'I feel like he's been with me my whole life': Authors and illustrators pay tribute to our 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, David McKee

Published on: 23 September 2020

Elmer and Not Now, Bernard author David McKee has been awarded the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award 2020.

Throughout his long career, David has inspired countless authors and illustrators. Here's what some of them had to say...

David McKee at his studio.

Chris Riddell, author-illustrator and Waterstones Children's Laureate 2015-17

I first met David when I was a young illustrator, and I was reading one of my favourite books by David – Tusk Tusk. I would like to say to David, keep producing these marvellous works and congratulations of a very well deserved BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award.

Cressida Cowell, author-illustrator and Waterstones Children's Laureate

You were so much part of my childhood and your work is iconic, and a big part of family life for many. Not Now Bernard is my absolute favourite. A book represents a magical door, and at the end of every story by David, there’s a bit of magic.

His career is testament to his imagination and skill.

Joseph Coelho, poet and playwright

Not Now Bernard has always been once of my favourite picture books – who would have thought you could get away with eating your protagonist!

Sarah McIntyre, author and illustrator

I didn’t grow up with David’s work because I didn’t grow up in the UK, but came to it as a grown up and marvel at his approach to creating the story. You can see all sorts of traces of McKee in my studio, thanks for being so amazing David!

SF Said, author and Lifetime Achievement Award judge

Delighted to see David’s McKee’s extraordinary body of work being recognised with a Lifetime Achievement Award. I was transfixed as a child by the colours and enthusiasm.

There’s a celebration of difference: difference is something to actively celebrate whatever it may be.

Nicolette Jones, Chair of Lifetime Achievement Award 2020 judging panel

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.

The Conquerors

Ed Vere, author-illustrator, Lifetime Achievement Award judge and former BookTrust Writer in Residence

An incredible talent who has been dazzling us for many years. I grew up adoring his books and TV programmes. He really is one of the leading lights of children’s literature and this award could not be more well deserved!

Ken Wilson-Max, author and illustrator

What a career for someone whose books are not yet out of print. With David being in his 80s, we can only hope there will be more work to come, congratulations!

Michael Morpurgo, author and Waterstones Children's Laureate 2003-05

It would be enough of a lifetime achievement award to have created Elmer for the world, but David has done a great deal more than that. So many bedrooms in this country and all over the world are full of his stories; maybe it’s Mr Benn stories, maybe it’s Not Now Bernard and maybe that ubiquitous patchwork elephant or many, many more.

When I think of the millions of people and children and teachers and grandparents who have adored his stories, I know that no-one has deserved this award more.

Lauren Child, author-illustrator and Waterstones Children's Laureate 2017-19

I’m so thrilled David has won the Lifetime Achievement Award, he really deserves it. I feel like he’s been with  my whole lifetime because I read his books as a child and they were very important to me. Not only because I love the illustrations which were something I’d never seen before. But also because he was always on the child’s side and you felt like these books were for you. As an illustrator I find his work completely inspiring and the design of it is exquisite.

Watch the video below: 

Check out our David McKee booklist

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

Read David's interview

David McKee was interviewed by Emily Drabble about a life in picture books and what it means to him to win the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Meet the wonderful winners of our annual Lifetime Achievement Award.

Find out more