Written by Julia Miller, CBA Co-ordinator
A ‘grim, harrowing page-turner of a book’: Michael Foreman shares with us some of his stunning illustrations and his thoughts about the ‘impressive’ choice of our testers for our Children’s Book Award Winner of 2017, An Eagle in the Snow, written by Michael Morpurgo. See his interview and the Award Ceremony on YouTube along with interviews from children and Testers, as well as Past Winner, Korky Paul, and our Chair, Jane Etheridge.
An Eagle in the Snow is one of the latest of more than 30 collaborations between the two Michaels, and Michael Foreman explains how he always loves to receive the handwritten books – full of engaging adventure and wonderful storytelling. The words written by Michael Morpurgo create images in Michael Foreman’s head that he can’t wait to get down on paper and here are two of them:
For both winners, it is the fact that it is the book chosen by children that makes the Children’s Book Award so special – ‘the’ prize, Morpurgo says, the one that he cherishes above all others, and the one that he has now won a record four times. An Eagle in the Snow is a very challenging book that asks difficult questions, and required Michael Foreman to research into a nightmarish subject: Adolf Hitler. Foreman visited the Imperial War Museum as part of his research – indeed research plays an important part in his art. The next collaboration, Lucky Button, based on stories from the Foundling Hospital in London, required visits to the Foundling Museum in London where he was able to see the artefacts owned by the children – an experience he found very moving.
The video can only touch on parts of the interview with Michael Foreman – who described his war-time childhood with only a Bible in the house, but, as his mother ran the local shop and newsagents, he always had access to comics and he spent hours drawing, inspired by the wonderful comic artists of the day. Both he and Past Winner, Korky Paul, also interviewed for the video, advise budding illustrators to draw, draw, draw…using your own style, just drawing the world as you see it.
The subject matter in An Eagle in the Snow was tough and unsettling but the children rose to the challenge when they selected it as their favourite book. Testing children from Lincs CBG, Oxted CBG and Reading CBG all explained how they love being able to make the choice themselves, that their opinion counts and that they were all excited to have the opportunity to meet the authors and illustrators on the Top Ten at the Award Ceremony.
But it’s not just the children who enjoy the testing process throughout the year. Libby Allman, Tester from Plymouth CBG, was also interviewed for the video and she explained how much her 25 schools enjoy being part of the Children’s Book Award. Although the final Top Ten is always exciting, bringing new books into schools, helping parents and teachers see what is out there, and helping children learn to discriminate, is all an important part of the process of the Award throughout the year.
The Chair, Jane Etheridge, agreed that the current lack of library funding makes access to books more difficult and it is hard to identify the new and hidden gems. Reading should be fun; the book group events can open up a new world to children, said Korky Paul, and ensure that children can still enjoy the physicality of a book. Craft activities with little ones mean that books are experienced and not just read, although reading itself also provides children with downtime says Jane. For older children Lincs CBG students enjoy the way in which reading can take you into different life experiences, citing the story of the conjoined twins in One by Sarah Crossan (Winner of the Older Readers Category) as a prime example.
The younger children who were interviewed loved to snuggle up with their parents (or their cats!) – just reading books for pleasure. Even the younger ones loved the fact that their opinion is valued in the Award process: they read, learn how to critique and rate the books and produce beautiful artwork for the portfolios for the Top Ten authors and illustrators.
Parents who are hungry for knowledge about new books to introduce to their children should be involved in the Children’s Book Award and in the Federation, says Libby. So visit the Federation’s web site for the CBA 2017 Pick of the Year leaflet and get ideas of books that the children love.
Thank you to Michael Foreman and HarperCollins for the illustrations, and to Steve Pierce of Oxford Film Shed for the video. And here is the YouTube link again: https://youtu.be/ZL3q-VG4cA4