Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ten years of the Children's Laureate

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A Platform discussion took place yesterday, Monday 27 April, on the Olivier stage to celebrate the first decade of the Children's Laureate. I sneaked a quick photograph - being well aware that you never take pics in the theatre - and so it is rather unclear but does show from left to right Professor John Mullan and then in order of their laureateshipness (is there such a word?) Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen. The new laureate will be announced on Tuesday 9 June.

The session began by John Mullan asking the Laureates in turn how they approached the task. The range of approaches was fascinating.

Quentin Blake: He decided not to take up the limited time by talking to schools but to talk to teachers, parents, publishers indeed anyone involved in the children's book world in an attempt to get everyone to take the business seriously. He published the excellent "Words and Pictures" (Jonathan Cape) and a fine exhibition of illustrations from A-Z at the National Gallery.

Anne Fine: "You were free to do things that would normally be a cheek...". She set up the home library set of book plates www.myhomelibrary.org where you can still access book plates provided by some the best illustrators around; the Clear Vision Project which included braille picture books; three poetry anthologies "A Shame to Miss" and countless speaking engagements.

Michael Morpurgo: "I had the distinct advantage of being a reluctant reader...and of being a fairly late convert to reading, so I have all the zeal of a convert!" He told tales around the country from the far north to the deep south and abroad from Russia to Soweto.

Jacqueline Wilson: She wanted to emphasise the importance of reading a story at bedtime; appeared in many unexpected for an author places ie. carnivals; took part in the Laura Bush Reading Festival and so visited the White House; visited Buckingham Palace for the 80th birthday celebrations of the Queen and introduced HRH to the range of children's authors present.

Michael Rosen: "I don't really look for dignity and found the post a wonderful challenge... There is a terrific range of children's books available but perversely in schools between the ages of seven and fourteen most are not using books as anything but an optional extra and spend their time working on worksheets". He urged everyone to visit the free exhibition at the British Library "Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat - 250 years of poetry from children"; talked of meetings with ministers/teachers/librarians you name it and of his forthcoming (August from Puffin)"Michael Rosen's A-Z The Best of Children's Poetry from Agard to Zephaniah".

The time - all too brief - then opened out into a discussion of adaptations of books whether by illustration, television, film, cartoon or theatre.

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