In brief

31st October 2003 at 00:00
Signal 100. Edited by Nancy Chambers. pound;17.50 from Thimble Press, Lockwood, Station Road, Stroud GL5 5EQ.

Tel: 01453 755566; www.thimblepress.co.uk.

For more than 30 years, Signal magazine under Nancy Chambers's editorship has provided a generous space where readers, writers and critics of children's books can talk together about the unpredictable art that binds them. Professors and creators (sometimes the same people) have investigated the mystery without destroying the magic.

This 250-page 100th issue is, alas, to be the last. The theoretical approach is exemplified in Jane Doonan's eloquent exploration of how literary time and graphic space - both illusory - combine in picture books to create new reality for the beholder. Jan Mark shows a fine historical sense in her account of the Signal Award for poetry, a distinctive honour that has gone to Ted Hughes, John Mole and Carol Ann Duffy, among others, and which now has another life with the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education.

Anne Fine contributes a splendidly trenchant piece (from a lecture delivered while she was Children's Laureate) about some of the failures of contemporary writing for children: the cheap psychology, the false lyricism and the slapdash production. She commends the "shamelessly undemocratic" nature of true art. Neil Philip reminds us that Ted Hughes's work for young readers is copious and varied, comprising fiction, verse and myth.

Within this heterogeneous canon, one feature prevails - words that celebrate the "art of coming into being". Elaine Moss on the 1960s and Peter Hollindale on drama provide other gems, while Signal co-founder Aidan Chambers - all too briefly - reminds us that literature is an essential part of life itself.

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