Published to celebrate Quentin’s Blake’s reign as the first Children’s Laureate, The Laureate’s Party* is a collection of extracts from 50 of Blake’s favourite children’s books. From Little Tim to Madeline, from Emil and the Detectives to Esio Trot, from The Mermaid’s Purse to Figgie Hobbin, Quentin Blake conveys, via his choices, a tremendous sense of enjoyment of many different kinds of writing, and, of course, illustration.
His comments, with their friendly, conversational tone, belie his tremendous authority which is effortlessly shared with the reader. Of Josephine Poole and Angela Barrett’s Snow-white, for example, he notes: ‘It has the confidence, both in words and pictures, to behave as though no other version has ever existed.’ Of Ted Hughes (who championed the idea of the Children’s Laureateship before he died) he writes: ‘What impressed me most, when I was younger, were those poems about animals and birds – where you could feel the harshness and energy of nature in the very way the words strained and crunched together.’
There was a good deal of scepticism from some children’s publishers when the idea of a Children’s Laureate was first mooted. How could any one author or illustrator, primarily published and marketed by one publishing house, represent and promote children’s books as a whole? This inspirational list of favourites for both children and adults is yet another example of the way that Quentin Blake has made the Laureateship command attention for children’s literature as a whole in his own unique way.
* The Laureate’s Party is published by Red Fox at £3.99 (0 09 940762 0).