'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Australia's Brand New Children's Laureate

Kids’ Book Review congratulates beloved author Jackie French, who was today announced as the new Australian Children’s Laureate.

As an acclaimed, bestselling author of more than 140 books, and with a writing career spanning twenty-five years, Jackie French is in a perfect position to take over from the inaugural Children’s Laureates, Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor, as ambassador for Australian children’s literature for the next two years.

In a special event at the National Library of Australia, an audience of book lovers was treated to a lovely performance of ‘We Are the Young’ by a choir of Canberra school children, before actor, director and former Play School presenter, Rhys Muldoon officially revealed the identity of the new Laureate and presented Jackie with the Magpie Award, which is a symbol of the Laureate.

Canberra Girls Grammar sing

Jackie will travel around the country and overseas promoting the transformational power of reading, creativity and stories. Her theme for her time as Laureate will be ‘Share a Story’, and she started by sharing her passion for this with everyone at the event. Here are some highlights from Jackie’s speech ...

“A book will give you hope. A book will give you so much more. A book will save your life.”

“When I was a teenager and things were very, very bad, my wonderful, extraordinary teacher gave me books and I think those books saved my life, and they certainly led to where I am now. When things are bad a book can give you hope, and I hope in the next two years I can give just little bit back of what that wonderful, extraordinary woman gave to me.”

“When you read fiction, your brain actually grows - the number of neurons actually increase. You change your brain structure, just like when you train for football and your muscles get bigger …. That’s what you have to do with reading muscles, with creating muscles, because the more you use it, the more you create, the more you hope, the more you dream, the bigger those muscles are going to be. Books give you that.”

“Never, ever, ever underestimate the power of a story.”

“You are going to get a laureate who is not very steady on her high heels. You are going to get a laureate whose hair is always a mess and she keeps brushing it away. You are going to get a laureate who cannot spell. But you are also going to get one who is going to fight for the things that she believes in. Every child in Australia has a right to have a book and a bed to read it in. Every child in Australia has the right to be taught to read - read words.”

“I don’t know a single Australian children’s author who doesn’t work for nothing, for getting books to kids, or for children’s literacy. We are nice, but we are also so much more. We fight for what we believe in. Australian literature is one of the most extraordinary. It is creative, it is new, it is bright, it has somehow escaped the Disney-fication of so much children’s literature overseas, where the bestsellers are just spin-offs from movies. Look, Australian children’s books make really good movies, but they were written as books first.”

“We punch well above our weight on the world stage. We are talking about overseas major award winners ... we are talking about people who top the bestseller lists and sales all over the world, and they come from Australia. We are talking about a major part of the Australian economy. Never, ever, ever underestimate children’s literature.”

“Let us never ever forget the power of books, and if anyone tonight is cold or scared, remember the stories and have hope.”

Congratulations, Jackie! We look forward to seeing, hearing, and reading about your work over the next two years, and we give thanks to our formidable Laureates, Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor for the amazing work they have undertaken as our first Children's Laureates.

Stay tuned for an exclusive Laureate interview with Jackie in KBR's bumper, festive newsletter, hitting your inbox on 15 December. You won't want to miss it. Subscribe now--it's free!

For more information about the Children’s Laureate role, visit the Australian Children's Laureate website or you can follow @ozlaureate on Twitter and like Australian Childrens Laureate on Facebook. Visit Jackie French's website for more information about her books and writing.

You can also listen to Louise Maher's transcript of the event for 666 ABC Radio here in Canberra. 

Text - Sarah Steed
Photos - Tania McCartney