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The shortlist for the Blue Peter Book Award 2013 has been announced. The shortlists are: Best Story

The Boy who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Walker Books) Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Walker Books) Tom Gates – Genius Ideas (Mostly) by Liz Pichon (Scholastic)

Best Book with Facts

Horrible Science: House of Horrors by Nick Arnold and Tony De Saulles (Scholastic)

Walter Tull’s Scrapbook by Michaela Morgan (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books) Fantastic Mr Dahl by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake.

The shortlisted books will be judged by more than 200 young Blue Peter viewers drawn from 10 schools across the UK. The winners will be announced and awarded a Blue Peter trophy on a special edition of Blue Peter dedicated to children's books on Thursday 7 March 2013, to coincide with World Book Day.

Hal’s Reading Diary

The first ‘Hal’s Reading Diary’ was published in March 2002 when Hal was a one-year-old. As his father, Roger Mills, commented at the time, these early nonverbal responses to books had to be observed and deduced and, as an additional complication, not confused with Roger’s own feelings about the importance of books and reading. The Diary now ends with the 12-year-old Hal very able to express his views and preferences, and they are quite often for computer games rather than for books.


ver the last eleven years the Diary has been popular with BfK readers and, while there have been other accounts (usually by librarians who are parents) of a child’s response to books, ‘Hal’s Reading Diary’ has been

unusual in also affording psychoanalytic insights, written as it is by a father who is a psychodynamic counsellor. The honesty and humour of Roger’s accounts, his record of what actually happened rather than presenting an idealized picture has created a unique account of a child’s relationship to books and reading.

Many parents will have had the experience of relatives coming to visit and making amazed comments on how our children have grown. We, living with our children every day, usually don’t notice the growing process which happens in such minute increments.

The same is often true of a child’s progress in reading. Live with it day in and day out and you don’t usually notice unless your child is one of those that experiences a quantum leap in their reading ability. Or unless there is a good reason to observe the minutiae of change. Writing ‘Hal’s Reading Diary’ has given me precisely the motive to observe those tiny shifts in his reading in a way which I am certain wouldn’t have happened otherwise. And it seems appropriate in this, the final entry of the series, to reflect back on what has

briefing AWARDS

Winner of the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation 2013

Howard Curtis has won the 2013 Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translationfor In the Sea there are Crocodiles written by Fabio Geda and published in the UK by David Fickling Books.

In the Sea there are Crocodiles is that harrowing story of a young boy travelling from his home in Afghanistan to Italy, in search of safety.

The 2013 shortlist featured five books, six translators, and five languages, proof of the high quality and diversity of translated fiction for young readers. The complete shortlist was:

Howard Curtis for In the Sea there are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda, translated from Italian, David Fickling Books.

Fatima Sharafeddini for My Own Special Way by Mithaa Alkhayyat (retold by Vivian French), translated from Arabic, Orion Children’s Books.

Ros and Chloe Schwastz for The Little Prince by Antoine de St-Exupery, translated from French and published by The Collector’s Library.

Lucia Graves for The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafron, translated from Spanish and published by Orion Children’s Books.

Karin Chubb for Themba by Lutz van Dijk, translated from German by Aurora Metro Books.

happened over the last 11 years.

The earliest diary that comes readily to mind was one about picture books and how the one-year-old Hal was picking out shapes and distinguishing them from the backgrounds. A bit later I was writing about how he was beginning to see objects in families – cars, houses, dogs etc. which happened at the same time as attaching words to these objects. Little and rather normal steps of course, but actually massively important in a child’s intellectual development.

All that was before we got on to letters and words. I remember thinking a lot about how phonetics work...piecing together words from sounds in a way which makes the visual object – a collection of letters on a page – suddenly become a sound object too. That’s an incredible leap for a young mind to make and a doorway into a whole different way of understanding things as well: visual marks correspond both to a sound and to a concept. So normal and yet so amazing. And then there were the trials and tribulations of English itself where phonetics only gets you part of the way. Our wonderful, infuriating language where spelling is so irregular that the letters ‘ough’ can sound four different ways according to the word that they are in (try cough, through, bough and although). This nightmare for young readers means that a vital bit of reading is learning words by can’t get it just by sounding the letters phonetically.

Hal’s bit by bit mastering of these technicalities of reading took up many diaries. But many were also devoted to what we were reading. The recurrent, but hugely powerful, mechanics of storytelling. Early on we started to notice how the tension between forces of ‘good’ which the writing steered you to sympathise with, and ‘bad’, make the bedrock of so much fiction, tension invariably being ratcheted up as a tale drew to a close and bad looked like prevailing until all came well against the odds in the end. The way in which Hal made often quite emotional connections with characters made me see both that we need stories because we like our emotions to be stirred in this way, and also what an immensely powerful moral agent writing is. Writing forms a basic part of our sense of right and wrong and becomes a crucial guide to how we live (which in turn makes you think about what happens in the minds of people who are not exposed much to stories with a moral underpinning).

I could, of course go on. Over 11 years there have been over 60 diaries. It has been a fascinating journey and one which has made me look not just at Hal’s relationship with books but also at my own little struggles with parenting along the way (whether you should impose your belief in the fundamental value of reading on your child who much prefers computer games being one recurrent dilemma). And I hope that I don’t stop watching Hal’s relationship with reading just because I am no longer chronicling it in this Diary. I don’t think I will. The watching has become quite habitual. And it has been a marvellous habit to acquire for which I am extremely grateful to BfK. n

Books for Keeps No.198 January 2013 17

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