To celebrate 20 years of the U.K.’s Children’s Laureate program, the first 10 to be appointed to the position offer remarks on their craft.
The roster of contributors is heavy with honored names, bookended by Quentin Blake, the first laureate (1999-2001), who writes about stylistic relations between pictures and story, and Lauren Child (2017-2019), describing how her stories develop in a dynamic mix of writing and drawing. In between, Michael Rosen grows a poem from one funny-sounding word, “Bobble”; Michael Morpurgo ruminates on finding just the right voice; Jacqueline Wilson presents a short story in diary form; and Chris Riddell visually lays out a five-point strategy for making drawing a constant daily activity. Malorie Blackman, the only person of color in the lineup, follows a set of brainstorming questions with a fable written from three points of view. Some contributions, such as Morpurgo’s tale of a heroic librarian, “I Believe in Unicorns,” Anne Fine’s selection of original bookplates by various eminent illustrators, and Anthony Browne’s Shape Game, have appeared elsewhere in print or online, but the personal statements are new and the contents assembled in an appealingly informal way that invites younger audiences to the party as well as readers who have grown up with these authors and illustrators. Riddell’s caricatures at the end are alone worth the price of admission.
A genial salute to and from the original corps of children’s-literature ambassadors. (Anthology. 10-13)