Michael Rosen
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Ex-Laureate

People keep asking me what it’s like to be the ex-laureate and I’m pleased to say that it feels fine. I don’t feel as if someone’s chopped anything off me, I don’t feel kicked-out, signed-off, pensioned-off or put in the sidings. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that Anthony Browne is doing it. And that’s for several reasons: firstly because he’s been a great favourite of my children. I can remember my older ones poring over books like ‘A Walk in the Park’, looking and looking, laughing and laughing, as they started to find more and more new things in Anthony’s pictures.

Then, I always like it when children’s books do something new or odd or challenging and Anthony is someone who has dared introduce one of modern art’s great inventions into children’s books: surrealism. Surrealism puts what we think, not just what we see, into pictures. As a result, things that we don’t think of as alike, sometimes sit there side by side within the same picture. Then it’s our job as a looker at pictures to figure out why they’re these things are there together. Or, if you don’t like ‘figuring’,  you can just stare at it, and see what kinds of ideas and feelings pop into your head. And that great movement found its way into children’s books, almost solely thanks to Anthony.

He’s also a great champion of all drawing and painting. He wants us all to do it. He won’t let us say, ‘Oh I can’t draw. I can’t paint.’ He says just the opposite: we can all do it. I remember him saying to me once in an interview, that we have a lopsided idea of literacy. We think that literacy is only or entirely about reading words. No, he said, we read pictures as well. And this is something we should learn about too. And it’s not helped by giving children rubbishy little ‘hack’ drawings, the kind you get on exam papers, tests sheets and worksheets. That’s just as bad as giving children rubbishy little stories. We should, he said, be giving children the best pictures and art we can find, and we should encouraging children to talk about it.

So, I think we’re in for a great time, with Anthony as Children’s Laureate.

 

 

 

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