Skip to Content

Brilliant new Children's Laureate appointed

15 June 2009

The announcement of the sixth UK children's Laureate this week was greeted with great enthusiasm. Making the announcement to a packed audience from the children's book world, Andrew MotionEnglish poet, novelist and biographer; Poet Laureate of United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009; during his laureateship founded the Poetry Archive, an online resource of poems and audio recordings of poets reading their own work, soon to be Sir Andrew Motion, the Chair of the Children's Laureate Panel, said: 'Anthony Browne is an absolutely distinctive and extraordinarily skilled artist - someone whose work entrances children and has influenced an entire generation of illustrators.'

Browne has produced 39 much-loved picture books, amongst the best-known are the magical Gorilla, Willy the Wimp and Zoo. In 2000 he received the highest international honour for illustration, the Hans Christian Andersen Award, for his services to children's literature, the first British illustrator ever to win the prize.

Browne is a really charming author, modest and engaging. Questioned by children involved in the search for the new Laureate after the announcement, he admitted: 'No, I never had a burning desire to do children's books, I wanted to be an artist... My first picture-book wasn't very good, but then I met my editor, Julia McRae at Walker Books, and she taught me everything I know. Now I'm paid for doing what I love. I'm very, very lucky.'

The new Children's Laureate has announced that he will make picture books the main focus of his laureateship: '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.'

The Children's Laureates have done a spectacular job of promoting children's books and reading. Although it is a huge mark of distinction to be invited to take on the role, it's also an enormous amount of work. Originally suggested by the poet Ted Hughes, the Children's Laureates serve for two years and it's a real roll of honour: Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen. Rosen, the outgoing Laureate, has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of children's poetry and picture books. He was instrumental in setting up the new Roald Dahl Funny Prize and is currently heading a new campaign to get children reading, Just Read.

This is a theme which was picked up by Toby Bourne of Waterstones, the sole sponsor of the Children's Laureate, who said that all the laureates had 'pushed the issue of reading up the agenda'. And that's really the point of the appointment, to trumpet the fantastic array of children's books which are available, and to focus adults and children on the life-changing joys of reading.