BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award

The BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award is given to a children's writer or illustrator whose body of work, in the opinion of the panel of judges, merits recognition for a lifetime's achievement in children's literature.

It is a separate recognition to the Children's Laureate in that it is purely celebratory and is not attached to any wider purpose of promoting children's literature. BookTrust intends it to be awarded to a person who is not likely to become Children's Laureate in the future.

2021 winner: John Agard


Playwright, poet, short story and children's writer John Agard was born on 21 June 1949 in British Guiana (now Guyana), has been awarded the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award 2021.

He worked for the Guyana Sunday Chronicle newspaper as sub-editor and feature writer before moving to England in 1977, where he became a touring lecturer for the Commonwealth Institute, travelling to schools throughout the UK to promote a better understanding of Caribbean culture. In 1993 he was appointed Writer in Residence at the Southbank Centre, London, and became Poet in Residence at the BBC in London, an appointment created as part of a scheme run by the Poetry Society. He also played a key role in the 'Windrush' season of programmes in 1998.

He won the Paul Hamlyn Award for Poetry in 1997 and has travelled extensively throughout the world performing his poetry. His published poetry includes Man to Pan (1982), winner of the Casa de las Américas Prize, Limbo Dancer in Dark Glasses (1983), Mangoes and Bullets: Selected and New Poems 1972-84 (1985) and Weblines (2000). He is also the author of many children's books, including Lend Me Your Wings (1987), shortlisted for the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, and Hello New!: New Poems for a New Century (2000), named by the Poetry Society as a Children's Poetry Bookshelf Best Anthology. He has contributed to, and edited, several anthologies, including The Penguin Book of Caribbean Verse (1986), and is also co-editor of A Caribbean Dozen (1994) with his partner, the poet Grace Nichols, with whom he also co-wrote No Hickory, No Dickory, No Dock in 1991. Their latest collaboration is Full Moon Night in Silk Cotton Tree Village (2016).

John Agard lives in south-east England. His poetry collection We Brits (2006) was shortlisted for the 2007 British Book Awards Decibel Writer of the Year award, and The Young Inferno (2008), a poetic reworking of Dante's Inferno for young people, won the 2009 CLPE Poetry Award. His latest poetry collection for adults is The Coming of the Little Green Man (2017). A further Selected Poems, Alternative Anthem, was published in 2009.

John Agard is one of our finest poets and writers: a national treasure. For over 40 years he has championed poetry in schools, spreading his joyous delight in words and bridging cultures, countries and gaps. Thank you John Agard for making us laugh and making us think.

Read the news story

"We are all creatures of language": Read Emily Drabble's interview with John Agard


Nicolette JonesNicolette Jones (Chair)

Writer, critic and broadcaster

Nicolette Jones is a writer, critic and broadcaster specialising in literary and arts journalism. She has been the Children's Books Reviewer of The Sunday Times for more than two decades, and in 2012 was shortlisted for the Eleanor Farjeon Award for distinguished service to the world of children's books.


Piers Torday


Piers Torday was a theatre and television producer before becoming a children’s author. His book The Dark Wild won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize for 2014.



Candy Gourlay


Candy Gourlay is the author of Tall Story and Bone Talk, and has previously been the BookTrust Writer in Residence.



Frank Cottrell-Boyce


Frank Cottrell Boyce is a screen-writer and novelist. He was a writer for the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony and his book Millions won the Carnegie Medal in 2004.



Darren Chetty

Teacher, writer, researcher

Darren Chetty is a teacher writer, teacher and researcher. He has published academic work on philosophy, education, racism, children's literature and hip-hop culture. He is a contributor to the bestselling book, The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla.


Diana Gerald

Diana Gerald

BookTrust CEO

Diana Gerald joined as Chief Executive in March 2015 and works closely with partners in Government, the Arts Council, publishing, libraries, children's centres, school and local authorities. She is also a trustee of SA-YES, a South African charity which mentors young people leaving care homes in Cape Town.

Reasons to love John Agard

Why so many famous authors love John Agard

"He lights up the world with his words and his love"

Authors and illustrators celebrate the news that John Agard has won the Lifetime Achievement Award, by explaining what he means to them.

Watch John Agard's Storytime

Storytime: When Creature Met Creature

Watch John Agard read his picture book, When Creature Met Creature.

Hear from John Agard himself

Read Emily Drabble's interview with John Agard

John looks back on a life of poetry,  being a "creature of language", and what winning the Lifetime Achievement Award means to him.

Former Lifetime Achievement Award winners

Lifetime Achievement Award 2020: David McKee

David McKee, author and illustrator, was the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award winner in 2020.

Lifetime Achievement Award 2019: Jan Pieńkowski

Jan Pieńkowski, author and illustrator, was the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award winner in 2019.

Lifetime Achievement Award 2018: John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury

John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury, couple and one-time picture book collaborators, were the first-ever double BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award winners in 2018.

Lifetime Achievement Award 2017: Raymond Briggs

Raymond Briggs, author and illustrator of The Snowman and many other brilliant children's books, was awarded the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

Lifetime Achievement Award 2016: Judith Kerr

Judith Kerr was the second winner of the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award, picking up the prize in 2016.

Lifetime Achievement Award 2015: Shirley Hughes

Shirley Hughes was the first ever winner of the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award, picking up the prize in 2015.

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