Who's it all for anyway?

If you're reading this on Sunday morning and you're a SCBWI British Isles member you'll still have time to send us the opening 750 words of your middle-grade novel for our first Chalkface Challenge. Do you have one tucked in a forgotten file in some dark and cobwebby corner of your hard disk?

On Wednesday there'll be much excitement when The Kate Greenaway Award and the Carnegie Medal winners are announced. Bridget's overview of The Kate Greenaway reminded me how children and young people are involved in the judging process. For the Chalkface Challenge, which is of course no comparison to these prestigious awards, we've handed it all over to the kids with one judging criterium - which story do you want to hear more of?

There are so many people we create stories for and for so many reasons - agents for representation, publishing professionals for publication, other writers and illustrators for approval, ourselves for our own fulfilment... so many people and so many reasons that sometimes it's easy to forget who we are really writing and illustrating for.

We are the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators after all.
Wanton use of disguised children to illustrate a point.

A year or so back, I drew up a list  of what I thought we give children when we give them a book. The list would be the same if it were what we have the potential to give them when we write or illustrate a book.

Hopefully, as well as the wonderful gift of entertainment, we also give:

  • The reassurance that other children feel the same way – they’ll have access to children’s secret thoughts, the ones that aren’t shared in the playground  the thoughts that make children feel they’re the only one. A book can show them they’re not.
  • A way to live their lives – not by being told but shown how other people live and the freedom to come to their own conclusions about how to live their way. 
  • A hiding place – who hasn’t slouched over their desk behind a text book wall?
  • The opportunity to be read to – a bedtime or anytime story is one of those priceless relationship-building times.
  • An escape hatch – when everything gets too much.
  • A wardrobe door – a gateway to possibilities of the imagination for the real and the made-up worlds.
  • Inspiration – kick starts to their own imagination
  • The chance to meet extraordinary people up close and personal – often, unexpectedly extraordinary people, who might appear ordinary on the outside but because they’re in a book, the reader will know what’s really going on.
  • Hope – bad things will always happen in real life and in a good story you have to have trouble. Books can help children find a way through their own.
The original list is here.

I really like the idea of keeping children at the centre of what we do.

Last Monday would have been Maurice Sendak's 85th birthday, this year is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Where the Wild Things Are. I  hope you caught the marvellous Google Doodle on Monday.

I spotted this on my timeline yesterday...

With the Greenaway overview, we had other goodies this week too  –  an interview with the prolific and award winning Sophie Mckenzie,  Candy Gourlay and Teri Terry's 'perks and pitfalls' of appearing at festivals, brilliant blogs for coffee breaks, Network News, a report of Apps Night at the London Professional Series and we celebrated Paula Rawsthorne's new book.

Next week with breaking for blogs, news and celebrations, we have Ask a Publisher with Sara O'Connor and Hot Key, Nicky Schmidt with Marketing Part 2: 'Brands' and on Friday a new Featured Illustrator.

Excitement all round!

Jan Carr

Jan Carr is the editor of Words & Pictures. Her fiction is older middle grade, she blogs occasionally and loves to write in magenta.


  1. Thanks for sharing the Sendak clip, Jan. How absolutely fascinating.

  2. Wow, that Sendak clip! Makes you think!


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