Childrens Book of the Year Awards 2018. Each year, the shortlist for this awards presents us with stronger and stronger candidates.This year was no exception. Ten nominees with books for varied ages and genres made the final decision a challenge, I'm sure.
In the end, the 28th annual Childrens Book of the Year Award was given to
Deirdre Sullivan and illustrator Karen Vaughan for the sumptuous and utterly remarkable Tangleweed and Brine. Re-imagined for a contemporary audience gives a lyrical, enchanting and unsettling view of a collection of traditional fairytales, turning them back on themselves and into the hearts and minds of familiar characters. We emerge renewed, with a powerful, more enticing view that leads us on to destinies that are more felt than realised. The text is offset with Vaughans stunning black & white illustrations, reminiscent of Rackham or Harry Clarke, giving the entire book the look and feel of a vintage volume. Not a book for young children, Tangleweed and Brine does what fairytales are supposed to do; intrigue, illuminate, bewitches and reveals. It is indeed a worthy winner, and an extraordinary book.
Star By Star. Historical fiction for young people, Star By Star is the tale of a young suffragette in 1918; the year women first had the vote in Ireland. It touches on the Great War and its' returning soldiers, the Spanish Flu pandemic and so many social issues of the time with style and insight, while maintaining a wonderful flow and pace. Filled with insight, humour and depth, Star By Star is both timely and time-honoured. (reviewed on this blog; Irish Authors...page).
The Honour Award for Illustration went to Kevin Waldron for Chocolate Cake, written by Michael Rosen. Waldrons' zany pictures and quirky use of space and design bring instant laughter to the story/poem of a midnight feast gone wrong and perfectly expresses a young boys' love of chocolate cake! (We've all been there...and wanted it illustrated.)
The Judges' Special Award was given to Eoin Colfer for Illegal, a timely and thought-provoking graphic novel charting a young boys' journey across the Sahara Desert in a dangerous bid to reach Italy, his sister and the possibility of a new life. This book combines naturalistic drawings with sparse text to give a book that is powerful and moving.
Meg Grehan received the Eilís Dillon award for First Childrens Book for her YA verse novel, The Space Between. A poignant look at mental health issues and the tender new love between two young women, this verse novel is graceful, refined and compassionate.
My favourite award in this ceremony is always the Childrens' Choice Award. Decided by the children/schools in the Shadowing Scheme, this years' winner is our new Laureate na nÓg, Sarah Crossan for the brilliant Moonrise. Filled with genuine emotion, empathy and unanswered questions, this verse novel delivers full impact from the very first page. The story of Joe, 17 years old, who travels to Texas to see his brother on death row and spend those last few precious weeks trying to discover the truth is not at all grim as you might expect, but incredibly compelling and rendered with finesse and dignity.
Congratulations to all the winners, and to those who made the shortlist of nominees. These awards, year upon year demonstrate the high quality, enthusiasm, dedication and respect in Irish literature for children and young people. It is gratifying and honouring to see the seriousness, and yet still the joy in the approach to childrens' books in Ireland. And thank you to Childrens' Books Ireland for continuing its' dedicated work to bring this to the fore.