazines gave a bit more space to books? How refreshing it would be to see colourful pictures and illustrations in the weekend newspaper supplements instead of pictures of plates of food and endless car reviews.
So how to find a good picture book? Ask people who are passionate and interested about children books. You can find them in libraries and in independent bookshops (if you still have one in your town), read blogs and support organisations such as The Federation of Children’s Book Groups… I don’t know…
It was nice chatting to the parents who like books and I came home with some presents as well.
I got a picture of this beautiful jumping frog.
Last Tuesday I was in the lovely Malvern Wells Primary School. The sun was shining and with the children we made this 2m long picture.
More school visits are ahead of me this month. I am looking forward to it!