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Fine on the shortlist

THE three names on the short list for the first Children's Laureate award - Quentin Blake, Peter Dickinson and Anne Fine - are all school-library favourites with 80 years of publishing for children between them. Now a nationwide network of schools will be co-opted to assess their continuing child appeal, Geraldine Brennan writes.

Quentin Blake, the authorartist famous for titles including Mister Magnolia and The Fantastic Mister Fox as well for his long-standing collaboration with Roald Dahl, last year celebrated 30 years of working on picture books.

Peter Dickinson's writing career started with a trilogy, The Changes, published in the early Seventies. His later work including Eva and A Bone from a Dry Sea is mostly for teenagers. Last year he published The Kin, a four-part epic novel set at the dawn of the human race.

Anne Fine publishes fiction for a wide age range laced with sharp observation on family life and classroom dynamics. Her latest novel was Loudmouth Louis, about a small boy who won't stop talking. Before that was The Tulip Touch, a hard-hitting account of a troubled teenager's anti-social behaviour.

The pound;10,000 laureateship, to be presented by The Princess Royal in May, will be awarded by a panel of children's books specialists chaired by James Naughtie. It is sponsored by booksellers Waterstone's. The panel will take into account reports from children and teachers in 24 schools, both primary and secondary. It will then be a biennial award to celebrate a writer or illustrator's lifetime achievement.

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