writing

Our Fab New Children’s Laureate

Malorieblackman_2579295b

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.

A rather rubbish picture taken when we were travelling on the train from the Kids' Lit Quiz Final together.

A rather rubbish picture taken when we were travelling on the train from the Kids’ Lit Quiz Final together.

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.

17 thoughts on “Our Fab New Children’s Laureate

  1. Here, here to all of that, Fiona! Malorie looks sets to make this a fantastic year for children’s and young adults’ fiction. The fact that she particularly champions teens is so heartening in a society that is all out to demonise them much of the time. Maybe she is the Laureate to persuade the press to have regular, grown-up sized reviewing slots for children’s and YA fiction, rather than reserving such slots for biannual round-ups? It is about time that the children’s/teen market was given the same respect and attention as the adult one. Especially since the better writing is often to be found in the younger end of the bookshop…

  2. Oh I so agree with you, Anna! Well, she’s tackling a lot, but who knows? Maybe she will. So much is changing now; not so long ago, ‘genre’ fiction wasn’t taken seriously by the broadsheets, but now crime novels, graphic novels etc are given space. So are kids’/YA, but they’re kind of lumped together, and reviews are given tiny wordcounts.

  3. To be honest, I don’t really follow the news and therefore don’t know much about what Malorie is doing… but, I do know that I would reaaalllyyy NOT like it if my local library closed down!! So, I think it’s good to stop libraries closing. 🙂

    • HI DayDreamer, well if your local library is under threat, make sure you kick up a stink about it! It does make a difference. Complain to your MP, get involved in the Campaign for the Book.

      • No, my local library is doing quite well I think – it’s been modernised recently and is really lovely, although seems to get really hot inside!! 😀

  4. I agree completely with her about Michael Gove! My whole class (and my teacher) disagree with his choices. Some of them have started a blog and they’ve got a SI Count (stupid idea count) where they count how many times he basically has a stupid idea about a subject he knows very little about. The count is quite high now. I love Malorie Blackman’s books! I think she’ll make a great Children’s Laureate.

  5. I adore Malorie Blackman and am totally thrilled she got to be Laureate. I love how much she has already addressed and I just know she’s going to do a fab job.
    As I work in a public library and we are already facing staff and budget cuts, for me that is the most important issue she has addressed. Libraries are very important, and the staff essential.
    I look forward to seeing what else she shall achieve.

    • She did not waste any time at all! That’s what is so great. I really think she’ll do a lot to raise awareness and challenge perceptions (the idea that libraries are no longer needed, for example) and will keep on doing so.

  6. For anyone who is intrested, I know that at one point Micheal Morpugo,Catherine Cookson, Jacqueline Wilson and James Patterson were all childrens laureates( obliviously not at the same time)

  7. Sorry danilocolourful ,but I have to correct you there…the list is: Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Rosen, Anthony Browne, Julia Donaldson and now of course Malorie. Definitely no Cookson or Patterson in there! (have they even written for kids? Don’t think so). Anyway, thank you for joining in the general yay-for-Malorie chorus: I think there are probably several people who would also deserve the post, but she is applying herself with such vigour, it is refreshing.

    • Oops sorry, my bad. I thought on the wikipedia page it said that about laureates, but here is what is said instead:
      In 2004 she replaced Catherine Cookson as the most borrowed author in Britain’s libraries, a position she retained for four years until being overtaken by James Patterson in 2008.

      Oopsy!Sorry for the confusions!:(

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