Cover Stories: Eleanor Farjeon Award; Treasury Christmas card; Lifetime Achievement Award; Mike Oldfield

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The Independent Culture

*One of the movers and shakers of the children's book world was honoured this week with the presentation of the Eleanor Farjeon Award, which recognises an individual's outstanding contribution to kids' books. The recipient was Wendy Cooling, a former teacher who has run the Children's Book Circle and National Children's Book Week and founded Bookstart, the nationwide programme that puts books into the hands of every baby born in the UK. Through Cooling's efforts, Bookstart was able to secure £27m-worth of Government funding from the Sure Start initiative, which now means that in addition to each baby receiving a free bag of books, every one- to two-year old receives a satchel of books and three- to four-year-olds a "treasure chest"of books and crayons. Thus are tomorrow's book-buyers nurtured.

*Still with kids, the Chancellor is softening his image still further: he has commissioned Axel (The Gruffalo) Scheffler to design the official Treasury Christmas card - a tree surrounded by lots of happy children with books and pets. And he's asked Booktrust, the charity that promotes reading, to host his annual children's party at No 11. On 11 December, 35 children will be entertained by Children's Laureate Jacqueline Wilson and illustrator Nick Sharratt. It will take place in a specially designed winter wonderland created by Peregrine Armstrong-Jones. Aaaaaaaaaah.

*At last, someone has grasped the substance of the woman: the Variety Club of Great Britain is to bestow a Lifetime Achievement Award on Barbara Taylor Bradford, the Leeds-born author of such blockbusters as A Woman of Substance and Hold the Dream. She is already immortalised on an Isle of Man postage stamp and her manuscripts are housed at Leeds University, filed between Bennett and the Brontës - like her, from God's own county.

*More than a quarter-century has passed since Mike Oldfield, not yet 20, released Tubular Bells, one of those landmark albums that its composer was never going to surpass. Indeed he did not, and the success it brought him led to years of mental health problems. How nice, then, that he has pledged to donate the first two years-worth of royalties from the sale of his autobiography to the charity Sane; Changeling is due from Virgin next May.

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