Monday, 8 June 2015

Thank you, Malorie! by Keren David

Today is the last day of Malorie Blackman’s reign as Children’s Laureate, and what a glorious two years it has been.

She’s brought fantastic energy, humour and a massive load of good sense to the job, standing up for diversity in children’s fiction, promoting young adult fiction and  urging adults to respect children and teenagers' taste in reading.  
She set up the hugely popular Young Adult Lit Convention, spoke up for libraries, and initiated Project Remix, a chance for young writers to be inspired by classic fiction to create their own work.
She’s been to countless schools, and my son’s was one of them. He came home brimming over with enthusiasm for ‘this brilliant woman who was so interesting and had some great stories.’   I heard Malorie speak at STREAM, a great event held at Streatham and Clapham School, where she drew a big audience. Her story of being discouraged by a narrow-minded teacher, but succeeding anyway was completely inspiring  - all around me I could see teenagers given hope and determination to make the most of their futures.

During her two year term as Laureate  some people seemed determined to misunderstand her, seeing controversy in her common sense, and she attracted some wrong-headed and unpleasant criticism.  But every insult was balanced by a massive amount of air-punching and head-nodding by authors, librarians and many more, whenever she gave an interview or made a speech.

My favourite Malorie moments included the interview when she stood up for popular teenage fiction, like Twilight, saying: ‘My strategy is to say to a child 'if you love vampire stories then have you thought about Frankenstein?'

"You don't say that the only good books were written 50 years ago.

"It's like saying a book should be worthy - 'I deem this worthy and this is not worthy.'

"You mustn't be prescriptive because it closes down a lot of reading.’

And I cheered every time she pointed out the need for more diversity in children’s literature, including the interview with Sky News  when she called for more black characters in children’s books, saying: ‘ I think there is a very significant message that goes out when you cannot see yourself at all in the books you are reading.I think it is saying 'well, you may be here, but do you really belong?' 
I know that Malorie’s wisdom bolstered my confidence as I worked on my book, This is Not a Love Story  and I am sure I am not the only one. 
One thing I’ve noticed during Malorie’s laureateship is that authors have grown in confidence about doing things for themselves, and not waiting for the book festivals and reviewers to notice them. Emma Pass and Kerry Drewery’s UKYAX events, and Alexia Casale’s up-coming UKYAShot have taken on Malorie’s mission to spread the word about YA fiction at bookshops and libraries. Malorie may not be Laureate any more, but the seeds sown will flourish. 
 So, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Malorie and I’m sure I speak for most of the British children’s book world. And the best of luck to your successor - they've got a hard act to follow! 
PS. Completely unrelated, but as part of the Crouch End Festival, Karen McCombie and I will be chatting at Pickled Pepper Books, Middle Lane, London N8 tomorrow, June 9 at 7pm. Admission is free, it would be lovely to see you there. 


catdownunder said...

And thanks to her from Downunder as well. She has been an amazing source or inspiration here as well.

Pippa Goodhart said...

Yes, hooray and very well done to lovely Malorie!

Catherine Butler said...

Hear, hear!

Joan Lennon said...

I see your hear, hear, and raise it.

Sue Purkiss said...

Yep - Malorie has been a breath of fresh air!

Sheena Wilkinson said...

Very well said, Keren! Malorie has been fab -- incidentally, she was the very first professional writer who ever looked at my work and told me it was potentially publishable, which was very significant for me.

Emma Barnes said...

Absolutely agree - especially her championship of libraries. She has pointed out time and again that it is not good enough that prisons are legally obliged to provide libraries - but schools are not!

Penny Dolan said...

What's impressed me is how Malorie's worked to keep up a constant and active "Laureate" presence throughout the two years, even though it must have cost her much peace and quiet at times. Huge congratulations and admiration. Definitely a hard act to follow - but she'll be an inspiration, too!

Candy Gourlay said...

Yes and yes and yes! Thank you, Malorie!

Candy Gourlay said...

Yes and yes and yes! Thank you, Malorie!

Candy Gourlay said...

Yes and yes and yes! Thank you, Malorie!