1993 Guardian Children’s Fiction
Joanna Carey, the Guardian‘s new Children’s Fiction Editor, reports…
The winner of the 1993 Guardian Children’s Fiction Award is William Mayne, for Low Tide (Cape, 0 224 03151 1, £8.99). It’s interesting to note that Mayne’s first book was published in 1953 – 14 years before this Award came into existence. In 1958 he won the Carnegie Medal and over the years he’s written an astonishing number of books and is unrivalled in the range and originality of his work for children of all ages.
Low Tide is an adventure, an exciting story of survival with an atmospheric dreamlike quality – indeed the idea, Mayne says, came to him in the form of something resembling an hallucination. Set in New Zealand at the turn of the century, the adventure starts when a phenomenally low tide lays bare the bed of the ocean. Charlie sets out to explore, together with his irrepressible little sister and his Maori friend, Wiremu. They discover the wreck of a long-drowned ship and as they finalise plans for the distribution of the treasure they will undoubtedly find, a massive tidal wave sweeps them up and throws them on to some remote jagged mountains. Here they encounter a terrifying, hairy, wild man who must surely be the Koroua, the legendary black-toothed cannibal. With humour, compassion and customary subtle insight Mayne describes how the children, in their various and curiously revealing ways, perceive and confront their predicament. Balanced there on the very edge of civilisation, they tacitly accept that it’s the inscrutable, hairy Koroua upon whom their survival must ultimately depend, and learn to look after themselves and each other.
With its themes of mortality, culture, race and communications, this is a story of bewitching beauty, an intriguing puzzle which, long after the pieces are satisfyingly united, continues to fascinate.
The runner-up, The Wheel of Surya by Jamila Gavin (Methuen, 0 416 18572 X, £9.99), is a beautifully-written story on a grand scale. In 1947, separated from their mother in the chaos and confusion following India’s partition, Marvinder and her young brother, Jaspal, set out on a desperate search for the father they hardly know. Their extra-ordinary journey takes them from the turbulent and extravagantly contrasting mysteries of India to the grim austerity of life in post-war London, where they must somehow adapt to a new way of life. Jamila Gavin, herself born in India of an Indian father and an English mother, writes perceptively and truthfully about children obliged to move between these two cultures. With its many strands this is a richly worked tapestry, a hugely rewarding and absorbing read.
The judges for The Guardian Award this year were the writers Rachel Anderson, Anne Fine, Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Andro Linklater and Brian Patten, chaired by Joanna Carey.
Mother Goose Award for 1993
Sally Grindley reports on the Award presented annually to the most exciting newcomer to British Children’s Book Illustration.
This was not a vintage year for the Mother Goose Award. There was a lack of startling innovation, and a sense that someone, somewhere is playing safe. Art schools, or publishers, or both? Nevertheless, a string of impressive new talents are emerging if the 35 books submitted for this year’s Award are anything to go by.
When the judges assembled an outright winner soon emerged after animated discussion about the individual merits of each book in turn. And though the decision about the runners-up took longer and caused more division along the way, the final selection was unanimous.
The judges commented upon the dearth of multicultural books and books reflecting modern urban life. They could only hope that this did not represent a regrettable trend in children’s publishing generally.
Here then are the results:
Claire Fletcher for The Seashell Song (Bodley Head, 0 370 31704 1, £7.99), written by Susie Jenkin-Pearce
This was an impressively original book, full of atmosphere and drama, tinged with nostalgia but nevertheless very much a contemporary triumph. There are some stunning double-page spreads – the child riding the elephant in the brilliance of the sun, the dusky fishermen and salty crews with mackerel nets – where the sense of movement and wonderful use of colour enable you to see the sky changing, to smell the sea, to feel the changing temperature of the passing day. There’s a controlled confusion about some of the scenes; controlled because everything that’s there is meant to be there, and the work as a whole has a great believability about it.
Paul Hunt for his Night Diary (Child’s Play, 0 85953 925 3, £5.95)
This is a brave book indeed, set as it is entirely by night, and it’s a great accomplishment on Paul Hunt’s part that he’s managed to make every spread so different and so astonishing. His is a powerful, dramatic, believable night. He’s a superb draughtsman. But what a pity such distinguished work is let down by a poor choice of typeface and the use of bright blue for the text.
Sophy Williams for When Grandma Came (Viking, 0 670 83581 1, £8.50), written by Jill Paton Walsh
Another artist who knows how to create atmosphere and drama. Her use of hazy definition to recall grandma’s young days is masterly. This book has a wonderful quality of rhythm and time, perfectly captured in spreads that are beautifully coloured in subtle tones, pleasingly comfortable and very tender.
Selina Young for Maybe It’s a Pirate (ABC, 1 85406 149 6, £6.95), written by Judy Hindley
Energy and fun abound in this boisterous work. Selina Young’s style is loose, but contains lots of detail, a good control of patterns and a lively use of colour. Children will love exploring the pictures to find the stories going on independently of the text.
Kate Simpson for But No Cheese!, (Hodder & Stoughton, 0 340 56598 5, £7.99), written by Saviour Pirotta
It’s rare for the Mother Goose Panel to award an Honourable Mention. Kate Simpson’s work, though, displays wonderful touches of wit, character and originality. Her use of watercolour is very accomplished, and her sense of scale and perspective provides great movement and excitement. Yet But No Cheese! is spoiled by several weak spreads and an awful cover, which could have been avoided by better art direction on her publisher’s part.
Mother Goose judges this year were Bernard Ashley, Nicola Bayley, Patrick Benson, Julia Eccleshare, Sally Grindley, Colin Hawkins and Charlotte Voake.