This is the official web site of Anne Fine, the second Children's Laureate and a distinguished prize-winning writer for children of all ages, with over forty books to her credit. She has also written for adults to considerable critical acclaim. This site has news and information about Anne, and showcases her books.
Twenty years of Children's Laureates
2019 marks a milestone: the 20th anniversary of the post of Children's Laureate in the UK. The job was very new when Anne became the second Children's Laureate, taking over from Quentin Blake, but now there have been ten very different Laureates, writers and illustrators and people who do both, and that's something to celebrate. Anne was at the launch party in London with almost all her fellow Laureates (only Quentin Blake couldn't be there), and she says "It was a very merry occasion. With cupcakes and fizz." You can join in the celebrations, with Laureates events and a competition for schools - find out more on the Booktrust website.
How the Children's Laureate championed young literature (BBC report).
You can read more about the second Children's Laureate on this site; or read Anne's Letter from a Laureate on the Booktrust site.
"Trash, or treasure?"
When the children were young, and their rooms had turned into garbage tips, I'd go in with two large black bin bags and a firm purpose. Picking up every single item in turn, I'd ask, "Trash, or treasure?"
They'd snatch all treasures and heap them on the bed. Dried-up felt pens and banana skins went into the rubbish, and things they never wore or played with any more were dumped, after a lot of squawking, into the charity shop bag.
The problem was that other members of the family gathered like gannets round the charity bag. "I can use that!" "That's perfect for my school project!" "You can't throw that away. I want it." Oh, our family was well into recycling even before it became so popular - and so important.
Into The Bin is a short, easy-to-read comedy. Mr Frost keeps tripping over the bright red, but unstable, class waste bin, so plans to chuck it out. Georgia insists it should go to a charity shop. "Someone will love it!" And several members of the class bring in unwanted items to fill it up before it goes. But (as with my own sad, doomed attempts to clear our family home) someone else, it seems, can always find a brand new purpose for a fierce-looking china cat, a tiny cereal box dragon, a book about worries and the loudest toy truck in the world. Will even the bright red bin that started things get thrown away?
Tailors, Pebbles, and Other Fairy Tales
I absolutely hated this story when I was young, says Anne.
In fact, looking back, I see that I sorted all the fairy tales into those I adored (like The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Snow White, Puss in Boots and Cinderella); and fairy tales I utterly despised.
Like this one.
The little tailor was so stupid. Stupid to be bragging about killing seven flies already stuck fast in jam. Stupid to rescue a bird from a bush, then put it in his pocket. Stupid to squeeze the cheese so hard the whey dripped out. Stupid to tangle with a giant in the first place.
But one of the things I have always loved most about this job is that you can turn anything you write into a technical challenge. So that's the way I've gone. I've told the story straight. But the reader does have to come to his or her own conclusion. Was he actually so truly resourceful and inventive that he deserved to win the great prize that becomes his at the end? Or was he just dead lucky all along?
This author isn't telling. Read the book!
For grown-ups who want a different perspective on fairy tales, Anne's Keynote speech to the conference of BASPCAN, the charity and membership association for child protection professionals is now online: it is called: Pebbles in the Fairy Tale.
Old friends revisited
All authors get the question, "What made you write...?" Anne explains:
This week I've been sent fresh editions of three different books: Anneli the Art Hater (1986), The Chicken Gave it to Me (1992) and The Tulip Touch (1996). What a strange mix. The only thing they have in common (apart from wonderfully appealing new covers) is that they bring back the strongest memories of the reasons why I sat down to write them.
I loathed art lessons in school, and just assumed I was off-beam until it became clear that one of my daughters felt exactly the same. It's probably just ignorance on our part, I decided, and started reading about art to try to rise above the prejudice. But one of the most interesting questions that arose was why, if it's often so very hard to tell the difference between an original work of art and a forgery, the one should be worth so much more than the other. The story in Anneli the Art Hater took off from there (and I'm still hopeless at getting real pleasure from the visual arts).
When I embarked on The Chicken Gave it to Me, both daughters and a stepdaughter were vegetarian on moral grounds. My partner Richard is not. The endless wranglings over the supper table aired many of the issues. Even I, not quite veggie, was an active member of Compassion in World Farming. The book's a comedy for 6-11 year olds and it has made so many children children think more deeply about the way we treat the animals whose meat we eat or whose products we consume.
The Tulip Touch is for older readers, and is by far the most serious novel of the three, inspired as it was by the rabidly vengeful and medieval tabloid newspaper response to two primary school children convicted for murder - wilfully unthinking and vicious rabble-rousing. The novel explores the question of whether a child could ever truly be 'born bad', and how their circumstances play a role. It's commonly read in schools, where it always elicits discussion, and is now seen as a classic.
If you've ever looked at Anne's Awards and Honours page, you'll know that as well as those two Carnegie medals, and lots of other prizes for one book or another in particular, she has been awarded several honorary degrees. In fact, she started 2017 with a degree ceremony at the University of Leicester, where she was presented with a fourth Honorary Doctorate. What's it all about? Anne explains:
I never really grasped the point of 'honorary' degrees. After all, either the recipient knew enough to get a 'real' degree, or they didn't. Why offer one to someone who hadn't done the work?
Now I have several, I feel a good deal differently. I've realised that, as almost everyone goes through their professional life, the people around them can't help but form a view of their body of work. And if that's a positive opinion, and a prestigious institution chooses to make it both plain and public, that's inspiriting and encouraging. (After all, everyone who works hard asks themselves from time to time, "Has all this effort been worthwhile?" So it's immensely cheering to be told so openly, "Yes. Yes, it was.")
What pleases me most is that I have links with almost all the places that have honoured me. I was born in Leicester, and last week that city's university awarded me an honorary doctorate. I studied at Warwick, where I was given another some years ago. Ever since I moved to the north east, and found out how much I loved it here, I've spoken up for the area. So it was lovely to be honoured by the University of Teesside. My secondary schooling was all in Northampton, so I am especially proud of my honorary fellowship from that university. And growing up there turns me into a woman from the Midlands, so I'm proud of my doctorate from the University of Central England in Birmingham.
(Just for the record, you're given a beautifully designed degree certificate in a classy holder. And they take photos of you in the fancy official university robes and cap - I'm much less keen on those!)