Pullman, Donaldson, Riddell and Atwood in New Year's Honours

Pullman, Donaldson, Riddell and Atwood in New Year's Honours

His Dark Materials creator Philip Pullman has been knighted in the New Year's Honours list. Pullman, who published the acclaimed first volume of his new The Book of Dust trilogy last year, and who has been a campaigning president of the Society of Authors, was knighted for services to literature. 

Canadian author Margaret Atwood was made a Companion of Honour, for services to literature.

Meanwhile Gruffalo creator Julia Donaldson received a CBE for services to literature while former Children's Laureate Chris Riddell was awarded an OBE for services to illustration and to charity. Black and British author David Olusoga also received an OBE, for services to history and community integration. 

Jessica Kingsley, founder of leading autism publisher Jessica Kingsley Publishers, now part of Hachette, received a British Empire Medal for services to people with autism.

Pullman said he was "very surprised and honoured" to be offered a knighthood. "I believe the profession of letters should be recognised as having a proper place in the life of the nation, along with science, and sport, and music, and scholarship, and many other human activities," he said. "Many people I admire, such as Quentin Blake, Ellen MacArthur, Chris Hoy, Jacqueline Wilson, Nicholas Hytner, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Bryn Terfel, Ray Davies, Mary Beard — far too many to list — have been happy to accept a knighthood or damehood, and I am proud to be in their company.

"I’m immensely grateful to those who have worked so hard over many years to edit, publish, illustrate, and sell my books, and to the Society of Authors, which does so much for the profession of authorship. I’m most grateful of all to those who continue to read my books, and I hope they don’t have to work as hard as those who edit them."

Donaldson also spoke about her award, saying: “I am delighted to receive this honour, and regard it as an acknowledgement of the dedication of all those who work in the world of children’s books – the authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, librarians, teachers and organisations and charities that promote the enjoyment of reading". She added: "I also want to take this occasion to highlight how the access of children throughout our country to reading and libraries is endangered with libraries shutting and the jobs of many professional librarians lost. This trend needs urgently to be reversed if we want today’s children to have the same opportunities my generation had to become widely-read, informed and imaginative adults.”

Anthony Forbes Watson, m.d. at Pan Macmillan, which has published Donaldson for 20 years, said: “This award is so very well deserved; Julia, alongside her husband Malcolm, works tirelessly to reach her young readers and there isn’t a family who doesn't know her books and rhymes off by heart.” He called Donaldson, translated into approaching 80 languages, "a global phenomenon."

Riddell commented on his award: "I feel immensely proud to be recognised in this way and rather humbled when I think about the truly important job done by teachers, librarians and my fellow writers and illustrators. We want to put books into the hands of children so they can discover the great gift that is reading for pleasure. In these uncertain times we need great children's books more than ever!” Forbes Watson paid tribute to Riddell, saying that his "extraordinary talent for illustration as live performance continues to thrill fans of all ages; his talent is unique in the UK children's book world and his award-winning children's books have built him a large, loyal and devoted audience."

Meanwhile Neil MacInnes, president of Libraries Connected (previously the Society of Chief Librarians), received an OBE, for services to public libraries. A British Empire Medal was awarded to librarian Ian Anstice, the indefatigable compiler of Public Libraries News, which has charted cutbacks to public library services over many years; Anstice was also given his award for services to the public libraries sector.

The book world honours were included on a list which also saw model Lesley Lawson, a.k.a. Twiggy, made a Dame, while Michael Palin received a knighthood for services to travel, culture and geography.