Elmer and Mr Benn creator David McKee wins BookTrust's Lifetime Achievement Award

Published on: 23 Medi 2020

The creator of Elmer, Mr Benn and Not Now, Bernard has been recognised for his incredible body of work.

David McKee

David McKee has won the prestigious BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award, becoming the seventh creator to do so.

David, who has a career that spans over 60 years, is known for creating beloved children's classics including ElmerMr Benn and Not Now, Bernard - stories that are still beloved by young people today.

He says his love of stories and drawing stems from his early childhood but never believed he could be an illustrator, instead taking up teaching. But a course at Plymouth College of Art encouraged him to begin creating cartoons, and he started selling drawings to magazines and newspapers.

His first book was Two Can Toucan, published in 1964, and David has since gone on to write and illustrate over 50 picture books for Andersen Press.

On winning the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award, David said:

'The shock is hard to get over, and it still doesn't quite seem possible as I've never been one for the spotlight or winning awards but it's truly fantastic, and even though I still don't really believe it, I'm accepting it anyway, with great pleasure.'

David McKee with his Lifetime Achievement Award

Authors and illustrators celebrate David McKee

He also spoke about the power of children's books, saying: 'Children's books can contribute to changing attitudes and are instrumental in helping them shape their view of the world.

'Picture books are a child's first glimpse into the art world and in some way, especially with some of my books, the illustrations are actually more important than the story.'

David follows in the footsteps of previous BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award winners Shirley Hughes, the late Judith Kerr, Raymond Briggs, Helen Oxenbury, the late John Burningham and Jan Pieńkowski.

He was chosen to receive the award by a panel of judges: chair Nicolette Jones, author and illustrator James Mayhew, storyteller Jan Blake, author Katherine Rundell and writer SF Said.

David McKee in his studio

Nicolette said: 'I'm delighted to have chaired the panel which awarded this year's BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award to David McKee. He has an amazing track record since 1964, with books such as King Rollo, Two Can Toucan and of course Elmer.

'David McKee understands the importance of always paying attention to children and what he gives them is first-rate. I hope readers continue to enjoy his marvellous work for years to come.'

Meanwhile, BookTrust's CEO Diana Gerald said: 'David McKee and his patchwork elephant Elmer are synonymous with childhood and loved by children and parents alike.

'BookTrust is delighted to present David with our Lifetime Achievement Award after such an incredible contribution to children's literature that crosses cultures, generations and languages.'

And Andersen Press founder Klaus Flugge, who first published David's books, said he is 'very proud' to have worked with him for over 50 years.

'David's is a singular voice and a shining light in children's books that highlights inclusivity, diversity and parts of our world that are not always present in children's books,' he said. 'Not only am I fortunate to be his publisher, he is a great friend, and there is no-one more deserving of this honour.'

Elmer books have sold over 10 million copies worldwide, while Not Now, Bernard - which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, has sold more than 5 million copies. Mr Benn will mark 50 years since first appearing on the BBC in 2021, with Andersen Press re-issuing the original book.

Download the full press release

David McKee interview

Read our interview with David McKee, as he reflects on his career and reacts to winning the Lifetime Achievement Award.

David McKee booklist

Check out our list of some of our favourite David McKee books, from Elmer to Mr Benn and Not Now, Bernard.

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