Philip Pullman and Axel Scheffler have been named Author and Illustrator of the Year respectively at The British Book Awards 2018.
Returning to the British Book Awards' roster is "old favourite" Author of the Year, which has been awarded to Pullman, in part for the publication of "event book of the year", La Belle Sauvage (David Fickling Books/Penguin Random House Children’s).
Presented as an "equel" to the earlier His Dark Materials titles, La Belle Sauvage gave Pullman his first ever Official UK Top 50 number one, with 71,568 copies sold in its first part-week on sale. It stayed in the top five of the hardback chart for 11 weeks—from publication right through to the end of the year—and was the 10th-bestselling book of 2017. It was the fastest-selling children’s audiobook ever, and PRH Children’s fastest-selling e-book. It won the Waterstones Book of the Year—the first children’s title to do so—and in total the hardback edition sold 305,000 copies in 2017, generating £3.8m.
The title also "cemented Pullman’s reputation as a writer who spoke to both adults and children, a writer who could please critics and book-buyers, with a book that could sell in outlets across the trade", said the judges. To date, Pullman has published 33 books, and he is now among the top 10 all-time bestselling children’s authors in the UK, and sales of all his books amounted to 526,000 copies, with a value of £5.7m through Nielsen UK Bookscan, in 2017. His life sales now stand at 6.8 million copies, for a value of £47.7m.
The judges also praised Pullman's commitment to authors and campaigning, which they said made him the "standout choice" for this award. He has served as president of the Society of Authors since 2013, taking vocal positions on the importance of paying authors fairly, the value of independent bookshops and literacy.
Meanwhile, Scheffler was named the first ever Illustrator of the Year, an award introduced to highlight the contribution made by artists to books and the book eceonomy.
Scheffler has been illustrating books since 1988, when he illustrated a new edition of Helen Cresswell's Middle-Grade classic The Piemakers. His first picture book, You’re a Hero, Daley B! by Jon Blake, followed in 1992, the same year that he first collaborated with the writer Julia Donaldson on A Squash and a Squeeze. He has since illustrated more than 100 books for a range of different publishers including Scholastic, Macmillan and Nosy Crow.
In 2017 Scheffler generated sales of £9.5m through Nielsen BookScan from the 60 different titles that he has in print in the UK. It is through his ongoing collaboration with Donaldson that he has become one of the UK’s most well-known illustrators. From The Gruffalo to Stick Man, Scheffler’s interpretation of Donaldson’s characters are "instantly recognisable, turning the stories into modern classics", said the judges.
The duo’s titles have sold 48 million copies worldwide. The Gruffalo (Macmillan) has been published in 75 languages and all of Scheffler’s picture books are steadily being translated worldwide. Five of these books have been made into films, most recently "The Highway Rat".
The judges highlighted the illustrator's dedication to important causes including his active support of literacy charities, environmental and conservation charities and charities offering support for the refugee crisis. Further, through political artwork, exhibitions with fellow European illustrators and media interviews, Scheffler seeks to promote the benefits of a compassionate world, particularly in the face of Brexit. Scheffler "articulates how children’s books are one of the UK’s most successful exports, and how their universality demonstrates the power and importance of sharing stories across continents", added the judges.
Discussing the two awards, Nigel Roby, publisher and chief executive of The Bookseller, said: "It's a truisim, but without authors and illustrators there are no books to publish, no books to sell. They are the stars. We must cherish them."