Best Loved Children’s Laureates
In honour of Children’s Book Week, Book Walrus will be looking at our Children’s Laureates. Who better to think about during the week of celebration of reading for pleasure for children than those best loved authors and illustrators who have been formally recognised for their outstanding achievement?
Children’s Laureate 2013-2015
Malorie Blackman writes children’s novels, young adult novels, picture books, short stories, readers for early, and more confident readers, and television scripts. She is the first Children’s Laureate to be best known for writing for a young adult audience, and recently announced a campaign to support fiction for young adults in the UK during her two year term in the post. A highlight of this will be the first ever YA Literature Convention, hosted at the London Film and Comic Con in July 2014.
Malorie Blackman on being Children’s Laureate: “I am honoured to have been chosen as the eighth Children’s Laureate. A love of books has opened so many doors for me. Stories have inspired me and taught me to aspire. I’ve been a professional author for over 20 years, so I feel now is the time to give something back. I hope to instil in every child I meet my love and enthusiasm for reading and stories. And as I would never have become an author if it hadn’t been for my local library as a child, I intend to continue Julia Donaldson’s amazing, indefatigable work advocating for our nation’s public library service.”
Books by Malorie Blackman: Noughts and Crosses, Pig Heart Boy, Thief! and many more.
Children’s Laureate 2011-2013
The first Children’s Laureate based in Scotland, Julia Donaldson has written over one hundred books and plays for children and teenagers, and is also the author of educational books for the Oxford Reading Tree. She is probably most well-known for her collaborations with illustrator Axel Scheffler, including The Gruffalo which has sold over 10.5 million copies.
Julia’s main priorities during her time as Laureate were performance, stories for deaf children and supporting and celebrating public libraries, campaigning passionately against library cuts and closures and embarking on a 6-week tour of 38 UK libraries in autumn 2012. One of the key performance projects she developed was Plays to Read, a series of 60 classroom plays designed to help children in primary school become more confident and expressive readers.
Julia Donaldson on being Children’s Laureate: On leaving the post, Julia said she hoped that “the new laureate will be able to campaign for children’s books to have a higher profile in the media. Considering how many people have children or grandchildren, are teachers or do some other work involving children, I think it is ludicrous that such a tiny percentage of media attention goes to children’s book reviews and news stories. At least the very existence of the post of Children’s Laureate goes some way to redressing that balance, so I’d like to really thank Booktrust and Waterstones and the children’s publishers, for continuing to manage and fund the post. I’ve tremendously enjoyed filling it.”
Books by Julia Donaldson: The Gruffalo, Superworm, The Giants and the Joneses, and over 100 more.
Children’s Laureate 2009-2011
Anthony Browne is a world-renowned author and illustrator of children’s books. He has won many prizes, including the Kate Greenaway Medal for Gorilla and for Zoo, and in 2000 he was the first British illustrator ever to win the Jans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international honour for illustration. During his time as Children’s Laureate Anthony was keen to encourage children to be creative and use their imaginations, and to support the development of visual as well as verbal literacy. He created the Shape Game project, bringing together 45 writers, artists, illustrators and celebrities to create artwork to raise money for children’s charity Rainbow Trust.
Anthony Browne on being Children’s Laureate: “I hope to encourage more children to discover and love reading, but I want to focus particularly on the appreciation of picture books, and the reading of both pictures and words. Picture books are for everybody at any age, not books to be left behind as we grow older. The best ones leave a tantalising gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the reader’s imagination, adding so much to the excitement of reading a book.”
Books by Anthony Browne: Gorilla, Willy the Wimp, Bear’s Magic Pencil and, currently, 38 others.
Children’s Laureate 2007-2009
See Michael Rosen reciting the wonderful ‘Chocolate Cake’, and videos of lots of our other favourite poems, here.
Michael Rosen is one of the best known figures in the children’s book world. He is renowned for his work as a poet, performer, broadcaster and scriptwriter, and has been involved with over 140 books. He was one of the first poets to undertake tours of schools in the UK, and of course a key focus for him during his time as Children’s Laureate was poetry. He developed the anthology Michael Rosen’s A-Z: The Best Children’s Poetry from Agard to Zephaniah, and helped develop The Poetry Friendly Classroom, a set of online resources for teachers. There’s more info here.
Michael Rosen on being Children’s Laureate: When Michael Rosen’s time as Children’s Laureate came to an end he wrote an article in the Guardian, in which he said: “Sometimes when I sit with children when they have the space to talk and write about … things, I have the feeling that I am privileged to be the kind of person who is asked to be part of it.”
Books by Michael Rosen: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Quick, Let’s Get Out of Here, Michael Rosen’s Big Book of Bad Things, among others.
Children’s Laureate 2005-2007
Jacqueline Wilson is an enormously popular writer for children. Over 30 million of her books have been sold in the UK alone, and from 2004-2008 she was the most borrowed author in Britain’s libraries. She deals with subjects some consider too challenging for young readers, including adoption, divorce, and mental illness, but her sensitive understanding of children and their problems, plus her sense of humour, make her a great favourite with a huge proportion of 9-11 years olds. During her time as Children’s Laureate Jacqueline Wilson developed the book Great Books to Read Aloud, encouraging families to read aloud together.
Jacqueline Wilson on being Children’s Laureate: After being Children’s Laureate for nearly a year, Jacqueline Wilson wrote in her diary: “I’m still wearing my beautiful silver Laureate medal with pride! Children often ask me, ‘What exactly does a Children’s Laureate do?’ That’s what’s so interesting about the position, because you can do anything, so long as it involves children and literature. Over the last two or three months I’ve been out and about almost every day doing something!
Books by Jacqueline Wilson: Hetty Feather, The Story of Tracy Beaker, The Suitcase Kid, and, you guessed it, many many more!
Children’s Laureate 2003-2005
If it wasn’t for Michael Morpurgo there wouldn’t be a Children’s Laureate at all – he helped to establish the scheme with Ted Hughes, who was Poet Laureate at the time.
Michael has won numerous awards for his children’s books, and also writes poetry, screenplays, and libretti for opera. Many of his books have been adapted for film, television, and stage, most notably his 1982 book War Horse. Michael originally thought “they must be mad” to try and turn it into a play, but after opening in 2009 to critical acclaim it was instantly successful, with over a million people seeing it in the West End so far. It was also turned into a film directed by Steven Spielberg in 2011.
In celebration of Michael’s 70th birthday November 2013 has been dubbed Morpurgo month. Bookshops, libraries and schools will be celebrating a different theme each week to mark 70 years of Michael Morpurgo’s wonderful stories.
Michael Morpurgo on being Children’s Laureate: As Children’s Laureate, Michael was keen to encourage all children “to discover and rediscover the secret pleasure that is reading, and to begin to find their voice in their own writing.”
Books by Michael Morpurgo: Waiting for Anya, Dolphin Boy, War Horse, A Medal for Leroy (and many more!)
Children’s Laureate 2001-2003
Anne Fine is a distinguished prize-winning author for adults and children of all ages. Her time as Children’s Laureate was focused on promoting children’s reading and raising the profile of libraries. Her most significant project was the My Home Library scheme, encouraging children to build their own libraries at home and for which more than 100 artists and cartoonists provided over 150 original bookplate designs. An estimated 1.8 million downloads of the bookplates have taken place since the project’s launch in 2002.
Anne Fine on being Children’s Laureate: “I felt very honoured to be offered the Laureateship, but I confess to accepting the role in part to have a little bit more clout to embark on two projects I had been hatching for some time: one public and one more personal.” One project was the compilation of three poetry anthologies, the other was My Home Library. Describing the latter, Anne Fine said, “Someone like me, who feels she owes pretty well everything to the reading on offer through childhood, can’t help but fret about those growing up without that basic bridge to self-development … what underlies the scheme remains the hope that every child from no matter what background would have at least some books of their own, be it the publishers’s son with his fitted hand-tooled bookcase filled with signed first editions, or the child in care lugging her cardboard box decorated with used wrapping paper from one temporary home to another.”
Books by Anne Fine: Bill’s New Frock, Goggle-Eyes, Flour Babies, and many more.
Sir Quentin Blake
Children’s Laureate 1999-2001
Sir Quentin Blake was the first Children’s Laureate. His best-known collaborations include those with writers Russell Hoban, Joan Aiken, Michael Rosen, and, of course, Roald Dahl. He has won many prizes, is a tireless promoter of children’s literature, and in 2005 was awarded a CBE for his services to Children’s Literature.
Recently Sir Quentin was involved with ‘Gromit Unleashed’, a public art trail of giant Gromit (from Wallace and Gromit) sculptures designed by international artists. The sculpture decorated by Sir Quentin raised £32,000 for Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity to help sick children and their families.
Sir Quentin Blake on being Children’s Laureate: “It’s quite extraordinary . . . to get up one morning and to be told that you have become the Children’s Laureate; even more extraordinary to be the first.”
Books by Sir Quentin Blake: Revolting Rhymes, Mister Magnolia, Arabel and Mortimer, Bananas in My Ears, the newly released Three Little Owls, and many, many more.