The judges

17th June 2005 at 01:00
Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen (pictured below), collaborating as Write Away celebrity judges for the third successive year, make a great team. They are both at the top of their profession, one being the newly appointed Children's Laureate and the other having just won an award for Michael Rosen's Sad Book. But more important than their success is their genuine interest in young people and their generosity in talking to and encouraging young writers.

Jacqueline Wilson's books deal with gritty subjects - bullying, divorce, life in care, bereavement - but always with good humour and accessibility.

She recently celebrated the astonishing figure of 20 million sales of her books and is still the most borrowed author from libraries. Of her more than 80 books published so far, The Story of Tracy Beaker, about a spirited survivor of fostering, is perhaps the best known, as it has given rise to five television series. But there have been plays (most recently Bad Girls and Midnight) and films (The Illustrated Mum) too and enough readers to lead to mammoth book-signing sessions. She told Geraldine Brennan in a recent Friday interview (May 27) that, during her laureateship, she would like to encourage the publication of classics in more child-friendly editions and she is an advocate of reading aloud: "That's how children get hooked for life. You can't stress the joy of reading aloud too much." She is enthusiastic about the Write Away entries and says she enjoys reading work by children that they have written "openly and directly".

Michael Rosen is best known for his humorous verse and many of his books have wonderfully funny titles, such as Centrally Heated Knickers, Lunch Boxes Don't Fly and You Wait Till I'm Older Than You. He has written some 150 books, for adults as well as children, and is also well known as a radio broadcaster. His attractive and accessible Shakespeare: his work and his world is an excellent introduction, followed last year by Romeo and Juliet in the same style. His latest, Michael Rosen's Sad Book, deals sensitively but not sentimentally with the subject of bereavement. It is beautifully illustrated by Quentin Blake, with whom Michael shared an English Association award. He says that DH Lawrence is an influence on his own poetry and that one of the most important things for children at school is that there should be space for them to talk and write about things that matter to them. This is why he is such a longstanding supporter of Write Away.

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