A tour of former Children’s Laureates and a celebratory anthology are just some of the plans being put together to mark next year’s 20th anniversary of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate role.
Ten authors and illustrators have held the post of UK Children’s Laureate: chronologically, Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Rosen, Anthony Browne, Julia Donaldson, Malorie Blackman, Chris Riddell and Lauren Child. They will join forces for a League of Laureates tour across the country, as well as a celebratory event at the Hay Festival in 2019 (which runs from 23rd May to 2nd June).
The celebrations are being planned by BookTrust, which organises the appointment of the laureate every two years, in association with Arts Council England and Midas PR. BookTrust director of children’s books Jill Coleman said the charity wants to both celebrate the laureateship and encourage the next generation of creatives. "We want to celebrate the legacy the laureates have left. Each one has done amazing things but together they are a real force," Coleman told The Bookseller. "We want to reinvigorate that force and inspire the artists of the future."
BookTrust also wants to show the importance of children’s books in our culture, she added. "Children’s books are much more central to our culture nowadays and are an important part of artistic life in this country. Would a footballer 20 years ago have wanted to write a children’s book? I don’t think so. But they do now."
Also as part of the celebrations Walker Books is releasing a gift anthology with stories, pictures and poems by the laureates, entitled Flights of Fancy: Stories. In it, illustrations and inspirational anecdotes from the 10 Children’s Laureates will encourage children to produce their own creative work. The book will be released on 7th February in hardback and will contain, among other things, an original story from Jacqueline Wilson and insights from Quentin Blake into the stories behind some of his pictures. Part of the proceeds from sales of the book will go to BookTrust.
Jane Winterbotham, publishing director at Walker Books, said she was "thrilled" to be publishing the book. "In this original and entertaining anthology, the laureates have shared their own techniques and inspiration, to help children unlock their own imaginations and produce their own work. This book will be treasured by anyone with a passion for children’s books, and will help to inspire the next generation of authors, illustrators, poets and possibly even a future laureate."
Additionally, Puffin will celebrate the anniversary by inviting laureates past and present to take part in its webcast Puffin Virtually Live, which reaches around 75,000 children, according to the publisher. Two webcasts, one in spring and one in summer, will be broadcast live to classrooms around the world, said BookTrust.
"We want to get children into books, and Puffin Virtually Live will reach children all over the country, including those who won’t have heard of the Children’s Laureate," said Coleman.
Waterstones, which sponsors the Children’s Laureateship, will host an event for children with some of the laureates, as well as a trade party at its Piccadilly flagship in central London.
The Children’s Laureate position was dreamt up in the nineties by Ted Hughes, who was Poet Laureate, and children’s writer Michael Morpurgo, in order to celebrate and honour outstanding achievement in the field of children’s books. The scheme officially launched in 1999, when Blake was the first person to take on the role.