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Monday, June 11, 2007

Brits Get There First, Again!

No word yet on who will be the U.S.A.’s first “children’s literature ambassador” but the U.K. has just named its fifth children’s laureate: Michael Rosen, author of Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, a rare picture book willing to explore and embrace the darker side of children’s emotional range, among other titles.

Rosen was appointed to the post at a ceremony in London this morning. Rosen received a £10,000 (about $20,000) stipend for the post, which he holds for the next two years.

Following illustrator Quentin Blake and authors Anne Fine, Michael Morpurgo and the current children’s laureate, Jacqueline Wilson, Rosen is the first poet to become children’s laureate. Rosen has set his mission as children’s laureate to make poetry as accessible as possible. “I think poetry for children needs to be saved from the cold dissection table of right and wrong answers and put back into rooms and halls full of wonder, compassion, haunting, laughter, music and rhythm,” said Rosen.

Rosen first poetry collection, Mind Your Own Business, was published in 1974, and he has since published more than 140 books including poetry, picture books and nonfiction; his next is a biography of Roald Dahl. His classic picture book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, won the Nestle Smarties Grand Prize (now there’s an award I’d love to win - yum! plus dig the double ententre in winning The Smartie Prize!) in 1989. In addition to his writing, Rosen is well-known for his work as a live performer, broadcaster, teacher and critic. He is a familiar radio voice in the U.K., where he regularly hosts BBC radio programs.

Apparently, we’ll finally get our own American version of the children’s laureate in January, 2008. Not that we’ll be able to catch up with those cheeky Brits, who will forever be five (and a half!) appointments ahead of us.

Still, this one is very deserved, so heartiest congratulations to Rosen.

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