So, we all (children included) have a chance to vote for the next children's laureate 2014 - 2016. We know that the author/illustrator needs to have a recognised body of work, but what else should we be looking out for?
As the role is ambassadorial and fairly politicised, should the new candidate have a campaigning aspect to their persona? Siobhán Parkinson (Ireland's first Laureate na nÓg) campaigned for school libraries and foreign language books for immigrant children amongst other things. Niamh Sharkey (the present laureate) has highlighted the importance of the picture book and the role of the illustrator during her tenure.
What are we looking for in our new representative?
Should the new person be a good public speaker?
Should the new laureate be able to reach all age groups?
How much time should be spent visiting and interacting with children?
How many foreign visits should this ambassador be expected to make?
How much of the role is governed by what the laureate wants to see implemented?
What have laureates from other countries (UK, U.S, Australia, etc... brought about which could be implemented here?
How will this new person interact with the media?
How will they help generate interest in the all encompassing work of 'Children's Books Ireland?'
Does having a huge body of work and a great public profile instantly mean, that if voted in, that person automatically has to take up the position? Can someone refuse the role, for instance?
In previous years, the nominees had to be Irish but this year nominees need only be resident here.
We've had two female laureates, is it time for a man? or does it matter?
Siobhán Parkinson's a writer, publisher and lecturer. Niamh Sharkey's an author/illustrator whose work has been produced by Disney. Is it time for another writer to take up the helm? They're a tough act to follow.
Would someone living abroad, come back to Ireland to take up the role?
The laureate represents Ireland as a whole, are there any Northern Irish possibilities?
Several CBI board members have huge bodies of work; could one of them be the next laureate?
What about those whose output has made it on to the school's English curriculum?
We've a choice to vote for two writers and two illustrators, who immediately springs to mind? Is your instinct to go with your initial reaction or to think it through thoroughly?
Could this be a shared role? - Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor were the inaugural laureates for Australia - could that happen here?
What about an Irish speaking representative?
Is there someone highlighting global issues who'd make a good international representative?
I've said more than I wanted to but whatever happens, do make sure you take time to cast your vote. Children are encouraged to vote too. This is an incredible gesture and very empowering for children, please help them to make their own choice by downloading forms for them. It's one of the few times that children can have their say.
Whoever turns out to be the next Laureate, we will, no doubt, welcome him/her and watch the next two years with curiosity.