Created November 22, 2023 by Elizabeth Sparg
We nominated four candidates for the 2024 award: two from South Africa and two from the UK (we are free to choose from anywhere in the world):
As a writer, illustrator and developer of illustrators in underprivileged areas, Niki Daly has pioneered (and helped to produce) books that capture the new and exciting world of transformation in South African children’s books where black children are the heroes. His vibrant colours and superb drawing skills complement the rich text that captures the lives of marginalised children. Poignant at times, at others witty and exuberant, and at yet others explosively adventurous, his stories invite children to rejoice in their world. He is a superb presenter and is able to captivate audiences of all ages, drawing them into the world of story – whether in informal book launches, workshops or formal lectures on writing and illustrating. He has won a number of awards in South Africa, the UK and America.
Gcina Mhlope – internationally acclaimed actor, director, playwright, researcher, performer of praise poetry and storyteller is a major role player in encouraging the celebration of cultural heritage and fostering literacy. Five universities have awarded her honorary doctorates. Her extensive hands-on work for Biblionef, for Nozincwadi Mother of Books Literacy Campaign and the Gcinamsiko Arts and Heritage Trust is largely directed at the most impoverished children in South Africa.
For Nozincwadi, for instance, Gcina Mhlope has travelled to at least ten rural towns in each of the provinces in South Africa to promote reading and to inspire future young writers. The package includes book packages to set up book box libraries and training for teachers. an essential part of developing literacies in a country where the majority of teachers in the foundation phase are not confident about teaching reading. Gcina Mhlope's works holistically, targeting teachers, children and parents because she knows that without a thriving community of readers presentations by literacy organisations can have only short-term effect.
Julia Donaldson has won international acclaim for her extraordinarily engaging stories and plays. She is best known for the musicality of stories for children, especially those illustrated by Axel Scheffler, which include The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, Stick Man and The Snail and the Whale. She has earned the following recognition for her contribution to children’s literature: CBE, Children’s Laureate 2011-2013, honorary doctorates from the University of Bristol and the University of Glasgow and over 30 awards for her books. She is a patron of several charities, one of which assists prisoners to send recordings of themselves reading bedtime stories to their children. She is an excellent performer and has entertained children and adults alike in many countries. Her books have universal appeal. The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child, which together have sold over 25 million copies worldwide and have been translated into over one hundred languages.
Another major contribution is in the field of literacy. The phonics-based books she wrote for the Oxford Reading scheme and her fun-filled real books that perfectly combine the elements of good narrative and rhythm, rhyme and repetition inspire children to revel in reading.
Quentin Blake – internationally renowned, he has written or illustrated over 500 books. He is probably best-known for the 18 Roald Dahl books he has illustrated. He has also had extended partnerships with Russell Hoban, Joan Aitken, Michael Rosen and John Yeoman. His long career stretches back to his first publication – in Punch – when he was only 16. His worked is characterised by his extraordinary inventiveness and his exploration of children’s deepest fears and most intense joys. As His ability to capture body language and movement is widely regarded as being without peer. Children love his illustrations and delight in his stories. His illustrations range from the blithe, to high-spirited, to cruelly satirical. Many illustrators have benefitted greatly from his teaching at the Royal College of Art and at the House of Illustrations (later the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration. He has won major awards – the most notable among them the Hans Christian Anderson Award, the Kate Greenway Medal, BolognaRagazzi Prize and the Eleanor Farjeon Award. He has also been honoured in many ways: he was knighted for his services to illustration, he was the first ever Children’s Laureate in the UK, he is a Chevalier des Artes de Lettres (an honour rarely accorded to non-French citizens) and he has been awarded numerous honorary doctorates. In the last few years, he has made larger-scale work to enliven hospitals and healthcare environments.