Best-selling author Cressida Cowell today reveals that becoming the 2019-21 Children’s Laureate is “bittersweet”.
The writer behind the How To Train Your Dragon and The Wizards Of Once series says she was delighted to be crowned Waterstones Children’s Laureate at a special ceremony last week at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, receiving the iconic silver medal from her predecessor Lauren Child.
But while she is “thrilled, touched and honoured” to receive the title, now in its 20th anniversary year, she has one profound regret; that her father could not be there to witness it.
Passionate environmentalist and former Financial Times chairman Michael John Hare – the second Viscount Blakenham and a close friend of Sir David Attenborough – died last January aged 79.
The vivid stories of Vikings, caves and dragons he told during family holidays on a tiny, remote and uninhabited island in the Scottish Hebrides, were the inspiration for his daughter’s How to Train Your Dragon books, which have become a major film and TV series.
The Wizards of Once novels – the third of which is out in September – look set to follow suit.
The writer says: “My darling papa, it really is bittersweet. He would have been so proud, but he is so much with me, and so much an inspiration for me.
“He was chairman of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and of Kew Gardens and really cared about environmental issues, which is so much part of what I am writing about.” Cressida has composed a 10-point “giant to-do list” for her tenure, which includes children reading for joy, and having access to new books in libraries and schools.
She says: “My latest series is all about the wild places and how we should be looking after them. I put that on the list because children are leading that campaign globally.
“It’s very important to have heroes in life – look at David Attenborough warning about climate change; 90 and counting, what an inspiration!
“That is why I am going to be out there too. Children who read for the joy of it are likely to be more academically successful, wealthier, and happier.”
Helping the new Laureate is former Dr Who David Tennant.
Cressida – whose husband’s family hail from Kirkcaldy and St Andrews – reveals: “David has made time to read and record every single How to Train Your Dragon and Wizard of Once book on audio.”
Cressida Cowell will be at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on August 25.