This is the official web site of Anne Fine, the second Children's Laureate and a distinguished prize-winning writer for children of all ages, with over forty books to her credit. She has also written for adults to considerable critical acclaim. This site has news and information about Anne, and showcases her books.
Old friends revisited
All authors get the question, "What made you write...?" Anne explains:
This week I've been sent fresh editions of three different books: Anneli the Art Hater (1986), The Chicken Gave it to Me (1992) and The Tulip Touch (1996). What a strange mix. The only thing they have in common (apart from wonderfully appealing new covers) is that they bring back the strongest memories of the reasons why I sat down to write them.
I loathed art lessons in school, and just assumed I was off-beam until it became clear that one of my daughters felt exactly the same. It's probably just ignorance on our part, I decided, and started reading about art to try to rise above the prejudice. But one of the most interesting questions that arose was why, if it's often so very hard to tell the difference between an original work of art and a forgery, the one should be worth so much more than the other. The story in Anneli the Art Hater took off from there (and I'm still hopeless at getting real pleasure from the visual arts).
When I embarked on The Chicken Gave it to Me, both daughters and a stepdaughter were vegetarian on moral grounds. My partner Richard is not. The endless wranglings over the supper table aired many of the issues. Even I, not quite veggie, was an active member of Compassion in World Farming. The book's a comedy for 6-11 year olds and it has made so many children children think more deeply about the way we treat the animals whose meat we eat or whose products we consume.
The Tulip Touch is for older readers, and is by far the most serious novel of the three, inspired as it was by the rabidly vengeful and medieval tabloid newspaper response to two primary school children convicted for murder - wilfully unthinking and vicious rabble-rousing. The novel explores the question of whether a child could ever truly be 'born bad', and how their circumstances play a role. It's commonly read in schools, where it always elicits discussion, and is now seen as a classic.
Pebbles in the Fairy Tale
Anne's Keynote speech to the conference of BASPCAN, the charity and membership association for child protection professionals is now online: it is called: Pebbles in the Fairy Tale.
More old friends in new covers
Anne Fine is very pleased with a bright new look for some of her favourite books - and they are favourites with readers, too. Have you read them all?
It's always a joy to see books I'm still fond of given a whole new start in life by being dressed in new covers. I love writing for that very difficult 6 - 10 age group. Primary school children are bright as buttons and interested in everything, but there is such a wide range of reading skills that it's hard to appeal to them all.
That perennial winning read, Bill's New Frock, was the first to get a face lift. (My favourite fan letter ever, written by Christopher S, age 9, was just one sentence long. "I loved your Bill's New Frock because I read it to the end." Not a giant leap forward for literary criticism, maybe; but sent in such triumph that it made me feel immensely proud of Christopher S - and of myself for finally managing to seduce him into the pleasures of reading.)
After that come The Angel of Nitshill Road, On Planet Fruitcake and Ivan the Terrible, with others to follow. Those of you who have grown up with these books will be glad to hear that we have mostly kept the inside illustrations by Kate Aldous and Philippe Dupasquier. But all the new covers are by Mark Beech.
You can't miss them, they're so bright and inventive and lively. I'm hoping that all the librarians who like my work will look at the dog-eared copies they still have, check out which ones have gone missing over the years, and then replace the lot.
There's never, ever been a better time.
And then there's Prambusters!
Prambusters! It's out now, looking fresh and different from any book of Anne's before it. But is it a new book?
"So hard to say," says Anne. "Way back in 1999 I published a book called Design a Pram, with the most wonderful illustrations by the brilliant Philippe Dupasquier. (If you have a copy, make sure you hang on to it.)
"A few years ago the book dropped out of print, as so many do. But the story seemed so good that when Barrington Stoke asked for a shorter, more simply written version of the tale for their own list, I jumped at the chance of adapting it.
"Barrington Stoke specialise in books for reluctant readers, and their publications are all 'dyslexia friendly'. The story, with bright new illustrations by Vicki Gausden, is simple enough. Two teams hold a competition to design a pram. One team designs the most cosy, warm, luxurious pram you can imagine. The other team takes quite a different tack with a pram that can travel at high speeds, is bullet proof, and heavily weaponised.
"The trouble is that both prams are equally good examples of design. So how would YOU go about picking a winner?
La Chat assassin fête ses vingt ans
"It's extremely hard to believe," says Anne, "(because my bad feelings about the Killer Cat are still fresh and raw) but this year is the twentieth anniversary of his publication in France.
"We're all going to celebrate!"
So Anne has been in Paris, meeting readers at the at the Montreuil Book Fair - including readers of an adaptation of the Killer Cat into comics (pictured right) by Veronique Deiss, inspired illustrator of the 'Chat assassin' series! - and presiding over a Joute de traduction (a 'translation joust') a translation competition of a few pages that none of the competitors has ever seen before (written by Anne and from a book soon to be published). But, she told us before she set off, "what Tuffy is most looking forward to is the Celebration Party at the British Embassy on Thursday. And so am I."
Tuffy's travels go far beyond France, though: he has fans in Italy, Germany, Spain, Iceland, China and more... (The cover on the left is the Russian omnibus edition!). Not forgetting the English language editions! Learn more about Tuffy here.
Celebrating 80 Years of the Best Books
Last year, the Carnegie Medal celebrated its eightieth birthday - that's a whole lifetime of rewarding the best children's books!
Anne explains "The Carnegie Medal honours the Scottish born philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. He's the great man who endowed so many of our public libraries, and rather wonderfully said, "To die rich is to die disgraced." The prize was established in 1935 by the Library Association, and is still considered the most prestigious award an author for children or young adults can win. (I can't describe to you how proud I am to have won it twice.)"
You can still join the party at the My Home Library website, which Anne Fine set up when she became Children's Laureate, to make it easier for everyone to have their own Home Library. She decided to focus on the winning books over the last 80 years: she says "you might spot them in libraries and bookshops, maybe? take a peep? After all, each was considered the very best book of its year."
Have a look, for suggestions about books to look out for, and maybe add to your own Home Library.
And speaking of awards, if you've ever looked at Anne's Awards and Honours page, you'll know that as well as those two Carnegie medals, and lots of other prizes for one book or another in particular, she has been awarded several honorary degrees. In fact, she started 2017 with a degree ceremony at the University of Leicester, where she was presented with a fourth Honorary Doctorate. What's it all about? Anne explains:
I never really grasped the point of 'honorary' degrees. After all, either the recipient knew enough to get a 'real' degree, or they didn't. Why offer one to someone who hadn't done the work?
Now I have several, I feel a good deal differently. I've realised that, as almost everyone goes through their professional life, the people around them can't help but form a view of their body of work. And if that's a positive opinion, and a prestigious institution chooses to make it both plain and public, that's inspiriting and encouraging. (After all, everyone who works hard asks themselves from time to time, "Has all this effort been worthwhile?" So it's immensely cheering to be told so openly, "Yes. Yes, it was.")
What pleases me most is that I have links with almost all the places that have honoured me. I was born in Leicester, and last week that city's university awarded me an honorary doctorate. I studied at Warwick, where I was given another some years ago. Ever since I moved to the north east, and found out how much I loved it here, I've spoken up for the area. So it was lovely to be honoured by the University of Teesside. My secondary schooling was all in Northampton, so I am especially proud of my honorary fellowship from that university. And growing up there turns me into a woman from the Midlands, so I'm proud of my doctorate from the University of Central England in Birmingham.
(Just for the record, you're given a beautifully designed degree certificate in a classy holder. And they take photos of you in the fancy official university robes and cap - I'm much less keen on those!)