- Editing Bookbird 2005–2009
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When my friend and co-editor Valerie Coghlan, well known in IBBY circles, sent me an advertisement for the position of editor of Bookbird back in the early years of the century, she attached a wry note saying, "This sounds like us!" It did sound like us, but she did not actually mean it. She was just being amusing.
The reason it sounded so like us is that we had just come to the end of our stint as editors of Inis: The Children's Books Ireland Magazine. We had had four years on that and enjoyed it very much. We had substantially redesigned (not personally—we did ask a professional to do it) and generally given an editorial shake-up to that magazine and had learned an enormous amount. Like Bookbird, Inis has gone through various iterations, redesigns, and restructurings in the meantime—we don't mind, we're not possessive!—but in our time, we felt we had made a considerable difference in the continuing development of that magazine. We had not intended to make "considerable development in children's literature magazines" a constant feature of our lives, but really, how could we resist offering to a fine organization like IBBY and a wonderful institution like Bookbird all that we had learnt in our years on Inis?
So we applied, and were invited to interview at a USBBY conference in the extraordinary and—to us, mere Irish—barely pronounceable Chautauqua in upstate New York. And so we met the Bookbird, Inc. board, and made some dear friendships with Ellis Vance, Joan Glazer, and Alida Cutts. We do not see Joan and Alida so much anymore, but the warmest meeting of every annual trip to the Bologna Book Fair since then still is with the delightful Ellis.
I have jumped the gun a bit here, but I know you will have worked out that we were honored to be offered the editorship of Bookbird after that Chautauqua meeting and that we accepted with great glee. We had the opportunity to meet all four of our immediate predecessors as editorial team, and we were grateful for their invaluable support and advice.
Bookbird is an unusual avian, and this makes it both tricky and stimulating to manage and edit. On the one hand is Bookbird's core of refereed academic [End Page 90] articles on topics related to our central concern of international children's literature. On the other hand, Bookbird is also the organ of IBBY. This means it needs to include IBBY news and reports on campaigns and projects, which is a totally different thing from the academic content, and constituted almost a mini magazine-within-a-magazine. And on yet another hand, we were passionately committed to producing a publication that would be accessible and enjoyable for readers well beyond the academic world and that would take into consideration the fact that many of its readers are not native speakers of English. That is a very fine balance to maintain, as academic English tends not to be … shall we say, all that forgiving? I made it my own personal mission as editor to try to make the language lively and inviting for the general interested reader as well as for educators and scholars.
We were keen to have the magazine redesigned and to bring in a new structure. Bookbird has always had attractive covers, which makes a potential reader want to open it. Our thinking was that, once the magazine was opened, the interior design should maintain the reader's interest. It was a priority for us to have a consistent layout and structure that readers could quickly become familiar with and easily negotiate. We divided the content, rather whimsically, into "fits," using Lewis Carroll's humorous term for sections in his long narrative poem The Hunting of the Snark and naming these "fits" from famous lines in that poem and other nonsense poems. Our designer—Kieran Nolan of Oldtown Design in Dublin, with whom we had worked on Inis—did a lovely job of designing the wacky contents page that was used throughout...