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Runners line up for children's laureate

The late Ted Hughes presided in spirit as 19 top writers and illustrators jumped the first hurdle en route to the children's laureate award.

Culture Secretary Chris Smith announced the nominations beneath the benign gaze of Hughes's creation, the Iron Man, who appears on the official laureate poster.

The former poet laureate was a driving force behind the children's laureate's appointment which will be made by the Princess Royal next May. Shortly before his death last month, he wrote seeking sponsorship to Tim Waterstone, the head of the bookstore chain.

The International Board on Books for Young People panel, which drew up the nominations list, now has until January to arrive at a short list. The main challenge will be the dual nature of the laureateship. As well as an award recognising the lifetime achievement of an individual children's writer or artist, it is a two-year job - "both an honour and an ambassadorship", the Culture Secretary said at the launch in London on Saturday.

In return for Pounds 10,000, the recipient will be expected to raise interest in children's literature and poetry, tour schools and libraries and give lectures and interviews.

"We are going to make the laureate work hard," confirmed Tim Waterstone. Some nominees, such as Alan Garner, Charles Causley, William Mayne and Raymond Briggs, have made a major contribution to literature but keep a low public profile.

Chris Smith said the creation of the post was "a key step towards building a reading society, taking children's books into the mainstream where they may be discussed and enjoyed".

The IBBY panel includes teachers, parents, librarians, critics and writers.

NOMINEES FOR THE JOB

Allan Ahlberg

Quentin Blake

Raymond Briggs

Anthony Browne

John Burningham

Charles Causley

Peter Dickinson

Anne Fine

Michael Foreman

Alan Garner

Pat Hutchins

Dick King-Smith

Joan Lingard

Jan Mark

William Mayne

Michael Morpurgo

Philippa Pearce

Philip Pullman

Brian Wildsmith

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