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Aussie News and Views – Children’s Laureates

July 3, 2017


There has been a Children’s Laureate in Australia since 2008. The position is currently held by the illustrator and author, Leigh Hobbs. The first ever UK children’s laureate was Quentin Blake, in 1999. The UK and Australia have strong historical and linguistic connections, so it’s not surprising that Leigh Hobbs often spends time travelling and working in the UK.

As I have a cross-global love of both Australia and the UK as well, I thought it would be interesting for the UK blogosphere to read about Leigh and the Aussie Children’s Laureate program. Leigh has many bestselling picture books, based on strong characters that are incredibly popular with children and adults. There is Mr Chicken and his travels, naughty Old Tom, Mr Badger, who was inspired after a trip to the UK and Horrible Harriet, just to name a few of his humorous and subversive characters.

Watch this You-tube clip to see first hand the way he works, and how he creates his memorable and hard-hitting characters. I especially like ‘Mr Chicken lands on London’!

Leigh Hobbs and the outgoing UK Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell are both passionate about libraries and librarians. The UK and Australia have both experienced cuts in government funding to libraries and closures. So the work they do in raising awareness, supporting libraries and reading is important in keeping functioning libraries open and available to all.

At the Hay Festival in May 2017, Chris and Leigh had a joint event entitled “Ottoline and Mr Chicken” where they discussed and demonstrated their work. I think collaborative events like this are important as they are inspiring and entertaining.

International events like the Bologna Book Fair are also a great opportunity for Laureates from around the world to compare ideas and inspire one another.

From left, PJ Lynch (Ireland); Maria Baranda (Mexico); Leigh Hobbs (Australia); Chris Riddell (UK); Anne-Marie Körling (Sweden) and Jan Paul Schutten (Netherlands).

The high-profile work of a Laureate, whether in Australia or the UK, is vital in promoting and maintaining libraries, children’s literacy and a vibrant publishing industry. In modern society where technology, media, high-pressure schooling all compete for children’s time in busy lives, engagement with reading, and the enjoyment of a great story can only be a good thing !

Check this website for a look at a previous Australian Children’s Laureate, Boori Monty Pryor. The oral storytelling tradition is very strong among Australian Indigenous communities and I think this is a tradition from which we could all learn more.

“The future of Australia lies in imagination. To have a creative economy we need curious children and to have curious children we need children who are not only able to read, but children who WANT to read. To build a culture of reading, we need a nation of story-tellers.” –
Boori Monty Pryor, Australia’s Inaugural Laureate, 2008.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2017 5:47 pm

    Thanks for this Nikki. I agree that oral storytelling is really important and a skill that is being squeezed out of UK classrooms.

    • Nikki Bielinski permalink
      July 11, 2017 9:16 am

      Thanks Lynda. I think oral storytelling is great for building confidence on many levels. Tackling a blank page can be daunting!

  2. Elizabeth Hawksley permalink
    July 5, 2017 9:40 am

    Loved the interview with Leigh Hobbs. He comes across as a man who works to his own rules – and his view of the world is spot on as far as children are concerned. Very impressive. More power to his elbow

    • Nikki Bielinski permalink
      July 11, 2017 9:20 am

      I agree, Elizabeth. His characters come to life and familiarity very quickly once you open one of his picture books.

  3. July 7, 2017 3:23 pm

    Many thanks for sharing the video, Nikki – great insight into his working methods.

    • Nikki Bielinski permalink
      July 11, 2017 9:21 am

      Cheers N4 Sketch Pad 😉 I find the illustrators work also inspires my writing.
      Good luck with yours!

  4. Judy Cumberbatch permalink
    July 11, 2017 3:01 pm

    Its always interesting to read about children’s writing in other countries and cultures. With so much happening on our own doorstep, here in London, its easy to forget the creative activity elsewhere.

  5. Buzz About Books permalink
    July 20, 2017 11:12 am

    So impressed by Leigh Hobbs who I’d not come across before. Thank you so much for this interesting and varied post.

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