I love the fact that we have a Children’s Laureate. It is, of course, a relatively new thing: whereas the first British Poet Laureate was ‘crowned’* in the 15th century by Henry VII, we didn’t have a Children’s Laureate until 1999 (Quentin Blake). Half a millennium gap!
Anyway, the point of this blog post is just to have a general rave about Malorie Blackman. I’m delighted by her appointment for a number of reasons. It’s been several years since we had someone who writes for older kids/teens, so I think that’s quite important right now. You almost want there to be another term for the position – ‘Children’s’ Laureate may not feel that relevant to the average 13-year-old – though I think Malorie is famous and well-loved enough that it doesn’t matter.
I was impressed that Malorie wasted no time in challenging Michael Gove for his snobbish attitude to the sort of books he feels kids should be reading, and for the narrowness of the new history curriculum he has introduced. I cheered her on when she started tackling library closures, and this is clearly something she plans to continue campaigning about. Hurrah! And I applaud her for speaking out about the important role sex in YA fiction can play in helping young people understand that aspect of their lives, and for encouraging ethnic diversity in children’s books generally. She is of course our first black Laureate, and it would be great if that inspires more people of Afro-Caribbean or Asian origin to become writers. As Malorie says, when she was a child, she couldn’t find any black characters in the books she read. That has already changed to a degree, but there is a lot of room for improvement. Most of all, I’m delighted because I really like her: she is a hugely talented writer, and she takes no nonsense from anyone.
So: which of the issues Malorie has tackled so far means the most to you, and why?
* Whether figuratively or literally, I wouldn’t know, but the term ‘laureate’ refers to the kind of laurel wreath worn by Roman rulers.