Page 3 Profile: Allan Ahlberg, children’s author


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The Independent Online

A taxing decision…

The celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg has turned down a lifetime achievement award after discovering that it was sponsored by Amazon. He was due to be honoured at last week’s Booktrust Best Book awards. He rejected the accolade, saying it was “unacceptable” to be attached to Amazon, which he called a “cheat”.

Why did he turn it down?

The 76-year-old, whose best-known works include Each Peach Pear Plum and Funny Bones, said he was refusing the prize because of the online retailer’s tax arrangements. In a letter to The Bookseller magazine, he wrote: “Could Booktrust not have found a more moral sponsor? Tax, fairly applied to us all, is a good thing. It pays for schools, hospitals – libraries!”

Should we be judging a book prize by its sponsor?

Amazon has been heavily criticised for paying a low tax bill, which it insists is legal and all requirements are met. Last year, the UK business paid £4.2m in tax, despite achieving sales of £4.3bn.

Does this story end happily?

Sadly, no. Booktrust’s chief executive, Viv Bird, said she was disappointed that Mr Ahlberg turned down his prize but insisted it was “his personal decision”. She backed Booktrust’s work with Amazon in order to advance the aims of the company, and to help encourage more children to read. Mr Ahlberg ended his letter to The Bookseller by suggesting that such awards should “do without sponsors” and be paid for by the book trade itself to avoid this “unhappy entanglement.”

Read it and weep…

 No mention of the award was mentioned at the ceremony, which took place in London. But the prizes were voted for by 12,000 schoolchildren across the UK. Other winners this year included John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars and Diary Of A Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.