About the Waterstones Children's Laureate

Everything you need to know about the Laureate.

Did you know there's been a Children's Laureate since 1999?

Ever since Ted Hughes and Michael Morpurgo came up with the idea, and made it happen, our list of Laureates have inspired and entertained children all over the UK.

Below you can find everything else you need to know about the Waterstones Children's Laureate.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  • Who is the current Waterstones Children's Laureate?

    Cressida Cowell is the current Waterstones Children's Laureate.

  • What is the Waterstones Children's Laureate?

    The role of Waterstones Children's Laureate is awarded once every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children's books to celebrate outstanding achievement in their field.

    The Children's Laureate receives a bursary of £15,000 and a specially designed and inscribed silver medal.

  • Where did the idea come from?

    The idea for the Children's Laureate originated from a conversation between (the then) Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and children's writer Michael Morpurgo. They considered it an appropriate and timely way to combine the celebration of excellence in writing and illustration for children with honouring individuals who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the world of children’s books.

    Quentin Blake was the first Children's Laureate (1999-2001), followed by Anne Fine (2001-2003), Michael Morpurgo (2003-2005), Jacqueline Wilson (2005-2007), Michael Rosen (2007-2009), Anthony Browne (2009-2011), Julia Donaldson (2011-2013), Malorie Blackman (2013-2015), Chris Riddell (2015-2017), Lauren Child (2017-19) and now Cressida Cowell (2019-21).

    Each Waterstones Children’s Laureate has taken the opportunity to promote particular aspects of children’s books. These have included visual literacy, readers with disabilities, poetry, storytelling, illustration, drama, writing for young adults and more.

    Find out more about the previous laureates

  • What area does the Laureate cover?

    The role of Waterstones Children's Laureate covers the UK: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

  • Are there other Children's Laureate programmes running elsewhere in the UK and around the world?

    Yes, since the UK Children’s Laureate was set up in 1999, other countries have been inspired to create their own Laureate programs for their literacy needs.

    • Ireland: The Laureate na nÓg was founded in 2010 and is a two-year term. Novelist and poet Sarah Crossan holds the current title for 2018-2020. 
    • Wales: The Bardd Plant Cymru is their own Welsh language Children’s Poet Laureate, which began in 2000. The new Bardd Plant Cymru, Gruffudd Owen, begins his post in September 2019. Alongside the Bardd Plant Cymru, a new Children’s Laureate Wales was announced in September 2019. Author Eloise Williams currently holds this post until summer 2021.
    • UK: The Young People’s Laureate for London was launched in 2016 and aims to work with young people across London promoting poetry. Theresa Lola is the Laureate for 2019-2020.
    • Australia: The Australian Children’s Laureate began in 2012 and is awarded annually. Its current 2018-2019 Children’s Laureate is Morris Gleitzman.
    • The Netherlands: The Children’s Books Ambassador, called "Kinderboekenambassadeur", is awarded every two years and first started in 2013. The current role is held by Manon Sikkel for 2019-2021.
    • Mexico: The current Mexican Laureate is Antonio Malpica and was awarded the role in 2015.
    • Sweden: The Reading Ambassador, or "Läsamabassadör", began in 2011 and is awarded every two years. The ambassador for 2017-2019 is Johan Anderblad.
    • USA: The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature was established in 2008 and is awarded every two years. The 2018-2019 ambassador is Jacqueline Woodson.
  • Who selects the Waterstones Children's Laureate?

    The selection panel consider nominations from a range of organisations representing librarians, critics, writers, literature development workers and booksellers, including the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), and Library and information association CILIP.

    The selection panel for 2019-2021 were the Children’s Laureate Steering Group (see below), joined by activist and author Laura Bates and Waterstones Children’s Category Manager Florentyna Martin:

    • Sue Ball: Libraries Service Development Manager, Staffordshire County Council (current member of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Steering Group)
    • Laura Bates: writer/journalist and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project
    • Abigail Campbell: freelance children's literature consultant (former member of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Steering Group)
    • Emily Drabble: Head of Children's Books Promotion and Prizes at BookTrust (current member of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Steering Group)
    • Julia Eccleshare: Director of Hay Festival children's programme and children's literature specialist (current member of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Steering Group)
    • Kate Edwards (chair): Expert in children's museums and literary arts (chair of the of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Steering Group)
    • Ian Lamb: Head of Children's Marketing and Publicity at Bloomsbury, representing the Publishers Association Children's Group (current member of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Steering Group)
    • Florentyna Martin: Children’s Category Manager at Waterstones (sponsor representative and current member of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Steering Group)
    • Vanessa Lewis: owner of The Book Nook, representing the Booksellers Association Children’s Bookselling Group (current member of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Steering Group)
    • Professor Kim Reynolds: Professor of Children's Literature at University of Newcastle and a founding member of the Children’s Laureate (former member of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Steering Group)
    • Deborah Texeira: primary school teacher in Warwickshire (current member of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate Steering Group)

    The selection process takes into account the following criteria

    • exceptional talent in writing or illustration
    • contribution to creating the next generation of readers, writers and illustrators
    • excellence developed through an eagerness to explore and experiment with ideas, genres and the possibilities of their craft
    • substantial publishing record
    • significant profile in the industry and amongst their peers
    • interest in raising the profile of books for children, and for their writers and illustrators
  • Who runs the Waterstones Children's Laureate?

    The Waterstones Children's Laureate is managed by BookTrust, who support the Laureate, organise a minimum of four official Children's Laureate events per year, raise funds and run the official website. BookTrust work with Midas Communications on the Children's Laureate's press and PR.

    BookTrust work closely with the Waterstones Children's Laureate steering committee, made up of representatives of the children's book world, who provide a range of expertise and guidance with which to support the Children's Laureate's work.

    The current steering committee comprises:

    • Sue Ball: Libraries Service Development Manager, Staffordshire County Council
    • Emily Drabble: Head of Children's Books Promotion and Prizes at BookTrust
    • Julia Eccleshare: Director of Hay Festival children's programme and children's literature specialist
    • Kate Edwards (chair): Expert in children's museums and literary arts
    • Ian Lamb: Head of Children's Marketing and Publicity at Bloomsbury, representing the Publishers Association Children's Group
    • Florentyna Martin: Children’s Category Manager, Waterstones
    • Vanessa Lewis: owner of The Book Nook, representing the Booksellers Association Children’s Bookselling Group
    • Deborah Texeira: primary school teacher in Warwickshire
  • Who funds/supports the Waterstones Children's Laureate?

    The Waterstones Children’s Laureate is funded by Arts Council England and the lead sponsor is Waterstones.

    Children's publishers also provide support for the Children's Laureate, including Hachette, the lead publisher for 2019-2021.

    Find out more about the funders and sponsors

  • How can I send letters to the Waterstones Children's Laureate?

    If you would like to write to the Waterstones Children's Laureate, you can send correspondence to:

    Waterstones Children’s Laureate
    c/o The Prizes Team
    BookTrust, G8 Battersea Studios
    80 Silverthorne Road, London SW8 3HE

  • How can I invite the Waterstones Children's Laureate to visit my school, library or festival?

    If you would like to invite Cressida Cowell to visit you for a Waterstones Children’s Laureate event at a school, library or other venue please email childrens.laureate@booktrust.org.uk.

    If you wish to invite Cressida Cowell to visit you as part of her book promotions, please email Hachette publicity team at pr@hachettechildrens.co.uk with ‘Cressida Cowell event’ clearly in the subject line.

    Please note that the Waterstones Children's Laureate receives a huge volume of invitations, and only a limited number of events will be available throughout her term.

  • How can I get in touch with the Waterstones Children's Laureate office?

    For any general Waterstones Children's Laureate enquiries, please contact childrens.laureate@booktrust.org.uk. As we receive a high volume of emails it may take up to ten working days to receive a response.

    For all Waterstones Children’s Laureate press enquiries, please contact hannah.mcmillan@midaspr.co.uk.

  • How can I find out more about what the Waterstones Children’s Laureate is doing?

    Find out what the current and former Children's Laureates are up to Twitter on the official Laureate twitter feed @UKLaureate.

    Follow Cressida Cowell’s own Twitter account @CressidaCowell.

    Follow Cressida Cowell on Instagram @Cressidacowellauthor.

    Check out the Laureate events page for upcoming events and festivals.

    Also see Cressida Cowell’s official website for further details.  

Get to know the Laureate

The first-ever How to Train Your Dragon book

How to Train Your Dragon

Author: Cressida Cowell

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III was an incredible sword-fighter, dragon-whisperer and the greatest Viking hero who ever lived.

Read more about How to Train Your Dragon

Fun activity sheets to try

Follow the Children's Laureate on Twitter

Follow the Children's Laureate