Santas and the colour of money

4th December 1998 at 00:00
In this week of league tables, the Green Paper, the latest Test cricket debacle, we turn, in relief, to Narnia, Tintin and Latin.

It appears that Pauline Baynes, the illustrator of C S Lewis's seven chronicles of the magic kingdom, missed out on the lucrative Narnia business. She settled for a flat fee of Pounds 700 instead of royalties. "It was my own silly fault," said the 76-year-old, who is at least being paid a handsome sum to colour a new edition of the books to celebrate Lewis's centenary.

A good week for illustrators as French MPs of the Right and Left will lay claim to the politics of Tintin, the intrepid comic strip reporter created by the Belgian, Herge, in a debate to be held in February. Both sides will have a strong case as Herge endowed his hero with changing views: from a man of the far-Right to a champion of the Third World.

Teachers could recruit Tintin, as comics are replacing the classics in school libraries in an attempt to encourage boys to read more. The Simpsons, Asterix, the Beano and Shakespeare in graphic form are going down a storm. But Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, warned against "dumbing down".

Latin teachers in the United States could be accused of lowering the tone as they have abandoned the likes of Kennedy's Latin Primer in favour of dressing up in togas and hosting Roman-style banquets. Their efforts have reaped rewards as three times as many pupils now study the language than in the early Eighties. Membership of the National Junior Classical League, a confederation of clubs, has more than doubled since 1977 to 55,000.

A classical education is being planned for Prince, the 21-month-old son of pop superstar Michael Jackson. Like Madonna, he rates British public school education and is said to be sounding out Stowe, in Buckinghamshire, alma mater of Richard Branson, George Melly and Lord McAlpine.

His Lordship said it was a wonderful choice: "Just the place for someone slightly eccentric, as I imagine this boy will be."

With a nod to the festive season, here's a sad tale: only two students signed up for the first Father Christmas diploma course, at Weston College in Weston-super-Mare, well below the target of 12. The eight-week programme included make-up techniques, voice training, grotto organisation and dealing with awkward customers.

And finally, the Jump Ahead Baby software program for the child who has everything. Its makers claim it's a developmental tool like books or toys, and is designed for use by babies sitting on parents' laps. A screen is no substitute for the human face, said an early-learning expert. Let's raise a toast to that.

Diane Spencer

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