Entertainment & Arts

Allan Ahlberg turns down Amazon-sponsored award

Allan Ahlberg
Image caption Ahlberg says he turned down the award several weeks ago

Celebrated children's author Allan Ahlberg has turned down a lifetime achievement award after discovering it was sponsored by Amazon.

The writer, whose books include Each Peach Pear Plum and Funny Bones, was due to be honoured at the Booktrust Best Book Awards last week.

In a letter to the Bookseller, he said he felt compelled to decline the honour because of Amazon's tax arrangements.

"Could Booktrust not have found a more moral sponsor?" he wrote.

"Tax, fairly applied to us all, is a good thing. It pays for schools, hospitals - libraries!

"When companies like Amazon cheat - paying 0.1% on billions, pretending it is earning money not in the UK, but in Luxembourg - that's a bad thing.

"We should surely, at the very least, say that it is bad and on no account give it any support or, by association, respectability."

"The idea that my 'lifetime achievement' should have the Amazon tag attached to it is unacceptable."

The online retailer has been heavily criticised ever since its low tax contributions were first revealed in 2012.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Amazon UK sales are routed via a Luxembourg affiliate

Amazon's UK subsidiary paid £4.2m in taxes last year, the online retailer's accounts show, despite making sales of £4.3bn.

The tax bill is so low because when shoppers in the UK buy items from its store, the payment is taken by a subsidiary based in the low tax jurisdiction of Luxembourg.

It is also reduced because the company only pays tax on its profits - which were £17.1m in 2013, with much of its turnover ploughed back into expanding warehouses and negotiating deals on its products.

Amazon has always insisted that it pays all required taxes in every jurisdiction that it operates in.


Booktrust's chief executive Viv Bird said she was disappointed Ahlberg had turned down his award but "this was his personal decision."

"Booktrust works with a wide range of partners in order to fulfil our charitable aim of bringing books to children and children to books," she said.

"We are also grateful for the tremendous support we get from many eminent authors and illustrators. Amazon's sponsorship of the Best Book Awards, in its inaugural year, enabled us to celebrate some of the best of children's literature, create a buzz around books, and make a significant contribution to our mission of encouraging more children to read."

Image copyright other
Image caption Many of Ahlberg's books were illustrated by his wife Janet (left), who drew this picture of the Ahlberg family for 1981's Peepo!

The prizes, which were handed out last week, were voted for by 12,000 schoolchildren across the UK.

John Green's The Fault In Our Stars was named best book for 12 to 14-year-olds.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck won in the nine to 11-year-old category, while Stephan Patiscame's Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made took the 6 to 8-year-old category.

Best picture book was won by Peck Peck Peck, the latest story from Maisy author Lucy Cousins.

No mention of the lifetime achievement prize was made at the time.

Allan Ahlberg began his writing career in the 1970s, and his wife Janet illustrated many of his picture books - including The Jolly Postman, Ten in a Bed and the Ha Ha Bonk Book.

Janet, who won a Kate Greenaway medal in 1978 for her illustrations of Each Peach Pear Plum, died of cancer in 1994.

The couple's daughter Jessica now illustrates many of her father's books.

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