Entertainment & Arts

Children's laureate Chris Riddell spells out joy of doodling

Chris Riddell's books include the Goth Girl series Image copyright PA/Chris Riddell
Image caption Chris Riddell's books include the Goth Girl series

Illustrator and author Chris Riddell wants to encourage "drawing every day" as part of his new role as children's laureate.

The ninth laureate, Riddell, creator of the Goth Girl series, has taken over from Malorie Blackman.

"I'm interested in illustration in all its forms," he said.

"Not only in books for children but in posters, prints and performance, as a way of drawing people into books and stories."

Riddell, 53, who is also a political cartoonist, was officially appointed on Tuesday at a ceremony at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) in London.

He said he planned to put "visual literacy" at the heart of his term of office, which runs until 2017.

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Media captionNew Children's Laureate Chris Riddell says he wants children to draw every day

He intends to keep an online visual diary of his time in the role, the Laureate's Log, and encourages families to keep their own visual diaries.

Speaking to the BBC, Riddell said: "There comes a point where children decide that they can't draw. I want to say, 'don't stop drawing - carry on, and do a sketch a day.'

"I think stories can grow out of the visual. It can be an engine for literacy."

Riddell praised the UK's "brilliant heritage" of children's books such as Alice in Wonderland - now in its 150th anniversary year. "It is the first truly modern children's book - the illustrations are extraordinary and have entered the public imagination."


Image copyright Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell

  • author and illustrator of the Goth Girl novels, the first of which won the 2013 Costa Children's Book Award
  • two-time winner of the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration in children's books (Pirate Diary, 2002, and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver, 2004)
  • illustrated Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, The Sleeper and the Spindle, and Fortunately the Milk
  • work with long-time collaborator Paul Stewart includes Muddle Earth, Edge Chronicles and Wyrmeweald series
  • political cartoonist for the Observer
  • lives in Brighton

He also highlighted the importance of school libraries. "There's a danger we can become complacent and we don't need to worry about them.

"School librarians play such an enormous role in bringing children to books they are going to enjoy. It's a magic alchemy when that works."

Image copyright Bloomsbury
Image caption Riddell's work includes several books by Neil Gaiman

The laureate role, which has bookseller Waterstones as its lead sponsor and comes with a bursary of £15,000, is awarded every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children's books.

Previous laureates include Quentin Blake, Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson.

In his inaugural speech on Tuesday, Riddell said: "I am humbled to take on this role after the giants that have come before me.

"I want to put the joy of creativity, of drawing every day, of having a go and being surprised at what one can achieve with just a pencil and an idea at the heart of my term as laureate. I want to make sure people have fun whilst addressing fundamental issues I care about passionately."

Riddell ended his speech by donning a Zorro-style mask and dubbing himself The Doodler - the "masked champion of artistic ambition".

Abigail Campbell, who chairs the Children's Laureate steering group, said: "Chris is a creative powerhouse and clearly excited at his new position's potential. He will be listened to not just by the young people he meets, but by opinion-formers and policy-makers at the highest level.

"He will inspire children and families in the work he does over the next two years. The panel cannot wait to see children's books' new superhero in action."

Jasper Sutcliffe, head of buying at Foyles, said Riddell was "a fantastic choice" as the new laureate.

"With his experience of publishing and illustrating over a number of different genres and age ranges, Riddell is perfectly placed to continue the brilliant work that Malorie Blackman has done in developing the readers and book buyers of the future."

Previous Children's Laureates are:

  • Malorie Blackman (2013-15)
  • Julia Donaldson (2011-13)
  • Anthony Browne (2009-11)
  • Michael Rosen (2007-09)
  • Jacqueline Wilson (2005-07)
  • Michael Morpurgo (2003-05)
  • Anne Fine (2001-03)
  • Quentin Blake (1999-2001)

Do you doodle every day? You can share your doodles by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

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