It’s not long now until the winners of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize will be announced. In case you didn’t know, there are three categories – Best Picture Book, Best Fiction for 5-12s, and Best Book for Teens, plus an overall winner too. The winning books and authors will be announced on 3rd April when the category winners will receive £2,000, plus an additional £3000 going to the overall winner.
I thought I’d point out a few of my highlights from the three shortlists, to guide you in the right direction…
Best Picture Book Nominees
Harold Finds a Voice, Courtney Dicmas
Weasels, Elys Dolan
The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water, Gemma Merino
Penguin in Peril, Helen Hancocks
Open Very Carefully, Nick Bromley & Nicola O’Byrne
Time For Bed, Fred!, Yasmeen Ismail
What a feast for the eyes. Of these, I really like the look of Weasels – the cunning creatures are trying to take over the world! – and Penguin In Peril, perhaps unsurprisingly as it features a trio of cats and a penguin who is, potentially, going to be their dinner. How could I not love a book about cats and penguins? I also love the style of the illustrations in both of these books.
Best Fiction for 5 -12s Nominees
Shiverton Hall, Emerald Fennell
Rooftoppers, Katherine Rundell
Darcy Burdock, Laura Dockrill
The Last Wild, Piers Torday
Skull in the Wood, Sandra Greaves
The School for Good and Evil, Soman Chainani
From this category, I’ve got three books catching my eye. The first is Shiverton Hall by Emerald Fennell (review here); this is a great school story with a ghostly twist, which I found enjoyable to read, as well as exciting, mysterious and sometimes downright creepy. There’s also a great strain of humour running through it, which keeps the tone lighter and appropriate for under-12s.
There has also been a lot of talk about Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell recently. As well as making the shortlist here, it’s also up for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2014, a very highly regarded prize, and I’ve heard very positive things about its storyline. Finally, there’s The Last Wild by Piers Torday, about a little boy called Kester who discovers he can talk to animals and begins a magical adventure with an environmental flavour. The cover of this book immediately caught my eye and it’s on my bookshelf now, waiting to be read, very soon I hope.
Best Book for Teens
The Bone Dragon, Alexia Casale
Paper Aeroplanes, Dawn O’Porter
Butter, Erin Lange
If You Find Me, Emily Murdoch
Geek Girl, Holly Smale
Out of the Easy, Ruta Sepetys
In this final category, again there are three books I’m going to mention in more detail. I recently read If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch (review coming very soon) but, to give you a sneak preview of my thoughts, I found it very well-written, moving and impressive in the way it deals with some very dark issues in a sensitive but unsentimental manner. I loved the main characters – two sisters who’ve been living in the middle of nowhere, hidden there by their mother – and really enjoyed their journey back into the “real world”.
I also loved Geek Girl by Holly Smale. This is much lighter in tone, with plenty of wry, ironic humour, but still deals with important issues of self-esteem and body confidence without allowing them to dominate what is a really fun fish-out-of-water story of Harriet, a geek who becomes a teen fashion model. You can read my review here; I’m looking forward to Model Misfit, the next instalment of Harriet’s adventures.
Lastly, I wanted to mention The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale. I’ve not read this yet but I’ve heard fantastic things about it from those who have. It’s a mixture of real-world personal drama and magical elements, as the main character finds that the bone totem she’s carved seems to have powers to carry out her wishes. I know many people who’d higgle recommend it.
The great thing about the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize is that there’s something here for everyone, from beginner reads and those who love illustration, lovers of fantasy, adventure, teen issues, ghostly tales and plenty of laughs too. We’ll be bringing you the winners on April 3rd. I can’t wait to see who it is.