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The new Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell. (Pic: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)
The new Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell. (Pic: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)
The new Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell. (Pic: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

First established in 1999, the Children’s Laureate is a post awarded by the British organization Book Trust to an exceptional children’s author or illustrator for a period of two years, in which they act as the public face of children’s literature in the U.K. It’s not an official title conferred by the Queen in the way that the traditional Poet Laureate is—although one of the people who came up with the idea, Ted Hughes, was the U.K.’s Poet Laureate at the time—but nevertheless, it’s seen as just about the highest honor a British children’s author can receive.

Following the most recent holding of the role by Noughts and Crosses author Malorie Blackman, the post has today been handed over to the author and illustrator Chris Riddell. Aside from his two-decade career as a cartoonist for the Observer newspaper, Riddell is perhaps best known for his delicate and elaborate work illustrating The Edge Chronicles, a fantasy-steampunk set of trilogies that began in 1998 and continues to this day. He’s also won two Kate Greenaway Medals—the highest award available to U.K. illustrators—for Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver and Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter; and he drew Neil Gaiman‘s The Graveyard Book in 2008.

Upon receiving the award, Riddell produced a special illustrated tribute to his forebears, who include Quentin Blake, Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson:

Meanwhile, outgoing incumbent Blackman—who wrote a special 50th Anniversary Doctor Who short story in 2013—marked the handover with a suitably appropriate Youtube video:

Blackman was also one of several fellow authors who praised the appointment. “It couldn’t have gone to a better person,” she said. “I love the way he’s going to bring the emphasis back to illustration because I think there’s still this negative feeling about illustrations in older books — we don’t really have them in this country — and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”

Riddell has already stated that a particular focus during his two years in the role will be to promote the role in British culture of libraries and librarians. “Librarians are the custodians of literacy,” he said. “they lay the stepping stones that start the journey from one book to another, widening horizons and the reading experience.”

See more:
Neil Gaiman: “There Are No Bad Authors For Children”
10 British Children’s Books That Every Young American Kid Should Read
Five British Champions Of Children’s Literature

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By Seb Patrick