The Booktrust Lifetime Achievement award celebrates the work of an author or illustrator who has made an outstanding contribution to children’s literature. The award has been running since 2015 with previous winners including Shirley Hughes, Judith Kerr, Helen Oxenbury and the late John Burningham.
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This year’s winner Jan Pieńkowski has over 150 books to his name, including providing the artwork for the Meg and Mog series, written by Helen Nicoll (till her death in 2012) and David Walser.
He is also recognised as one of the pioneers of the pop-up book, in particular the picture book the Haunted House, for which he holds the Kate Greenaway Medal.
Jan, who was born in Poland in 1936 and spent his early years there and in Bavaria and Italy before coming to England at age 10, says his fondest memory is of his mother reading to him when he was four years old, often after lunchtime when they were relaxing in a hammock.
On discussing the importance of children’s books, Jan said, ‘It’s their first experience of culture and it helps to open their minds. It can be incredibly influential in the early years and gives them building blocks to make sense of the world.’
Jan’s partner and collaborator author David Walser said, ‘I think it’s wonderful that Jan has won the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award. He’s an exceptional children’s artist and writer and he’s given a huge number of children a lot of pleasure and perhaps it will go on after we’re all dead. I’m so glad this recognition has come in time.’
Diana Gerald, chief executive of the BookTrust, said, ‘A very well-deserved win for an incredible lifetime of work. Jan Pieńkowski has been hugely influential in the children’s books world and continues to delight and entertain children to this day. We’re honoured to award Jan with the 2019 BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award.’