The first Grand Prix winner of the most valuable prize in the world of children’s books is Gaffer Samson’s Luck by Jill Paton Walsh
Earlier this year the NBL announced that Rowntree Mackintosh were to sponsor a prize to encourage high standards in books for children of primary school age.
The judges – Bernard Ashley, Michael Aspel, Sarah Greene, Peggy Heeks and Nanette Newman – chose winning books in three categories, and then selected an overall winner to receive the £7,000 top prize (other winners received £1,000 each).
Gaffer Samson’s Luck, Viking Kestrel, 0 670 80122 4, £6.50, was first in the Over-7s category. The judges said of it:
`The first Smarties Prize has celebrated the richness of children’s literature. Gaffer Samson’s Luck is a story as deceptively simple as the Fenland landscape it describes. An adventurous story of a boy seeking to belong in a new environment, encompassing youth and age, “image” and courage. A novel from an experienced author written with the intensity of a first novel.’
James and his family move from Yorkshire to the Fens and at his new school he finds a cold and unfriendly reception – except for Angey who is an outsider herself. Will he ever be accepted as `village’? He makes a friend of Gaffer Samson who is old and ill and lives in the next door cottage; Gaffer has lost his good luck charm and desperately needs to find it so he can give it away. James begins the search and accepts a dangerous dare.
This is an adventure story in the best sense; strong characterisation and a tense and involving narrative. Themes of belonging and mistrust, youth and age are made accessible to young readers in a very satisfying story.
Winner in the Under-7 category
It’s Your Turn, Roger!, Susanna Gretz, Bodley Head, 0 370 30621 X, £5.25
Roger, the pig, explores the life-styles of his neighbours and finds that home is not such a bad place, even if you do have to help with the chores.
Winner for Innovation
Watch it Work! The Plane, Ray Marshall and John Bradley, Viking Kestrel, 0 670 80695 1, £7.95
A move towards educational pop-up books. The texts, diagrams and mechanics work together in an informative and entertaining book.
Other books shortlisted were:
I’ll Take You to Mrs Cole!; Nigel Gray and Michael Foreman, Andersen, 0 86264 105 5, £5.95
Another story about life-styles. For the narrator, Mrs Cole’s `dirty, noisy house’ turns from a threat into a treat.
See Mouse Run, Sally Grindley and Priscilla Lamont, Hamish Hamilton, 0 241 11567 1, £5.50
A cumulative story which eventually reveals what is frightening all the animals.
Fiona Finds Her Tongue, Diana Hendry, Julia MacRae, 0 86203 227 X, £2.95
One of the Blackbird series – about Fiona who finds it hard to speak up until she meets Tai from Vietnam who has no words at all.
My Aunt and the Animals, Elizabeth MacDonald and Annie Owen, Aurum Press, 0 906053 87 0, £3.95
A counting book with the months of the year and lots of animals.
The Finding, Nina Bawden, Gollancz, 0 575 03618 4, £6.95
Alex, a foundling, has his happy, ordinary life turned upside down. A moving, thoughtful story with mystery and suspense.
Drift, William Mayne, Cape, 0 224 02244 X, £6.95
A North American boy, an Indian girl and a bear in a remarkable and profound survival story.
The Final Test, Gareth Owen, Gollancz, 0 575 03699 0, £5.95
Two boys, one handicapped, both mad about cricket. A moving tale of friendship with a touch of mystery.
A Pair of Desert-Wellies, Sylvia Sherry, Cape, 0 224 02333 0, £6.95
More adventures of Rocky O’Rourke, the Liverpool lad who first appeared in A Pair of Jesus-Boots.
The Enchanted Palace, Ashim Bhattacharya and Champaka Basu, ill. Amanda Welch, Luzac, 0 7189 1000 1 (Bengali), 0 7189 1001 X (Greek), 0 7189 1002 8 (Hindi), £2.25 each
One of a new series of folk tales collected during the Reading Materials for Minorities research project. Bi-lingual text.
A Child’s Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson, ill. Michael Foreman, Gollancz, 0 575 03727 X, £6.95
The master illustrator interpreting this classic collection in black and white and full colour.
The judges wanted also to commend:
The Nativity Play, Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen, Hodder and Stoughton, 0 340 38300 3, £4.95
The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Tony Ross, Andersen, 0 86264 091 1, £4.95
The Princess and the Frog, A. Vesey, Methuen, 0 416 50300 4, £5.50
Tog the Ribber or Granny’s Tale, Paul Coltman, ill. Gillian McClure, Deutsch, 0 233 97711 2, £5.95.
Janni Howker – a double winner
Janni Howker, the twenty-eight year old Lancashire writer who caused such a stir with her first book of short stories, Badger on the Barge, has won both the Young Observer Teenage Fiction Prize and the Whitbread Nomination for her first novel, Nature of the Beast, Julia MacRae, 0 86203 194 X, £6.95
As we commented in Books for Keeps earlier this year it is a remarkable book which manages to blend realism and symbolism with very powerful results. It is very much a story for our times which tells what happens to a Lancashire family when their town is threatened, first by mass redundancy when the local mill closes, then by a mysterious and murderous Beast on the loose in the countryside. The tale is told by teenager, Bill Coward, the only person who understands the real nature of the beast. The story follows his attempts to track down and kill it, and also to take some control of his own life, which the adult world has done its best to ruin.
Judges Beryl Bainbridge, Elaine Moss, Jack Ousbey (Senior Schools Inspector for Nottingham), Jacqui Hayden (16-year-old winner of the Young Observer book critics competition) and Sue Matthias (editor of the Young Observer) selected Janni Howker for the £600 prize from nearly sixty books submitted this year.
Nature of the Beast was also the unanimous choice of judges, Bob Cattell, Philippa Pearce and David Wood, for the Children’s Book Section of the Whitbread Award. It now goes forward with books from four other categories for the overall Whitbread Book of the Year award, worth £18,500, which will be announced on 28th January.
Other books on what the Young Observer judges referred to as `a very strong shortlist’ were:
The Cuckoo Sister, Vivien Alcock, Methuen, 0 416 52210 6, £6.50
The Fire of the Kings, Julian Atterton, Julia MacRae, 0 86203 189 3, £6.95
The War Orphan, Rachel Anderson, Oxford University Press, 0 19 271496 1, £6.95
The Other Side, Jacqueline Wilson, OUP, 0 19 271501 1, £6.95
Children of the Dust, Louise Lawrence, Bodley Head, 0 370 30679 1, £3.95 pbk
Also considered for the Whitbread nomination were:
Back Home, Michelle Magorian, Viking Kestrel, 0 670 80670 6, £7.95
Nicobobinus, Terry Jones, Pavilion, 1 85145 000 9, £7.95.
The Emil Award
This is the fourth year of the Emil/Kurt Maschler Award given to ‘a children’s book in which text and illustration are both excellent and perfectly harmonious, each enhancing and balancing the other’.
The judges, Elaine Moss, Margaret Meek and Frank Delaney, have chosen as the winner:
The Iron Man by Ted Hughes in a new edition with illustrations by Andrew Davidson (Faber, 0 571 13675 3, £7.95 hbk and 0 571 13677 X, £1.95 pbk).
The judges said:
`The Iron Man is a modern myth, an adventure story powered by a machine-hungry robot who, far from being a threat to civilization, becomes the champion who saves it from destruction by an amorphous brooding evil from outer space.
The new Ted Hughes’ masterpiece has been illustrated by Andrew Davidson. His wood engravings (tinted in the hardback edition) match the strength, energy and pathos of the text quite startlingly, and ensure that The Iron Man will continue to be recognised as a children’s classic that challenges us all.’
The runners-up were:
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, Cape, 0 224 02999 1, £5.95
Shakespeare Stories, Leon Garfield and Michael Foreman, Gollancz, 0 575 03095 X, £8.95
The Wedding Ghost, Leon Garfield and Charles Keeping, OUP, 0 19 279779 4, £5.95
Chips and Jessie, Shirley Hughes, Bodley Head, 0 370 30666 X, £5.50
The Helen Oxenbury Nursery Story Book, Helen Oxenbury, Heinemann, 0 434 95602 3, £6.95
The judges said of the shortlist:
`From a large number of entries we selected six books – all very different – which represent the variety and ingenuity of writers and artists who recognise the needs of a new generation of readers in an age dominated by other media.’
The Reading Association of Ireland: Children’s Book Award
A new award to promote the writing and publication of literature for Irish children. The award will be made every two years for a work of original prose fiction written and published in Southern Ireland.
The first winner is Run with the Wind by Tom McCaughren, Wolfhound Press.
It tells the story of a skulk of foxes and their fight for survival and on publication drew comparisons with Watership Down and The Wind in the Willows. Run with the Wind was published in the UK in September, £3.95 pbk.
`Good value for money’ award
The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear, illustrated by John Vernon Lord and published by Jonathan Cape (0 224 01794 2, £9.95), is the winner of the 1985 Redwood Burn Award. The award is given annually to one of the selected books in the British Book Design and Production exhibition for `excellence in book production and outstanding quality and good value for money’. It is the first time that a children’s book has been a recipient of this award and The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear was chosen from 91 titles selected as the best produced and designed books published in the United Kingdom over the past year.