Malorie Blackman, author of Noughts & Crosses and its sequels, as well as many other books for young readers, has been appointed the Waterstones Children’s Laureate in the U.K. Blackman, who takes over from Julia Donaldson, is the eighth recipient of the two-year appointment, which is awarded to an author or illustrator in recognition of outstanding achievement in the field of children’s books. She was presented with her medal and a £15,000 check at a ceremony at Kings Place in London at noon local time on June 4. Speaking to PW about her appointment, Blackman said, “I am honored to have been chosen as the eighth U.K. Children’s Laureate. My aim is to try and widen the reading gaze and broaden the reading horizons of every child, particularly by championing diverse literature forms, diverse writers and illustrators, and diverse genres. In particular I intend to be a passionate advocate for public libraries. I wouldn’t have become an avid reader or an author if it hadn't been for my local library as a child, which introduced me to the life-changing world of books and literature. I hope all my U.S. readers will respond to and spread the word regarding my campaign to encourage online creative responses to stories.”
Following the tradition of previous Children’s Laureates, who include Quentin Blake, Michael Rosen, and Michael Morpurgo, Blackman is planning to use her appointment to emphasize the importance of making reading part of all children’s lives. For younger readers her campaign will focus on urging parents and teachers to spend ten minutes a day sharing a book, while for teenagers, she said, she is determined to make reading “irresistible” by encouraging them to embrace all forms of literature and to generate their own creative responses. Blackman, who started her career as a computer programmer, is passionate about the role that technology plays in making literature come alive for a generation of digitally aware young people.
The selection panel, chaired by Channel 4 News anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy, received recommendations from a range of national reading and book industry organizations. Kate Agnew of the Muswell Hill Children’s Bookshop in London, who represented the Children’s Laureate steering group on the selection panel, told PW, “The committee felt on the one hand, Malorie would be a strong and very positive ambassador for children’s books, and on the other, that children really enjoy and respond to her writing, whether it’s the domestic dramas of her younger books or the huge issues raised in her teenage fiction. It’s also a choice that we felt would be warmly welcomed in schools.”
Agnew, an independent bookseller, added, “I think Julia Donaldson has done a magnificent job, raising the profile of picture books especially. It will be really positive now to have an author who speaks out predominantly to fiction readers. As a bookseller I think someone who is so well-known and admired as a writer of teenage fiction will be great for reminding us all that teenagers can, and do, still really enjoy a good read – and a good chat about it afterwards! Her widespread appeal across the age ranges is definitely good news.”