Children’s and YA makes up almost 25% of the UK book market. It receives one fortieth of the coverage that adult fiction does in mainstream media.
This is bonkers.
Instead of just shouting ‘This is bonkers!’ and putting her feet up (like me), the very wonderful Katherine Woodfine of Booktrust decided to do something about it. The result: Down The Rabbit Hole, a one-hour radio show on Resonance FM dedicated to children’s books. So what does an hour of kidlit radio mean, in practice?
A panel of authors to read and review 4 books – in this case fantastic YA author Tanya Byrne, Claude genius Alex T Smith, Darcy Burdock‘s wrangler Laura Dockrill and Waterstones’ very own children’s book superhero Melissa Cox; tips on how to get an agent (and/or Antonio Banderas) from Louise Lamont at LBA; the ‘book I’d choose to give my ten-year-old self’ compendium from luminaries like Philip Ardagh and Liz Pichon; Nikesh Shuklar as a roving reporter chatting to the Etherington Brothers; an ‘inside publishing’ segment going behind the scenes at HotKey Books focusing on Matt Whyman’s new YA The Savages – and, it must be said, an intriguing creaking noise for the first ten minutes, as if the entire conversation was haunted.
It was ACE.
Stuff that stuck out to me:
1) Hearing stories read aloud is brilliant, whatever age we are.
2) Picture books can work on radio. Truly. In fact, hearing people talk about picture books on radio makes me want to go and look at them even more.
3) Booktalk about books you have read is fascinating. Booktalk about books you haven’t read is fascinating.
4) Why the bloody flipping hey isn’t a show like this already a beloved fixture?
When the Costa shortlists were discussed on Radio 4’s Front Row, no one was embarrassed to acknowledge they knew nothing about the children’s category. The Telegraph’s announcement of the 2014 Carnegie and Greenaway Medals longlist contains so few reviewed books that the ones that are linked stick out, like bizarre coding errors. But Down The Rabbit Hole‘s first show opened with a discussion nailing why this is so absurd. The books we read as children build us as readers, as people. They’re often read by adults (and not just YA, let’s face it: I’m not a mum but I’ve read a ton of Thomas the Tank Engine bedtime stories in my life and I’d gladly set fire to that smugfaced little git). Adults – parents, guardians, librarians, teachers – are the ones who buy them, and they need to feel confident sharing them with kids.
We are living through an era of phenomenal, vibrant, exciting children’s publishing in the UK . I know that because I’m within this industry – but it’s not meant to be a trade secret.
Kate Wilson from Nosy Crow tweeted this:
Really interesting – and interestingly strange – to hear people really properly talking abt children’s books on #downtherabbithole
— Nosy Crow (@NosyCrow) February 18, 2014
She’s right. Let’s make it not strange. Let’s do this every week.
(Please keep the creaky haunted noise.)