Gorau’r Goreuon: Introducing three stories from the past to young audiences in 2021

Gorau’r Goreuon: Introducing three stories from the past to young audiences in 2021

Gorau’r Goreuon: Introducing three stories from the past to young audiences in 2021

The Books Council of Wales is launching the first three titles of Gorau’r Goreuon (The Best of the Best), a selection of books for children and young people. Gorau’r Goreuon aims to introduce a selection of books that are considered classics in children and young people’s literature to a new generation of readers.

The titles that will be appearing in the first selection are Dirgelwch y Dieithryn (Elgan Philip Davies), O’r Tywyllwch (Mair Wynn Hughes) and Luned Bengoch (Elizabeth Watkin-Jones).

In 2016 the Books Council of Wales commissioned Dr Siwan Rosser of Cardiff University to conduct a survey of children and young people’s books. That report has informed much of the Books Council’s work in this field since then. One of her recommendations was:

Consideration should be given to re-issuing popular Welsh-language books or ‘classics’ from the past and updating them as part of a specific genre or series to create a market with a strong indigenous brand that is passed on from one generation to the next.

A panel of experts in the field of children and young people’s literature was established to select books from the titles that could be included on this initial list.

Morgan Dafydd, founder of the Sôn am Lyfra website and a member of the selectors’ panel, said: ‘Our bookshops are mostly full of new books that will in turn be replaced by newer books. Sometimes when people say, ‘there’s not enough material for young people in Welsh’, it’s easy to forget about things published last year, let alone the great books published many years ago.’

(The covers of Luned Bengoch, 2021, 1983 and 1947)

Luned Bengoch was originally published in 1946 by Brython Press, then updated by Hugh D Jones and republished by Gomer Press in 1983. Gomer Press were also the publishers of O’r Tywyllwch in 1991 and Dirgelwch y Dieithryn in 1993, the one part of the Gwreiddiau scheme and the other part of the Corryn series.

Helen Jones, Head of the Books Council’s Children’s Books and Reading Promotion Department, said: ‘These stories are evergreen and needed very little editorial work to make them suitable for a variety of contemporary audiences. The cover is a key part of the success of any book, and if the Books Council has looked back to find the best it has looked forward by commissioning three contemporary artists to design the covers: Efa Blosse-Mason, Chris Iliff and Nia Tudor – two of which are new names to the field.’

The Books Council of Wales will be collecting feedback on these first three volumes during the Autumn term and intends to add to the series over the coming years. It will also receive recommendations from publishers and the public for other titles to include in the collection.

Remembering Roger Boore 1938–2021

Remembering Roger Boore 1938–2021

On 30 July, Wales lost one of its great benefactors of children literature following the death of Roger Boore at the age of 82.

Roger Boore was born in Cardiff in 1938. He had a degree in Classics from Oxford, a PhD in History from the University of Wales Swansea, and was a Chartered Accountant. He returned to Wales and was a life-long enthusiast of the Welsh language, which he began learning in his teens, and raised his family in Cardiff.

In 1969 Roger and his wife Anne founded the publishing house Gwasg y Dref Wen, with the main aim of producing Welsh-language books for children. He realised how few Welsh illustrated children’s books were available, and that their appearance was largely uniform and unappealing. Roger received the Mary Vaughan Jones Award in 1997 for his ‘notable contribution to the field of children’s books in Wales over a period of years’, and was also honoured as a member of the Gorsedd of the Bards for his ‘special contribution to Wales and the Welsh Language’ in 2016.

Later, Roger Boore pioneered in the field of Welsh-language travel literature, producing five highly acclaimed volumes. He published a prize-winning children’s novel, Y Bachgen Gwyllt (The Wild Boy), a collection of short stories, Ymerodraeth y Cymry (Empire of the Welsh), and many Welsh translations from various languages, especially children’s books including Asterix and Tintin and the classic Y Teigr a Ddaeth i De (The Tiger Who Came to Tea).

Gwasg y Dref Wen published a number of notable books such as Llyfr Hwiangerddi y Dref Wen (the standard Welsh nursery rhyme collection), Y Geiriadur Lliwgar (an illustrated Welsh children’s dictionary), a series of stories from Welsh history (Storïau Hanes Cymru) and the prize-winning O’r Dechrau i’r Diwedd / From Start to Finish series on religions in both Welsh and English.

Lorna Herbert Egan, Chair of the Reading Promotion and Children’s Books Sub-committee; Dr Siwan Rosser, Cardiff University lecturer and specialist in Children’s Literature in Wales; and Helen Jones, Head of the Children’s Books and Reading Promotion Department at the Books Council, pay tribute to the prolific publisher.

“Wales owes a debt of gratitude to the late Roger Boore for his vision and pioneering activity in establishing Gwasg y Dref Wen, and for his genius work in selecting and providing colourful and diverse children’s literature to entertain and stimulate generations of readers. He made an invaluable contribution to the quality and fun choice that captures the imagination of individuals and their desire to learn and enjoy, and has been a great influence in the publishing industry. Sympathy is extended to his widow Anne, and Alun, Gwilym and Rhys and those who shared his journey.” – Lorna Herbert Egan

“I have a very vivid memory as a child of Dref Wen’s books. Searching for the little duck character in Y Geiriadur Lliwgar was an ongoing adventure, y Llyfr Hwiangerddi was a beautiful companion, and the characters of Ifan Bifan, Asterix and Pippi opened my imagination to other worlds. It was a privilege, therefore, to get to know Roger in recent years and appreciate his tremendous achievements, especially in the field of adapting children’s books from international languages. His vision and energy gave us as children the opportunity to access literary and illustrative culture beyond our borders, and set a standard for the publishing industry to aspire to. We remember Roger dearly and sympathise with the Dref Wen family.” – Dr Siwan Rosser

“Roger Boore, Gwasg y Dref Wen, was a pioneer in children’s publishing. He will be missed, but he leaves a rich legacy of books delivered to the highest standard of presentation and content for the children of Wales. Our condolences to his family – Anne, Alun, Gwilym and Rhys.” – Helen Jones