This morning I opened the newspaper to an article that made my heart whoop with joy. The Australian Children’s Literature Alliance has announced the 2016/2017 Australian Children’s Laureate is the very talented, funny and delightful Leigh Hobbs. Leigh has written and illustrated over twenty books which make kids laugh out loud, think and stay with them long, long after reading. I’ve watched kids fall in love with Old Tom, Harriet, sorry, Horrible Harriet, and Mr Chicken, and can’t wait for Mr Chicken to tour Rome, which happens soon.
Each laureate, Alison, Boori and Jackie, has been a wonderful choice and worked so hard to inspire and promote reading, creativity and literacy in our children. Leigh is the next wonderful choice.
For me the joy in Leigh’s appointment is not just that he produces wonderful books, but that his sharp eye and wonderful sense of humour appeals to such such a huge range of readers. I’ve seen bookworms and struggling readers from kinder age to secondary school embrace these stories, and watched children who felt they had no artistic skill or imagination place Old Tom or Mr Chicken in an adventure of their own making. I even had a child yell across the classroom, “Hey, Mr Chicken went there!” when researching Paris’ Lourve’ for some project. This is what it’s all about – creating work that stays with and continues to encourage and inspire readers long after they have put the book down.
I’ve been lucky enough to work at festivals where Leigh has spun his magic, and just as his books do, he connects with his audience effortlessly. Leigh is one of the most charming, self-effacing and hilarious creators in our industry.
Congratulations, Leigh, and I look out for any inflatable pylons at events!