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A Short History of Children’s Laureates

If you’re into books, it’s highly likely that you’ve heard of the coveted post of Children’s Laureate. In short, it’s a position awarded every two years to an author who has really made a difference in children’s literature. Generally, authors are nominated by esteemed groups of librarians, critics and other writers, but recently children have been able to vote for their own favourite authors online – a true testament to how much this award focuses on the needs of children. 

Beyond its beginnings during a discussion with poet Ted Hughes and acclaimed writer Michael Morpurgo (who would go on to serve in the post between 2003 and 2005), there have been 10 children’s laureates since the post’s conception in 1999. 

But who has served as the winner of the award and received the £15,000 bursary and silver medal that goes along with it? Here we list all of the Children’s Laureates and discuss their contributions to the world of children’s literature. 

Quentin Blake (1999 – 2001)

The incredibly famous illustrator was the first-ever recipient of the award when it was first launched, and his repertoire of work requires little introduction. Reputed for bringing the quirky characters of Roald Dahl (and later, David Walliam’s) stories to life, Blake has also worked with an impressive 80 authors on over 250 novels. His accomplishments as one of the world’s most recognised illustrators don’t stop with the Children’s Laureate award. Prior to this, he was awarded an OBE and has won countless other titles such as the Has Christian Anderson Award for Illustration to name but a few.  

Anne Fine (2001 – 2003)

Well known for writing books for adults alongside writing for children, Anne Fine’s most recognisable works come in the form of Goggle-Eyes, Diary of a Killer Cat and of course, Madame Doubtfire. The latter was so popular that it was made into the iconic feature film Mrs Doubtfire just six years after the book was launched, starring the affable Robin Williams in the title role. 

Michael Morpurgo (2003 – 2005)

Before becoming the well-loved children’s author that he is today, Sir Michael Morpurgo really did his homework by serving as a teacher for just over ten years. Starting with It Never Rained: Five Stories in 1974, the work of Michael Morpurgo has been estimated to have touched 300+ publications, which have been translated into 25 different languages.

Together with his wife Claire, they set up a charity in the form of Farms for City Children, which aims to introduce inner-city children to the world of agriculture by offering them a chance to see how a rural farm works for a week. He received a knighthood in 2017

Jaqueline Wilson (2005 – 2007)

A firm favourite among pre-teens the world over, Jaqueline Wilson’s appointment as Children’s  Laureate in 2005 came as no surprise. With classics such as The Story of Tracy Beaker, The Illustrated Mum and The Lottie Project, the author is well known for the way her stories delicately handle the intricacies of the minds in young girls and dousing the pages of her stories with humour that still sees her top best-seller lists even today. 

Michael Rosen (2007 – 2009)

Michael Rosen, the acclaimed author who has had his hand in over 140 books, not limited to his own. His prose, perhaps most famously, came in the form of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, which has graced the bookshelves of countless children since it’s release in 1989. In between working as a political journalist, tv and radio presenter, he also found time to write favourites such as Mind Your Own Business and Wouldn’t You Like To Know. 

Anthony Browne (2009 – 2011)

The second illustrator to be awarded the coveted position of Children’s Laureate is Anthony Browne. Known for the almost photographic like precision of his illustrations, most often of children or apes, he began his career as a medical and greeting card illustrator. Among his most popular works are the stories about Willy, a young chimp who has appeared in several of Browne’s works. 

Julia Donaldson (2011 – 2013)

There’s no such thing as a Gruffalo? Well, thanks to Julie Donaldson, there is! Not limited to the creation of the aforementioned Gruffalo, Julia has been responsible for over 100 children’s books and plays, cementing her as one of the most popular children’s authors to date. Her love of prose and song is evident throughout her work, producing books with accompanying CDs, and her love of art shows in her stage performances, musicals and patronage of the Artlink Central, which encourages the arts in schools, hospitals and prisons. 

Malorie Blackman (2013 – 2015)

Popular for the way her books address social and racial issues in a way that young people can relate to, such as Noughts and Crosses (which saw a role reversal where white people were a minority within her books), Malorie Blackman has produced over 60 books for a range of reading ages and abilities. Her work Pig-Heart Boy was even adapted for television and won a Bafta!

Chris Riddell (2015 – 2017)

The third illustrator to win the acclaim of Children’s Laureate is Chris Riddell. Heavily inspired by the illustrations within other children’s classics such as Alice in Wonderland and Winnie The Pooh, Chris’ experience illustrating for some of the world’s most popular authors such as Neil Gaiman, Michael Rosen and Russell Brand knows no bounds. His Goth Girl series has won him numerous awards too!

Lauren Child (2017 – 2019) 

The latest illustrator to be awarded the accolade, Lauren Child is perhaps best known for her work with siblings Charlie and Lola, who has been adapted into a hugely popular TV show. She is also responsible for animating the hugely popular girl-spy Ruby Redfort, as well as cheeky schoolgirl Clarice Bean. So distinguished is her artwork that she became a trustee of Quentin Blake’s House of Illustration! 

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