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BfK OBITUARIES Jan Ormerod (1946 – 2013)

Jan Ormerod has died aged 67, after a short illness. She grew up in Western Australia. After art school she taught in secondary schools before moving to the UK in 1980. Her first picture book, Sunshine, drew on her experience as a mother and established her distinctive warm style that immediately draws the reader into the child’s world. Sunshine won the Mother Goose Award, was voted Book of the Year by the Children’s Book Council of Australia and was highly commended for the Kate Greenaway Medal. It was a wonderful start to Jan’s picture book career – she was to publish over fifty titles

Her friend Jana Novotny Hunter writes, ‘Jan’s entry into children’s books in 1981 was so ground breaking that its resonance is still felt. Her lyrical and sensitive line set against neutral space, juxtaposed with startling areas of flat colour was Japanese in influence. This for children’s books was visually original, but it was also Jan’s breaking up of fleeting moments into separate frames, not unlike film frames, that was different. Jan saw everything as a director, capturing moments and melding them together to form a visual narrative. She would also use split frames to show concurrent flashes, including those happening in different places. This was beautifully shown in Chicken Licken where two separate narratives take place. A boldly-coloured story of children putting on a play is contrasted below by the black and white silhouette drawings of the audience. The sneaky thing is, a baby escaping from its basket is crawling towards the left in direct opposition to the narrative and page turning sequence of the book. It sounds simple, but like everything Jan did, it was deceptively clever and her mantra of ‘less is more’ would make her work over and over again until she had distilled a complex idea into a simple picture, where not a line was unimportant.’

Barbara Firth (1928 – 2013) David Lloyd, her publisher at Walker Books writes…

Barbara Firth, who has died aged 84, was an illustrator of children’s books of great sensitivity, insight, humour and imagination. Her best-known works were probably the five Little Bear books, written by Martin Waddell, of which the first, Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?, won the Smarties Book Prize and the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1988, and is as perfect a picture-book as anyone could hope to make. Barbara was modest to a fault, a lover of animals and nature generally, a woman of strong will, however gently she might apply it. She told the truth in a distinctive warm and quiet way; she did not write her own stories, but a perfect sense of story informed every line of her drawing.

(Longer versions of these obituaries can be found on

Useful Organisation No. 59

Authors Aloud UK Authors Aloud UK is a brand new company specialising in arranging visits by authors, illustrators, poets and storytellers into schools and libraries. Authors Aloud UK will streamline the process of booking a visiting author for schools and libraries and will work with teachers and librarians ahead of any visit in order that schools and pupils get the maximum benefit from the day. Authors represented by the new company include prize winners Tim Bowler, Karen McCombie, Linda Newbery, Ali Sparkes, Jane Ray, Shoo Rayner and Korky Paul. The company is run by former senior children’s librarians, Anne Marley and Annie Everall, and Naomi Cooper, who has worked in children’s publishing for 20 years.

For further information go to NEWS

Inky Sprat: Babette Cole’s new digital publishing company

Children’s author Babette Cole, best known for her books Princess Smartypants, Dr Dog, and Mummy Laid an Egg, has set up a digital publishing company, Inky Sprat, to release e-books of her own works and those of other authors.

Babette Cole says, ‘Inky Sprat books present a traditional picture book version, beautifully laid out specifically for the iPad screen which a young child can leaf. Through, or read along with an adult just as they would a print book. Alternate versions add an audio or video button which activates the author reading that page aloud, allowing the child to be read to by the author. But they are still in control of the book and must navigate through page by page. Using video also allows us to include a filmed introduction where I can explain what inspired the book - a question I find I’m always asked by young readers.’

The new company has released three of Babette Cole’s titles, Lady Lupin’s Book of Etiquette, Cupid and The Trouble with Mumin the iBooksAuthor format for iPad, including audio and video of the author introducing the book and reading it aloud. More Babette Cole titles will follow in March and the company is inviting other published authors with e-book rights to their work to join them.

Books for Keeps No.199 March 2013 17

briefing COMPETITION The Henrietta Branford Writing Competition

The Henrietta Branford Writing Competition is an annual competition for young people which runs in conjunction with the Branford Boase Award.

The Branford Boase Award recognises a debut children’s author and their editor and was set up in memory of the outstanding children’s writer Henrietta Branford and the gifted editor, Wendy Boase, Editorial Director of Walker Books. They both died of cancer in 1999. The Henrietta Branford Writing Competition aims to find and encourage writers of the future, something Henrietta Branford was always keen to do.

The 2013 competition is open now and anyone under the age of 19 can enter. Entrants are invited to complete a story begun by last year’s winner, author of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, Annabel Pitcher.

Six winners will be invited to attend the Branford Boase Award celebration party in London on 5 July. There they will meet Dame Jacqueline Wilson and the authors shortlisted for the 2103 award as well as editors, publishers, agents, and other professionals in this field. They will receive a copy of each of the books shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award and be able to have their books signed.

The closing date is Friday 26th April 2013. Full details are available here

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