A blast of Blake

29th November 2002 at 00:00
Quentin Blake's two years as the first Children's Laureate left its mark on the book world and beyond as dramatically as the Big Draw transformed a quarter mile of subway with the public's artwork (another first during his period of office - he is also patron of the Campaign for Drawing). The "progress" recorded in Laureate's Progress (Jonathan Cape, pound;14.99) weaves back and forth, making creative detours in the style of Blake's own characters.

There are glimpses of the two exhibitions that marked the laureateship: Tell Me a Picture in the National Portrait Gallery, where Blake was allowed to draw on the walls, and A Baker's Dozen, a touring show that celebrated his own favourite contemporary illustrators. The same delight in celebrating fellow artists is reflected in the current Magic Pencil show, at the British Library, of which he is co-curator.

He gave 30 public lectures between 1999 and 2001 (having thought before his appointment that one might do the trick) and published nine books, as well as producing artwork such as the 1999 poster (above) for an education magazine. He met thousands of children but prioritised telling adults about the relationship between text and image in children's books, and records only one school visit: his annual appointment at the leavers' assembly at his local school, Bousfield primary in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea: "By 11 o'clock I am on my way home and feeling ready for the next drawing and that the world would be better if it was a bit more like Bousfield."

Later, an encounter with teachers in France leads to a project with contributions from 1,800 French pupils. The result, The Sailing Boat in the Sky, was published in the UK last year. We're almost ready for our third Children's Laureate (Anne Fine signs off in May) but the joie de vivre of the first post-holder is with us in these pages.

Magic Pencil is at the British Library until March 31 2003. See www.bl.uk

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