Vintage that me sigh (not cry): old children’s book cover designs

Living in a part of London where ‘vintage’ means secondhand and damn expensive, I loved these book covers.  These are the old books that pop up in jumble sales and charity stores.  I so want to be a warrior, while reading the nursery rhymes.

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The pink, sparkly cover – a confession

A story for a compilation for girls.  No magic, no princesses. This was one of my first paid commissions and my type of story.

I sent in proposals for two stories.  One was about two young sisters who made their arthritic grandmother a robotic arm out of an extendable mop handle.  The the was a short, sweet tale about a girl who is inspired by the shape and tones of a bees wing to enter the school carnival costume.  See?  No magic.  No princesses.

The proposals were duly submitted and accepted.  I wrote the stories and eventually received a big envelope with a copy of the book. My daughter and I, eagerly tipped it out on to the sofa and instantly flailed around searching for our sunglasses.

Treasuries: Stories for Girls

This picture does not do justice to the pinkness, the glitter and – well – the pinkness.

My daughter, who has nothing to do with ballet, or horses (after being bitten by one) gave me a ‘sell out’ look and disappeared upstairs.   It was a good lesson in a) how to write short stories for publication in children’s anthologies, b) gender-specific marketing and c) how parents start to disappoint there children so, so soon.

 

Meeting my hero, Eileen Browne

20130709_174128 They say ‘don’t meet your heroes’.  I beg to disagree.

Last year, I was lucky enough to work with the illustrator and writer, Eileen Browne, on a project to promote literacy in prisons.  Even though my daughter is now 14, we still flushed out her old copy of ‘Handa’s Surprise’, to get it signed.  However, it was the books about Jo, a child with a black mother and white father, just like my daughter, that I am grateful for.  According to the vast majority of children’s picture books, families like ours didn’t exist.

 

Wait And See Tony Bradman & Eileen Browne

 

Eileen delivered a workshop on writing for children to young fathers in a London prison.  Many of these men were not accessing the prison education service and approached the workshop with great caution.  The impact was considerable and many saw the workshop and the stories it inspired in them as a way to link with their families and children.

Now Eileen, along with other writers, is challenging the publishers on gender.   There is is still a perception that while girls will follow protagonists of both genders, boys are only interested in boys.  Better get Katniss on to that.

From Lambeth Archives: Stories for one parent families

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I love archives.  I’ve recently been rummaging around archives in Hackney to write an updated history of Hoxton Hall.  In such a short time, my head was buzzing with the stories of Hoxton folk from the past.  Counterfeiters, asylum managers, workhouse attendants, fences and costermongers… a Sunday evening BBC series waiting to happen. This leaflet from Lambeth Archives also feels like a historical document, albeit much more recent.   There is the language; one parent families, single parent families, lone parent families – the adjective shifts.  I also smile, a little sadly, because Lambeth has also been portrayed as the ‘loony left’, a gift for any subeditor who fancied a little light alliteration.   I could imagine a leaflet like this being held up as the epitome of political correctness. But the thought that someone, somewhere wanted children to feel a connection to a book, to see a world that reflected their own, makes me feel rather warm.  I really like people who are willing to do that.  Seriously.  I really do.

One’s for posing, two’s for the parents…

Come on!  You have to do it, don’t you…

The publisher usually sends five free copies.  I kept one, sent one to my Aunty in Trinidad and gave one to my husband’s parents, my parents and my best friend’s mum. Which leaves… Damn!  Where’s that gone, then?  I’ve always wondered what other writers do with their freebies.

 

One's for posing, two's for the parents...