Children’s Irish Book Awards nominations: a crash course
Claire Hennessy, our resident children’s/YA reviewer and a shortlisted author too, runs her rule over shortlists and identifies the favourites
Dave Rudden’s Knights of the Borrowed Dark is not only engaging and funny but it’s beautifully written. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Voting closes for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2016 at midnight today, November 11th, and it has come to my attention that not everyone’s world revolves around children’s and young adult fiction. Unthinkable as this is, I hereby present you with your cheat sheet for both shortlists – both, of course, sponsored by Specsavers, to pay tribute to the bespectacled nerd cliche within media for young people.
For the parents among you, any of the titles shortlisted are worth adding to the Christmas lists. But if you’d like to know a little more, read on.
SPECSAVERS CHILDREN’S BOOK OF THE YEAR – JUNIOR
This category is for books for readers up to eight or thereabouts, pitting picture books against chapter books for older children.
A Child of Books by Sam Winston & Oliver Jeffers (Walker Books)
Artist Sam Winston teams up with picture book legend Oliver Jeffers (Brooklyn resident, but Belfast-born) for an adventure through classic stories, including actual excerpts woven into the pictures. Jeffers won this category last year for his collaboration with Eoin Colfer, Imaginary Fred, and has also won twice as a solo artist.
Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton (Walker Books)
Another picture book genius here. Chris Haughton won this category for the endearing Shh! We Have A Plan! in 2014 and his trademark block-style images and natural settings are once again evident in his latest book, in which Little Bear can’t sleep. A simple but gorgeous “time for bed!” story.
Pigín of Howth by Kathleen Watkins, illustrated by Margaret Anne Suggs (Gill Books)
Gill Books have a gift for finding titles that speak to an Irish audience, and these three stories about a little pig living in Howth are chock-full of local references that will delight Dublin readers. Kathleen Watkins, aka Mrs Gaybo, is the nation’s favourite granny, so it is fitting that this book emerged from bedtime stories told to her grandchildren.
Historopedia by Fatti & John Burke (Gill Books)
The father-daughter team behind Irelandopedia are back with an equally large and beautiful book about Irish history, from the Stone Age right up to scientific inventions and the marriage equality act. The balance of text to quirky image is absolutely perfect.
Rabbit and Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough and Jim Field (Hodder Children’s)
Seasoned illustrator Jim Field provides the images while recovering musician, literary novelist and self-proclaimed “selfish artist” Julian Gough tells the story of Bear, who wakes up early and decides to make a snowman. She is assisted by Rabbit, who has his own issues - including a fondness for eating his own poo. The first in a series, this is warm, funny, and just a little bit disgusting.
Rover and the Big Fat Baby by Roddy Doyle, illustrated by Chris Judge (Macmillan)
Roddy Doyle won the Senior Children’s category in 2008 for Wilderness, the Novel of Year 2013 for The Guts, and that obscure Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha in 1993. Nowadays he is best known for waiting for celebrities to die so that two oul’ fellas can discuss it over pints, as well as continuing the Giggler Treatment series for children – Rover and the Big Fat Baby is the fourth instalment. It features plenty of his trademark humour and grossness (poo is a popular topic for this age group), with illustrations from Chris Judge (category winner 2011).
The smart money’s on . . . Historopedia. Not only it is utterly gorgeous but it’s about time a non-fiction children’s book got the nod.
SPECSAVERS CHILDREN’S BOOK OF THE YEAR - SENIOR
This category is for books for readers of 9+, including young adult titles.
Flawed by Cecelia Ahern (HarperCollins)
Best known for her romantic fiction with a magical-realist twist – including her latest, The Lyrebird, which is nominated for Best Popular Fiction – Cecelia Ahern stepped into the world of YA fiction earlier this year with Flawed, a thought-provoking look at a world where being perfect matters more than anything else.
Knights of The Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden (Puffin)
Dave Rudden’s debut is the first in a fantasy trilogy featuring Denizen Hardwick, a 13-year-old orphan with a multitude of frowns who discovers he’s part of a secret group fighting evil – and promptly decides he’d rather just sit at home and read, actually.
Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan (Little Island)
Deirdre Sullivan’s Prim trilogy has been nominated for various awards, including the CBI book of the year and the European Prize for Literature. Needlework’s haunting, lyrical prose takes us inside the head of a teenage victim of incest and abuse, exploring how creating art can be a way of coping with trauma.
Nothing Tastes As Good by Claire Hennessy (Hot Key Books)
A snarky anorexic ghost is assigned as a spirit helper for a girl in trouble, only to discover that she’s the worst’s worst guardian angel ever. The author is forbidden, under the Irish Constitution, from having ‘notions’ and saying anything nice about herself. Let us move on.
The Book of Shadows by ER Murray (Mercier Press)
ER Murray’s The Book of Learning was this year’s Citywide Read (the children’s equivalent of the Dublin UNESCO One City One Book scheme), introducing us to Ebony Smart, her pet rat, and a world where reincarnation is possible. The Book of Shadows is the second instalment in a trilogy, upping the stakes for our heroine and the Order of Nine Lives.
The Making of Mollie by Anna Carey (O’Brien Press)
Anna Carey’s debut The Real Rebecca nabbed the trophy for this category in 2011, and after four Rebecca books she’s moved into historical fiction - particularly, the suffragettes of early twentieth-century Dublin. Mollie is just as engaging and relatable as Rebecca, with a powerful but never preachy message about the rights of women woven into the narrative.
The smart money’s on . . . Knights of the Borrowed Dark. Not only it is engaging and funny but it’s beautifully written, and there’s a lady that eats light bulbs.
Now if you’ll excuse me, some of us must go practice our “gracious loser” expressions in the mirror . . .
Voting for the BGEIBA shortlist closes midnight, Friday, November 11th. The awards night is next Wednesday.
Claire Hennessy is a writer, editor and creative writing facilitator