Queen of the library

13th February 2004 at 00:00
Her young readers have made Jacqueline Wilson the nation's most borrowed author

Top children's author Jacqueline Wilson is today crowned queen of library loans, ending Catherine Cookson's 17-year reign as the nation's most borrowed novelist.

Miss Wilson is the only writer for children or adults to notch up more than two million loans, figures released by the Public Lending Right show.

Her books occupy places three to nine in the top 10 most borrowed children's books. The Story of Tracy Beaker comes behind Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The Public Lending Right pays authors 4.85p per loan up to a maximum of pound;6,000 and the key to success in its charts is not only popular appeal but a large backlist - lots of books to borrow. While JK Rowling's Potter books have been in the children's top five since 2000, she is at number 42 in the overall list.

Miss Wilson has written almost 80 children's books over 30 years, after a career in magazine journalism which included a stint as teen magazine Jackie's agony aunt. She has a reputation for compassionate, highly readable and often funny books about children facing difficulties such as bullying, poor relationships at home, homelessness and the care system.

Her success is evidence that children are keen library users; her books are borrowed by children for themselves rather than chosen by adults, and do not share the appeal to adult readers of JK Rowling and Philip Pullman.

Each of the two million loans represents a child (most likely a girl aged eight to 14) taking a book off the shelf. Mick Inkpen, RL Stine, Janet and Allan Ahlberg and Lucy Animal Ark Daniels are also children's choices in the overall top 10, with Roald Dahl at number 11.

Miss Wilson, awarded an OBE in 2002 for services to children's literature, is passionate about reading and libraries. In 2001 she launched and became patron of Orange Chatterbooks, a network of reading groups for under-12s based in UK public libraries.

Recent successes include The Illustrated Mum, which has won the Guardian Children's Fiction Award, the Blue Peter Award and Children's Book of the Year awards. It has been adapted for television, as has The Story of Tracy Beaker - with a special edition on February 22 in the BBC's Taking Care season about children in public care.

Orange Chatterbooks information line 07815 610252 or Orange Community Affairs on 020 7984 2000

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