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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Children's laureate named
Michael Morpurgo
Michael Morpurgo was given a medal to acknowledge his new title
Author Michael Morpurgo has been honoured with the title of children's laureate for the work he has created over the past 30 years.

The writer has published more than 90 books aimed at children of all years.

The children's laureate prize was actually the brainchild of Morpurgo and his friend the late poet laureate Ted Hughes, but it was not set up until after the death of Hughes.

Launched in 1998 it is awarded every two years, with a bursary of 10,000, to an eminent author. Previous winners have been Anne Fine and illustrator Quentin Blake.

Morpurgo told BBC News Online that he never expected to win the award himself.

He said that while he was excited the news was also tinged with sadness that his friend Hughes never saw the prize come to fruition and that its administrator Lois Beeson also recently passed away.

"I was very surprised to win as there are 20 or 30 extraordinary children's authors out there but it is nice to think that a panel of judges thought my work was, well, good," he said.

The judges, chaired by Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, looked at authors nominated by children online and in Waterstone's bookshops.


Morpurgo believes the title of children's laureate carries with it a certain responsibility to promote reading.

But this should not too taxing for a man who spends a great deal of time travelling around schools in the UK and abroad encouraging children to get excited about books.

Out of the Ashes
Out of the Ashes was adapted for the BBC
"It has always been difficult to encourage children to read but we just have to find a way to stimulate that reading is fun, and much of that is down to educating parents and teachers," he said.

And he believes the wealth of talented children's authors, including JK Rowling, Dick King Smith and Jacqueline Wilson, can only have a positive effect on inspiring reading.

Morpurgo began writing for children during his years as a teacher, growing confident enough of his storytelling abilities to pen his first books.

After a while he and his wife decided to get away from the rat race and set up the charity Farms for City Children in Devon, with Hughes as its founding president.


The venture has now seen more than 50,000 children spend a week working on one of three farms, and for some it is their first experience of the countryside.

Working so close to children has helped Morpurgo keep in touch with what young people are passionate about, along with help of his six grandchildren.

The farm also inspired the book Out of the Ashes, which focused on the foot-and-mouth crisis, and was later turned into a BBC series.

Michael Morpurgo
Mr Morpurgo is passionate about encouraging children to read

As he reaches the age of 60, Morpurgo says he has given up milking the cows to concentrate on his work.

He usually writes in the first person narrative, placing himself in the centre of his adventures.

"It is getting harder as I get older to put myself in the stories but I try to find a subject that challenges me and doesn't let me get stuck in a groove."

His next book, Private Peaceful, centres around a soldier in World War I who is accused of cowardice.

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