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.
Merry Christmas from the Mountfield Family
Here's Christmas on its way again," says Anne. "Not my favourite time of year, since the two things I hate most in all the world are Shopping and Fun.
And I'm not the first to suggest that, for all too many children, this time of year is mostly an exercise in anticlimax and disappointment. (How often can someone forget to include the batteries? How many expensive toys or devices can turn out duds?)
Then there's all the relations, some of whom are far from a joy, and some of whom are positively ghastly.
So meet poor Ralph Mountfield's Great Granny. ("If I had my own teeth, I would bite you." "If you put both of them in a bag and punched it, whoever you hit would deserve it.")
Meet his soppy cousin Titania, in a frock that makes her look like a little cream puff with feet, desperate to sing I'm a Little Teapot.
Meet the awful twins, Sylvia and Sylvester, Mad Great Aunt Ida who thinks the potatoes look grubby, and Uncle Tristram, who's bought everybody a false beard for Christmas, and is so bored he's throwing potatoes at the cat.
In America, this book is called The True Story of Christmas. And all too often, it is.
(P.S. If you take to Ralph and his extraordinary family, be sure to read about their summer holidays in Eating Things on Sticks, and about the quite astonishing village show they manage to put on in Trouble in Toadpool.)
Children's Book News
"Anne Fine at her wittiest"
T E S
"A wickedly seasonal tale"
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.
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.
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?
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!)