It does NOT feel like two years since I wrote this blog post about Malorie Blackman becoming Children’s Laureate and this one about why I think she was a great choice, let alone four years since I wrote this blog post about Julia Donaldson becoming Children’s Laureate.
Anyway, today, as many of you probably know, Chris Riddell was named the new Children’s Laureate in a ceremony at BAFTA. I’d hoped to attend, but got snarled up with work stuff in the office, and so, very sadly, I didn’t make it.
I know I’ve been around the block a bit, but, once again, it’s just lovely to see someone I’ve had a publishing relationship with in this role. I first published Chris with Paul Stewart when Macmillan released their hilarious Muddle Earth books. (I am smiling all over again at memories of the Lord of the Teaspoons and the wizards Eric the Mottled, Ernie the Shrivelled, Melyvn the Mauve and Colin the Nondescript.)
I then acquired for Macmillan from Chris the lovely, quirky Ottoline books and some picture books too.
When we came to look for an illustrator for the covers and chapter header for Nosy Crow’s Witchworld and the forthcoming Witchmyth and Witchwild, Chris was the very first person to spring to mind. He did a fantastic job, and, with characteristic generosity, threw in some character illustrations that we used at the beginnings of the books. With their black and neon covers, and their neon-sprayed page edges, they’re really handsome books.
Witchworld and a proof cover of Witchmyth
In the context of the growing emphasis of the need to acknowledge illustrators, with the #picturesmeanbusiness campaign leading the charge, it’s great, of course, to have someone as capable at both illustrating and writing as Chris Riddell. That complete fusion of verbal and visual imagination result in some of his most arresting ideas, like William Cabbage in the Costa prize-winning Goth Girl, who becomes visible as he pulls away from the wall he’s been leaning against and “the yellow wallpaper … rippled like the surface of a pond”. William has, he says, “a way with blending in with my surroundings. It’s called chameleon syndrome.”
William Cabbage, a boy with chameleon syndrome
Sophisticated and witty, the books Chris writes as well as illustrates have the parent who is reading aloud as much as the child as their intended audience, and he embraces parody and wide-ranging references in his books in a way that reflects his trenchant political cartoons in the Observer.
Chris has already declared his focus on visual literacy and creativity, and will emphasise the meditative pleasure of creating a drawing every day.
His website is a witty delight (I have just finished laughing at She Stoops to Conkers in the Illustrations to Unwritten Books section, and he posts new pictures regularly on Twitter.
You can read more about his appointment here.