sure we will do lots together; we always have.’
And will he be wearing the Gruffalo costume?
‘I think we would both like to concentrate on other things now. I do get rather tired of being called Mrs Gruffalo or whatever.’
Any plans for threatened public libraries?
‘I don’t think many people realise that even under the boom years libraries were still contracting. I have done so many library events and have seen evidence of this lack of investment. So when people ask whether the money needed to keep them all open should come from education or health spending, my answer is simply ‘Yes!’ Because if you sell a library, you’re never going to get that building back. And some of those building are so lovely; they have been specifically designed as libraries, and wouldn’t be suitable for any other use. There is nothing wrong with keeping open buildings that other people sometimes describe as currently old-fashioned – look at St Pancras Station, once about to be torn down and now once again a fantastic attraction. I personally think it was a mistake for libraries to have gone so far down the computer path. I was once writer in residence at a library where the children’s section had been given over to computer use. Working with children when other users wanted to get on with screen card games or whatever was no fun.’
It is now time for Julia to go to another event before catching a train back to Glasgow, her home for many years, making her the first ever Children’s Laureate to be based in Scotland. More about her future plans can be found on www.childrenslaureate.org.uk
. There you can read about all her ideas for encouraging drama, music and story creation in schools. She also wants to help with producing more signed stories for deaf children, knowing some of their problems from her own experience of minor hearing loss. Aged 62, and last year the most borrowed author in children’s libraries, Julia – for many years right at the top of her particular game – is an excellent choice for the job. With her genius for getting through to children and then getting the same children to get through to her in return, her tenure promises to be excitingly creative as well as very productive. n
The Children’s Laureates 1999-2001
Quentin Blake This inaugural laureateship focused on the importance of illustration. Quentin Blake’s articles for BfK included Children’s Book Illustration: a Separate Story (No. 121, March 2000) on the links between illustrating for adult and child audiences and A Sailboat in the Sky (No. 127, March 2001) on involving 1,800 French schoolchildren in producing a book about humanitarian issues.
Anne Fine As well as working on picture books for the blind, Anne Fine’s focus was on the importance of libraries, both school and public, but also on the value of children having their own ‘home library’ with books that they own. Anne explained her thinking in Everyone’s Home Library in BfK No 133, March 2002.
Michael Morpurgo Michael Morpurgo, who, with Ted Hughes, had come up with the idea of a Children’s Laureateship and helped to bring it about, emphasized the importance of storytelling during his tenure.
Jacqueline Wilson The importance of reading aloud to children – and not just small children – was the focus of Jacqueline Wilson’s laureateship which also brought about the publication of Great Books to Read Aloud compiled by Julia Eccleshare. Jacqueline Wilson reflected on her laureateship in On Being the Children’s Laureate (BfK No 162, 2007).
Michael Rosen Among the highlights of Michael Rosen’s laureateship were the launch of ‘The Roald Dahl Funny Prize’ and ‘The Poetry Friendly Classroom’ webpage devised to enable teachers to feel more confident in introducing children to poetry. Michael Rosen chronicled his energetic laureateship in his ‘Laureate Log’ in the pages of BfK from No. 167, July 2007 to No. 177, November. 2009.
Anthony Browne Anthony Browne campaigned for more recognition for children’s illustration and illustrators. His articles on aspects of picture book illustration appeared in Bfk No 180, 2010 (on sources of inspiration) and No 182, May 2010 (on Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick).
Nicholas Tucker is honorary senior lecturer in Cultural and Community Studies at Sussex University.
The Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate 2011-2013 is managed by literature charity Booktrust www.childrenslaureate.org.uk
Books for Keeps No.189 July 2011 9
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