New laureate is the popular choice

27th May 2005 at 01:00
TES books editor Geraldine Brennan says Jacqueline Wilson's fame will help get her message across as she tries to be cheerleader for all children's authors

The appointment of Jacqueline Wilson as the fourth children's laureate this week is set to revitalise children's relationships with books on a grand scale.

While the three laureates to date have been significant figures in children's literature (Quentin Blake, Anne Fine and Michael Morpurgo), this latest appointment coincides with a surge in Ms Wilson's already popular appeal with children.

Her book sales have doubled to 20 million in the past two years, she is the most borrowed author in UK public libraries (beating all adult bestsellers) and has attracted more than 1,000 children to a single book signing.

Although the children's laureate is intended to increase appreciation and knowledge of children's literature throughout society and be an advocate for children's books with an adult audience, it is likely that the new laureate's instant rapport with children will also be put to good use.

While she is mostly read by girls, she is also capable of inspiring boys.

Ms Wilson's ideas for her two-year reign are outlined in an interview in The TES's Friday magazine today.

They include an exhibition on the life and work of contemporary children's authors and illustrators, aimed at suggesting new approaches to children struggling with school projects. She also intends to be a cheerleader for the value of reading aloud and for the children's literature classics which she believes need attractive new editions to reach a new audience.

The books should have "really good covers, an introduction by a celebrity and encouraging notes in the margins. Something like, 'there's a really good bit coming' or 'you must read this next chapter'. And summaries for the long descriptive passages where they might flag first time through."

Wilson particularly admires E Nesbit, and told a British Library audience last week: "She liked to buy her clothes at Liberty's, she loved writing for children and she bought a piece of silver jewellery every time she published a book."

The similarly bejewelled Ms Wilson - whose fans enjoy drawing pictures of her wearing her heavy rings - writes a steady two books a year, pitched at either eight-plus readers or 11 to 13-year-olds.

She is highly regarded for her compassionate treatment of sensitive issues that concern children including bullying, bereavement, changes in family life, first love and friendship difficulties.

Most recently, Clean Break, in which she gives herself a cameo role as author "Jenna Williams", told the story of three children coping with their parents' separation.

Bad Girls and Midnight have been adapted for the stage and The Story of Tracy Beaker, the 1992 book about a girl in care has led to a BBC TV children's drama series and a magazine partwork, Totally Tracy Beaker.

* Philip Pullman picked up the worldwide lifetime achievement prize, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in honour of Sweden's most revered children's author, in Stockholm this week. He shares the award with Japanese illustrator Ryoji Arai.

Jacqueline Wilson interviewin Friday magazine

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