The Junior Bookshelf was a journal first published in November 1936 by C Combridge Ltd, Birmingham, with the aim of encouraging ‘the publication and circulation of good books for children.’ Its creators felt that they were launching the publication at a time when interest in children’s books and their production was growing. They wanted to encourage librarians in particular to pay for quality children’s books, and felt that a ‘Junior Times Literary Supplement’ would be of use. Staff included the founders, editors and directors H J B Woodfield and his wife Edith Woodfield, and later director and editor Diana Morrell (b1927). Other directors included C Stanley and A J Chadwick. Woodfield and Stanley ran a successful children’s bookselling and publishing business, producing the magazine as an addition to their day jobs.
Junior Bookshelf was aimed at teachers and librarians and was available by subscription. Articles covered children’s authors, library work, and publishing, and reviewed plays, novels, picture books, as well as non-fiction works. Contributors included children’s authors, librarians, teachers and publishers. The issues reported on the winners of significant awards, such as the Newbery Medal and Carnegie Medal, and contained lists of new publications. There were also articles on particular themes, such as Soviet children’s books or books about dolls. Space was given to considerations of children’s classics as well as contemporary works. The focus was largely on works published in English-speaking countries but there were articles on children’s literature around the world.
The journal was paid for in part through advertising, with publishers’ and bookshops’ advertisements in each issue. Paper rationing during the war years proved a challenge, and the planned number of issues had to be reduced. Publication nearly ceased in 1942, but ways were found to reduce consumption, such as printing on smaller paper and omitting illustrations. Junior Bookshelf was restored to its former size and featured illustrations once rationing ceased.
The Junior Bookshelf’s publishers moved several times during its lifetime. From an initial base in Birmingham at 17 Sherbourne Road, Acocks Green, it moved to Strines House, Kirkburton, Huddersfield, Yorkshire in 1941. By 1946 it had returned to Birmingham, and is listed at 35 Silverbirch Rd, Erdington, Birmingham in 1946, from where it returned to its previous Kirkburton address. In 1954 it moved again, to Tower Wood, Windermere, Westmoreland, where it remained until the spring of 1965. It then returned to Yorkshire, and is recorded at Marsh Hall, Thurstonland, Huddersfield from June 1965 until December 1996.
Authors featured and/or reviewed included Walter de la Mare, Alison Uttley, Jean de Brunhoff (creator of Babar the Elephant), Lewis Carroll, Virginia Lee Burton, E Nesbit, A A Milne, Noel Streatfeild, Dr Suess, A de Saint-Exupery (The Little Prince), the Rev W Awdry (Thomas the Tank Engine), Janet and Allan Ahlberg, C S Lewis, Tove Jansson, Jill Paton Walsh, Beverley Cleary, and Arthur Ransome, amongst many others.
The Junior Bookshelf aspired to hire a range of book reviewers, in order to have expertise in a variety of genres. They persuaded librarians to become reviewers, but Woodfield felt that Grammar School teachers produced the best work. As the 20th century progressed and more children’s books were published, the editors included what they referred to as ‘second and third rate’ books, as well as the best quality works that were their original focus.
Over time The Junior Bookshelf featured fewer articles, focussing on short reviews of new books.