Lauren Child unveiled as new children's laureate

Lauren Child unveiled as new children's laureate

Lauren Child has been announced as the 10th Waterstones Children’s Laureate. The author and illustrator of the Charlie and Lola series (Orchard Books) revealed she wants “to inspire children to believe in their own creative potential”.

Child was presented with the medal and £15,000 cheque from outgoing laureate Chris Riddell at an afternoon ceremony at City Hall in Hull, City of Culture 2017. Child said she would like to “celebrate random acts of imagination” and focus on building stronger links between children’s literature and other art forms such as fine art, film, music, television and design.

Child said: “I want to inspire children to believe in their own creative potential, to make their own stories and drawings and ignite in them the delight of reading for pleasure. In an increasingly fast paced world, children need the freedom to dream and imagine; to enjoy reading, drawing and telling their own stories without value judgement or restraint”. 

The former artist’s assistant to Damian Hirst, who won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2000 for I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato (Orchard Books), added: “I am honoured to be chosen as the Waterstones children’s laureate and proud to be following in the illustrious footsteps of such giants of literature as Sir Quentin Blake, continuing the league of laureates’ great work in elevating the status of children’s books in the UK’s cultural landscape”.

Child told The Bookseller that she wants to elevate the “art form of children’s books”, which she feels are the poor relation to adult novels and fine art”. She said: “We can be very sniffy about it but I think on so many levels, illustration is very important because it’s often the first time a child will have a piece of art up close.”

The role is awarded every two years to an author or illustrator of children’s books to “celebrate outstanding achievement in their field and recognise the important contribution children’s literature makes to cultural life”. Child’s tenure will run until June 2019, which will mark 20 years since the post was inaurgurated by Quentin Blake and since Child published her first book.

Child revealed that  that Blake was a huge inspiration to her. “When I was little, it never occurred to me to think of authors and illustrators as actual human beings," she said. "Then I saw Quentin on television live drawing on “Jackanory”, so he became a real-life illustrator to me and that made it something it was possible to become.” Other previous post-holders include  Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Michael Rosen and Malorie Blackman.

Waterstones is the lead sponsor of the role, with other sponsorship and funding coming from children’s publishers and Arts Council England. Literature charity BookTrust continues to manage the award.

Waterstones m.d James Daunt said that children’s books are in the “rudest of health” helped by the “exceptionally talented and generous authors with the Waterstones children’s laureate playing a huge part as a catalyst and inspiration”.  He added: “We could not be more delighted and grateful than to have Lauren Child pick up this baton.”

Chair of the Waterstones children’s laureate steering group, Abigail Campbell, said: “Lauren Child is utterly brilliant. Loved by adults as well as children, her work is witty, innovative and absolutely unique. We're thrilled to announce her as the 10th Waterstones children's laureate”.

BookTrust’s chief executive Diana Gerald said each of the Laureates had been "wonderfully different from each other", but shared a core belief about the power of reading, and its "capacity to change children’s lives for the better.”

Child was presented with the specially commissioned solid silver Waterstones children’s laureate medal and a £15,000 bursary cheque by Riddell. The ceremony host was CBBC Blue Peter presenter Radzi Chinyanganya, one of the selection committee. Other members included poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, children’s buyer at Waterstones Florentyna Martin and the Waterstones children’s laureate steering Group.

Child’s Charlie and Lola books were first published by Hachette Children’s Group’s imprint Orchard Books in 2000 and later adapted into an animated TV series for CBeebies which ran 2005 to 2008. Her biggest UK seller is Clarice Bean (Orchard Books) a picture book and novel series for children and young teenagers. Altogether Child has sold 2.7m books for £14.8m through Nielsen BookScan.

Read our interview with Lauren Child about being the new children's laureate here.