How To Train Your Dragon author and illustrator Cressida Cowell has vowed to campaign for school libraries to be made statutory after being named the new children’s laureate.
She follows in the footsteps of Quentin Blake, Malorie Blackman and Jacqueline Wilson in receiving the honour, which is awarded every two years to a children’s author or illustrator to mark outstanding achievement in their field.
Cowell, who also created The Wizards Of Once series and the Emily Brown picture books, was presented with the silver laureate medal by outgoing holder, Charlie and Lola creator Lauren Child, at a ceremony at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London.
She told the audience that she has a “giant to-do list” to help ensure that books and reading are available to everyone.
In a new charter, Cowell said she wants to see every child have the right to access new books in schools, own their own book, see themselves reflected in a book, and be creative for at least 15 minutes a week.
“Books and reading are magic and this magic must be available to absolutely everyone,” she said.
“I’m honoured to be chosen to be the eleventh Waterstones children’s laureate. I will be a laureate who fights for books and children’s interests with passion, conviction and action.
“Practical magic, empathy and creative intelligence, is the plan.”
Cowell has sold more than 11 million books worldwide, and the How to Train your Dragon books have been turned into a billion-dollar DreamWorks film series.
She is also an ambassador for the National Literacy Trust and a trustee for World Book Day.
Managed by BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, and sponsored by Waterstones, the children’s laureate title was originally created by former poet laureate Ted Hughes and author Michael Morpurgo to celebrate children’s literature as an art form.
Kate Edwards, chair of the judging panel, said: “Nominations for this prestigious role are invited from hundreds of literature, literacy and education organisations across the UK.
“Cressida Cowell’s impressive canon of work, with broad reach and appeal, coupled with her impassioned advocacy for the right of every child to enjoy a childhood rich in storytelling, cemented our choice for the next Waterstones children’s laureate.”