Classics

Yes, IBBYLink 53 is arriving a little later than usual. However, I hope the wait will be worth it because in keeping with our new website we are launching a ‘new look’ IBBYLink. Our aim is to make it even more attractive – and more flexible. We would like you to feel a tingle when you hear that it is available to download. We would like you to be able to search for or select the articles you want to read if you should so want – and print them easily if you like to read in hard copy. We are also hoping to ensure it does not overwhelm. There will be the usual quota of excellent articles and IBBYLink will always feature some book reviews; we are looking to put most reviews onto the website. 

What better theme to launch the new than a look at the classic. What do we mean by this? Can one identify a classic? Are there criteria? Perry Nodelman takes up these questions to present his thinking on the matter. It would seem that this is not as clear cut as might be expected. Indeed it may be that the concept of a classic is flawed. Not least by the assumption the ‘classic’ has universal appeal and should (note the imperative!) be read by everyone. We are all familiar with those interminable lists of 100 best books or books you or your child must read. Looking at these lists they rely almost exclusively on the literature of Western Europe or white America. What if that is not your culture or background? Debbie Reese as a member of the tribal nation, Nambé, offers a very salutary view – and one that will provoke thought. 

What about new classics? Where will they come from? Lucy Pearson looks at the Carnegie Medal and its winners. Surely they must all be classics? Her conclusions may surprise you. Classics may become accepted as such not because of perceived literary merit but, perhaps, through memory and use. This does not exclude those novels that do seem to be truly ‘classic’, acquiring an almost hallowed status. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813) might be one of those. Who would dare meddle with it? But this is not a creation carved in stone. It is a creation of the imagination and while the author may have chosen to focus on particular characters and events, these have been surrounded by a cast of others clearly with their own lives. What if .… Natasha Farrant tells us what it was like to create a whole new story around that most lively of Bennet sisters, Lydia. What cheek – but what fun! 

How do such ‘classics’ travel? Well it seems that they do by finding new homes and new audiences through translation. It may be surprising to learn of some of their destinations; Slovenia for one. Darja Mazi–Leskover reveals that classics of English children’s literature have been available and enjoyed by young readers in Slovenia for over 100 years.  

While the theme has mainly concentrated on the written text, June Hopper Swain’s review of the recent exhibition at House of Illustration of work by John Vernon Lord reminds us – as does Debbie Reese – that illustrations can be considered ‘classic’. In the case of John Vernon Lord this is doubly so; much of the exhibition was devoted to his work illustrating ‘classic’ works. 

I hope you will enjoy our old wine in its new bottle. 

Ferelith Hordon

Illustration from the Folio Society edition of Ulysses by James Joyce © John Vernon Lord 2017.

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