Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho becomes OBE in King’s Birthday Honours

Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho has become an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the King’s Birthday Honours.

The performance poet, playwright and children’s author, who grew up in Roehampton, south-west London, is honoured for services to the arts, to children’s reading and to literature.

Coelho has had a love of poetry since he was a child, and though he studied archaeology at University College London, he continued to write.

In 2014, his debut poetry collection, Werewolf Club Rules, was published and he won the CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award the following year.

His works include his Luna Loves… picture books, the dark series of Fairy Tales Gone Bad, which are re-imaginings of the classics, and the young adult novel The Girl Who Became A Tree.

Coelho has also released a range of lyrical children’s stories and poetry collections such as Overheard In A Tower Block, If All the World Were… and Poems Aloud.

In 2022, he was announced as the 12th Children’s Laureate, with his tenure coming to an end this year.

While accepting the title, Coelho said book publishing had “a long way to go” in terms of diversity and said he would aim to use his time as laureate to push for change on bookshelves by celebrating new voices, as he wanted to give “every young person an opportunity to see themselves as a writer”.

Sir Quentin Blake, Sir Michael Morpurgo, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Rosen and Julia Donaldson are also among those who have been Children’s Laureate.

Coelho recently contributed to the anthology Happy Here: 10 Stories From Black British Authors and Illustrators and released the lyrical picture book My Beautiful Voice.

Royal visit to Moreland Primary School
The Queen with Children’s Laureate and poet Joseph Coelho who has been made an OBE (Justin Tallis/PA)

His 2022 book The Boy Lost In The Maze, which draws on ancient Greek myths, is on the shortlist for the 2024 Carnegie Medal for writing.

Earlier this year, Coelho backed a letter, alongside other children’s laureates, to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer that demanded funding for books and encouraging reading for the under-sevens.

The letter, part of a campaign by the BookTrust, said the cost-of-living crisis was “tipping more families into poverty” and that it was “vital to recognise that children who read regularly are more likely to overcome disadvantage”.

It also called for long-term national investment to ensure low-income families get the support they need.