12 June 2009

A New Children's Laureate

On Tuesday Danny and I were lucky enough to be present as the new Children's Laureate - the sixth to take up the challenge - was announced. Along with pretty much half the children's book world, we gathered high up in Centre Point on London's New Oxford Street and listened to Lord Chris Smith, Andrew Motion (chair of the selection panel), Julia Eccleshare, Nikki Marsh (Booktrust head of education projects) and Viv Bird (chief executive of Booktrust) talk about what the post is, its history and its future. We also had the great delight of listening to the outgoing Laureate, Michael Rosen (who really does deserve a knighthood, at the very least!) speaking about his two year tenure before he completed the handover to the new Laureate - Anthony Browne!

Anthony spoke warmly and enthusiastically about his new role, brought his brother up on stage to play 'The Shape Game' (pens and paper provided by Booktrust, imagination supplied by the players - in the game, the first player draws an abstract shape and the next person adds to it to develop it into a recognisable image) and left us all inspired and encouraged by his enthusiasm and his words: 'Picture books are special – they're not like anything else. Sometimes I hear parents encouraging their children to read what they call proper books (books without pictures), at an earlier and earlier age. This makes me sad, as picture books are perfect for sharing, and not just with the youngest children. As a father, I understand the importance of the bond that develops through reading picture books with your child.

'We have in Britain some of the best picture book makers in the world, and I want to see their books appreciated for what they are – works of art.'

So inspired by Anthony we'll, both children and adults, enjoy more stories with pictures and enjoy stories with picture more. Oh, and play The Shape Game too!

NB: previous Laureates were: Quentin Blake (1999-2001)Anne Fine (2001-2003)Michael Morpurgo (2003-2005)Jacqueline Wilson (2005-2007)Michael Rosen (2007-2009). The award is now funded by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and administered by Booktrust, and continues to be sponsored by Waterstone's and others.

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