Now I know what you’re thinking. What do retro sweets and vintage social networking sites have to do with children’s books?
Well, not a lot. I haven’t said much about my publishing project lately, because I didn’t want to jinx the particular thing we have in the pipeline (but fingers crossed I’ll be able to announce it soon!). Having said which – if this is your first visit to the blog, may I take this opportunity to clumsily recommend our books? They are the The Astronaut’s Apprentice, by Philip Threadneedle, which follows a normal boy on an out-of-this-world adventure; City of Meteors, which continues the story; and a Dahl-esque romp called The Trumblebuggins, by anarchic author Harry Ladd.
Anyway. Since I’d gone quiet, I thought I might as well blog about something that’s been occupying my mind lately. I want to talk about nostalgia. Given my great love of children’s books, you won’t be surprised to learn that I’m into nostalgia!
Nostalgia is only sad when something is gone. I think it’s wonderful when you look up something iconic from your childhood, only to find that it’s still alive and well. A great example is the Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy, which began in 1974. Years can elapse between books, but the sixth one came out as recently as 2007, and the characters and illustrations are as delightful as ever. Imagine how pleased I was when I looked up the books as a young adult, fearing they would be out of print, and found some brand new stories to get stuck into.
Another example is how much I enjoyed finding the website for Swizzels Matlow, who made many of the iconic sweets of my childhood. Any thirty-something British schoolboy will know what I mean. Refresher Bars and Love Hearts… chewy Drum Stick lollies and Fruity Pops… “Double Dip” bags of orange and lemon sherbet, and a fizzy dipping stick to eat them with!
I say “made”, but of course, I was pleased to find the site because it turns out they’re still making them. I’ve since been to the sweetie aisle in my local supermarket, and had a nostalgic evening chomping my way through a variety bag of their products. Who says nostalgia ain’t what it used to be?
Now the big news in the world of nostalgia is the relaunch of Friends Reunited. Friends Reunited was a pioneering UK social network, launched long before Facebook with the aim of putting old schoolmates back in touch. At one point it was wildly successful – in the UK at least – but it was replaced by more famous juggernauts like MySpace, Bebo, and Facebook.
This month, they relaunched it. Rather than trying to compete with Facebook, they’ve reinvented themselves (in partnership with the British Library and others) as a nostalgia-themed site, with about half a million photos and videos. Users can connect with each other by uploading their own content, as well as “keeping” and commenting on stuff that’s already there. You can also “follow” other users (I’m not sure it’s called that) and private message them.
I’ll be very interested to see if it takes off. It’s funny that the internet is old enough for there to be “retro” web brands, but in the UK at least, Friends Reunited is the biggie. There seems to be a steady stream of people “keeping” things on the new site (175 people have “kept” Anglo Bubbly Gum so far), so hopefully they’ll strike up some conversations and start uploading/connecting around their own content.
Anyway. Looking at the books we’ve published so far, I think nostalgia – in a healthy, positive sense – connects everyone involved with the Falcon Berger project. Our current writers are very different, and I’d say that each writes with a modern funny style – but equally, each has a personal timeline of influences stretching deep into the Twentieth Century. Roald Dahl, The Little Prince, The Beano, Doctors Who and Dolittle, A Voyage to the Moon, and so on. Philip Threadneedle often talks about his own influences as a “space fantasist” in his blog, Books for Kids.
Well, that’s it for today. I suppose it ended up being semi-relevant after all! Hope you all enjoy the long weekend (if you’re having one) and get some good downtime with a book.