Anthony Browne, the internationally feted picture-book author and illustrator, is the sixth children's laureate.
Outgoing laureate Michael Rosen praised Mr Browne's work. He said: "He has a whole other frame of reference; he is really passionate about learning how to look."
The two-year post recognises an author's or illustrator's lifetime achievements and provides a platform to raise the profile of children's literature.
Mr Browne, 62, who is best known for his depictions of gorillas, has a realistic yet surreal style that includes visual jokes and puns.
"Picture books are special," he said. "They are not like anything else. Sometimes I hear parents encouraging children to read `proper' books, books without pictures, at an earlier and earlier age.
"This makes me sad, as picture books are perfect for sharing. Picture books are for everyone at any age, not books to be left behind as you grow older."
He said all five-year-olds say they can draw, but as children grow up they become less confident about it.
The children's laureate post was set up 10 years ago. The idea came from Ted Hughes, at the time the poet laureate, and his neighbour, author Michael Morpurgo.
The laureate is selected from nominations from organisations and from children through the Booktrust website.
Andrew Motion, former poet laureate and chair of the selection panel, said: "Anthony Browne's artistic world is a moral one of kindness and integrity.
"He is one of the great ambassadors of art for the next generation."
Two million free books will be given out to five-year-olds and 11-year- olds in the UK from September under the Booktime and Booked Up initiatives, which are run by Booktrust.
Anthony Browne profile, pages 24-25.