FROM YOUR EDITOR Hurray for Oxenbury and Burningham!

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Words & Pictures Editor Claire Watts celebrates the winners of this year’s BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award.

The BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates the body of work of an author or illustrator who has made an outstanding contribution to children's literature. But what does it take to win the award? Judging by past winners Shirley Hughes, Judith Kerr and Raymond Briggs, I’d say that these are the creators of children’s books that you fell in love with as a child and that their books are first on the list of books you share with your own children. Their books have an enduring quality – pick up one created fifty years ago and it will ring as true as one they’ve created this year.

This year’s BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award has been awarded jointly to authors and illustrators John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury. The couple have been married for over fifty years, but have created only one picture book together, There’s Going to be a Baby. John Burningham’s books include Borka: The Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers, HusherbyeGranpa and my personal favourite, Avocado Baby. Helen Oxenbury’s works include The Three Little Wolves, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and, of course, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

Helen Oxenbury and John Burningham (Photo Credit: BookTrust)
John commented:
I’m incredibly grateful to be given an award for a lifetime of work. I’m so very flattered when I hear people now say they love my books and that something I did fifty years ago still works and is enjoyed by their family.
Helen said:
It’s particularly lovely as we have been awarded this honour jointly – and to get an award from BookTrust who know everything there is to know about children’s books is just wonderful.
The adjudicating panel was made up of current Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child; author and television presenter, Dame Floella Benjamin; writer and illustrator, Anthony Browne; poet, playwright, and SCBWI member, Joseph Coelho; CEO of BookTrust, Diana Gerald; and chair, writer, and Sunday Times critic, Nicolette Jones.

Group photo of John Burningham, Diana Gerald, Anthony Browne, Floella Benjamin, Nicolette Jones, Joe Coelho and Lauren Child
With his back to the camera, John Burningham (who didn't want to be in the picture!);  from left, Diana Gerald, Anthony Browne, Floella Benjamin, Nicolette Jones, Joe Coelho and Lauren Child (credit: Candy Gourlay)

BookTrust CEO Diana Gerald said of the award:
BookTrust is delighted to grant both John and Helen Lifetime Achievement Awards. John always creates such funny and lovable characters. His books evoke such fond memories for me and he has had an extraordinary impact in terms of child development. Helen’s illustrations and writing are so warm, so elegant and yet so forward thinking; her work enables children from all walks of life to see their faces in the pages. We have taken the unprecedented decision to honour them both because choosing between two giants of children’s books proved near impossible, and we felt that both their brilliance should be recognised.

Find out why authors and illustrators love Helen Oxenbury and John Burningham in BookTrust’s post here.

Some SCBWI-BI committee members were lucky enough to attend the award ceremony.

SCBWI gang: co-chairs Natascha Biebow and Kathryn Evans, illustrator coordinator Bridget Marzo, pulse coordinator Mo O'Hara, assistant regional advisor for events, Ashley Taylor.
SCBWI gang: Co-Chairs Natascha Biebow and Kathryn Evans, Illustrator Coordinator Bridget Marzo, Pulse Coordinator Mo O'Hara, Assistant Regional Advisor for Events, Ashley Taylor. (Photo Credit: Candy Gourlay)

You can read Bridget Marzo’s response to attending the awards ceremony here.

Pictures are by Candy Gourlay. You can find her website here.

Claire Watts is Editor of Words & Pictures. You can contact her at

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