|Multiple Mary Poppins at the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony|
Then the University of Kent promoted its MA in creative writing with a blurb that seemed to diss children's writing, and Jonathan Myerson who runs the MA in creative writing at City University, weighed in with his views in The Guardian.
The BBC's Front Row discussed the Costa Book Awards with - as every year - an embarrassed lack of information about the children's shortlist. And on Women's Hour, Jenni Murray, interviewing Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney said: 'JK Rowling is now trying to write proper books for grown-ups. Are you tempted that way?"
There are crumbs of comfort. The Times has promised to continue reviewing children's books every week, Amanda Craig will surely find other places to review and discuss children's books. The University of Kent made themselves look stupid, and Jonathan Myerson's article could not have been more troll-like if he'd hidden under a bridge looking out for passing goats. Most prospective MA students would have been put off studying at Kent or City, and those that aren't are unlikely to prove to be competition with agents, publishers or readers. If Jenni Murray had not used the words 'trying' or 'proper', her question would not have felt quite so offensive, and Women's Hour has a good record for featuring children's literature generally, recently interviewing Sally Nicholls about her new book.
But Front Row's continuing ignorance depresses me most, partly because I am such a big fan (and indeed one of my ambitions is to be invited onto the programme to discuss my work....sigh...) Year after year its erudite, cultured guests fail to have read the shortlisted children's books. They don't even pretend to know anything about them. They probably don't even know the winner of the Carnegie Medal, or even what the Carnegie Medal signifies.
I saw a Facebook thread this week in which an adult asked for suggestions for books to buy for Christmas presents for children aged 14 and 10. The recommendations were like a reading list from 1975 - The Silver Sword, A Wrinkle in Time, Alan Garner, Philippa Pearce. Wonderful books by talented authors, but it was very clear that most of those responding had not read a book for older children since they left their teens themselves.
So why is it that otherwise cultured and well read people do not read contemporary children's literature in the UK? Why is it acceptable to be ignorant about children's literature?
I think it has a lot to do with the way we think about childhood itself, and how we educate our children into adulthood. I remember secondary school education as a grim, dull process almost completely lacking in the creativity, humour and quirkiness which abounded at my primary school. I also remember realising with dismay that a love for children's books was a childish pleasure that I would have to put aside in public. It was good to read classics, it was acceptable to read Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, it was not right for a girl of 13 or 14 to climb up the steps to the children's section of the library. The feeling of embarrassment associated with liking children's books lingered for years - how happy was I to have my own children and - at last - an 'excuse' to interest myself in children's books again.
Twice in the last few years I have felt that children's literature is valued and respected in our society. Once at the stage version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. The other was the children's literature section of the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. On both occasions I felt proud, moved, excited to be a little part of children's literature in the UK.
So, why doesn't that happen more often? Why do some people seem to take pride in feeling exactly the opposite? Why do some people feel the need to proclaim their distance from children's books - like a homophobe who protests just a little too much? And what can we do to change things?