Onjali Q. Raúf announced as BookTrust Writer in Residence

Published on: 08 March 2021

Today, the award-winning author and activist, Onjali Raúf takes up the post as the new Writer in Residence for BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity. The Boy at the Back of the Class author takes over from picture book writer Smriti Halls.

Author Onjali Q Rauf, photographed by Rehan JamilPhotograph: Rehan Jamil

Raúf, a best-selling children’s author, writes thought-provoking books that tackle the issues of today. Her titles include The Boy at the Back of the Class, in which a young boy from Syria is befriended by his classmates in the UK; The Star Outside My Window, which features the theme of domestic violence; The Night Bus Hero, which contains themes of bullying and homelessness; and her 2020 World Book Day title follow up to The Boy at the Back of the Class, The Day We Met the Queen.

The BookTrust Writer/Illustrator in Residence project has been running since March 2009 and has featured several authors and illustrators including Cressida Cowell, Sita Brahmachari, Patrick Ness, Polly Dunbar, Bali Rai, Matt Haig, Laura Dockrill, Chris Riddell, Sarah McIntyre, Philip Ardagh, Taran Matharu, Nadia Shireen, Candy Gourlay, Phil Earle, Ed Vere and Smriti Halls. The residency encourages each writer or illustrator to explore topics that they are passionate about, with past residents exploring themes such as the power of stories, diversity in children’s literature and the importance of libraries.

Onjali is also the founder of the NGO Making Herstory, a women's rights organisation tackling the abuse and trafficking of women and girls in the UK and beyond. She is also the founder of O’s Refugee Aid Team, which provides support for refugee families surviving in Calais and Dunkirk. Rauf will be using her time as BookTrust’s Writer in Residence to highlight literary inspirations related to a different issue each month - from human rights and the environment, to poverty and racism. Onjali will introduce us to all the books that have inspired her, learn about the books which have inspired readers to take action, and share the experiences of real-life amazing people who are doing their bit locally to tackle the biggest global issues of our day.

Talking about her residency, Raúf said:

“I have always wondered what being a ‘writer in residence’ actually means, and can hardly believe that I now get to find out thanks to the generous hearts at BookTrust - an organisation filled with so many cool bookworms, it makes being a bona fide book-anything cool too!
Receiving the gift of this residential key from the one and only Smriti Halls, I am deeply excited to be spending the next six months shining a light on those authors whose magical story-telling powers have made (and still make) me want to get up and act on an issue that matters to me deeply: issues that I hope will interest and matter deeply to you too.
And whilst I can’t wait to share the stories, both real and imaginary, that inspire me, I am also keen to expand my own horizons. Because what I really want to do, is learn from you too and hear about all the s/heroes in your neck of the woods working hard to make the world a kinder, better place to be in for all.
So come join me as of 8 March, this year’s International Women’s Day, and let’s get thinking, asking, and championing amazing books written by amazing people, together!”

Diana Gerald, CEO BookTrust said:

“We're so excited to welcome Onjali as our newest Writer in Residence. It's been a hard year for children and families and we're proud to support Onjali on her mission to encourage young activists, showcase those who are making the world a better place and get children excited about books and reading.”

Download the press release

Meet our latest Writer in Residence

Every six months, BookTrust appoints a new Writer in Residence to write blogs, run competitions and give us their own unique perspective on the world of children's books.

Find out more