The new children’s laureate Chris Riddell said he supports campaigns for illustrators to gain equal credit with writers.
In an interview with The Bookseller magazine published today (12th June), Ridell said Sarah McIntyre, who spearheaded the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign, is “amazing”.
He likened her partnership with Philip Reeve to his work with Neil Gaiman, pointing out that in these cases, where a writer and illustrator work together to develop an idea, the final books have “shared ownership”.
Riddell thinks there is a growing emphasis on illustrators in the children’s book world at the moment and would love his fellow artists to get involved with his plans to encourage more children to draw. “I meet such wonderfully talented illustrators at festivals such as Hay… If we could all work together that would be wonderful.”
During his tenure of the laureateship, Riddell will keep a “laureate log”, which is a sketchbook filled with drawings of people he meets along the way, sharing pictures on social media and via Booktrust channels, and will encourage children to have sketchbooks themselves.
“When kids ask if I have tips on becoming an illustrator or an artist I always say get a sketch book or a note book,” he said. “It’s a way of starting to think visually. When my kids were little we used to sit down and they would draw in my sketch book and I would draw the background, or do some shading. I want to talk about families drawing, and kids forcing theirparents to draw with them.”
Other possible initiatives in the pipeline include live drawing events, something he said was inspired by a conversation with Waterstones, and an illustration resource for libraries and schools.
Another focus of his laureateship will be libraries, in particular school libraries. “When I was asked to be laureate I knew I wanted to celebrate libraries. I want to ask if people know their school libraries and their librarians? Let’s make the book space in schools a really important place. I want to meet people on the cutting edge of this work.”
Riddell is the ninth children’s laureate and follows in the footsteps of Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Rosen, Anthony Browne, Julia Donaldson and Malorie Blackman.