A horrible historian?
Deary, whose Horrible Histories books have sold more than 25 million copies and delighted children with the gory grotesqueries of ages and cultures past, is unarguably one of the most influential authors working today. And he's never shy of speaking his mind. Schools, he believes, “have no relevance in the 21st century” and children should be kicked out of education at 11 to go to work. It should come as no surprise then, that he has gone against the vast majority of authors in saying that libraries have “been around too long” and need to go“.
It's certainly an unusual position. The likes of The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson, Alan Bennett and Philip Pullman have all been outraged by library closures up and down the country as a result of Government cuts to council funding. In Sunderland, Deary's home town, councillors have announced plans to close some library services. Deary wished them “good luck”. “Libraries have had their day,” he told the Sunderland Echo. “They are a Victorian idea and we are in an electronic age. They either have to change and adapt or they have to go. A lot of the gush about libraries is sentimentality. The book is old technology and we have to move on.”
How do his fellow authors feel?
They're furious. Children's author Alan Gibbons said he felt “betrayed” by Deary's “downright irresponsible” rant.
Was that the end of it?
Sadly not. Deary said the writers who had lambasted him, including Skelling author David Almond, were “the ones with small minds to match their small talents”. Gibbons was a bit more reserved, saying: “He's always been an iconoclast and I have a lot of time for him, but not on libraries,” and challenged Deary to a public debate.