Winner - David McKee
Earlier this year, children’s publisher Andersen Press asked us, “what better year to honour the living legend that is David McKee?” His books are the backbone of Andersen, which added: “In our minds he is not only the illustrator of this year, but every year!” Hear, hear to that.
McKee is beloved of generations of children as the creator of more than 50 picture books, starring Elmer the elephant, time-travelling adventurer Mr Benn, childlike King Rollo, and including dark comedy classic Not Now, Bernard. In 2019, his most famous character celebrated its 30th anniversary with Andersen Press. The iconic tale of the patchwork elephant, with its distinctive, colourful graphics and gentle message of inclusion and self-acceptance, remains as popular as ever, published in over 50 languages. The celebratory anniversary edition alone sold over 40,000 copies in 2019.
This year marks 40 years of Not Now, Bernard, and next year is the 50th anniversary of the iconic “Mr Benn” on the BBC. But this isn’t just a reward for longevity. McKee remains a mainstay of the Nielsen charts, and in 2019 Elmer’s sales through Nielsen grew 38% year on year; they have risen by 165% in the five years since the 25th anniversary. Anderson was right: there is no better year to name David McKee Illustrator of the Year.