Novel about conjoined twins named best new Irish children's book

Sarah Crossan’s One, a novel in verse about conjoined twins, is the CBI book of the year. Louise O’Neill, John and Fatti Burke and Lauren O’Neill also win prizes

Sarah Crossan has won the 26th CBI Book of the Year Award for One, her novel in verse about conjoined twins, becoming only the fourth author to win both the Book of the Year Award and the Children’s Choice award.

At a ceremony held in Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin today, John and Fatti (Kathi) Burke also picked up two prizes for Irelandopedia: the Eilís Dillon Award for a first children’s book and the Judges’ Special Award. Lauren O’Neill won the Honour Award for Illustration for her work on Gulliver, and Louise O’Neill won the Honour Award for Fiction for Asking For It .

One chronicles the story of Grace and Tippi, conjoined twins who, aged 16, have to go to school for the first time and negotiate a world of prejudice, friendship, first love and gossip. The judges said: “Crossan’s signature blend of lyricism and realism addresses complicated dynamics of family, identity, sisterhood and difference. Told in verse and in the first person, this elegant, sensitive story will stimulate reflections and conversations about discrimination, diversity, difficult choices and the bonds of love.”

The judges said of Lauren O’Neill’s work on Gulliver: “This beautifully illustrated, dynamic retelling skilfully meets the challenge of bringing this beloved classic novel to a new generation. Mary Webb’s accessible, carefully-pitched text about Gulliver’s time with the Lilliputians (in which he is perceived as a giant) and his stay with the Brobdingna (where the people are giants compared to him) interweaves with Lauren O’Neill’s captivating, immersive illustrations. The red ribbon for marking page position evokes a continuity of literary heritage while Webb and O’Neill skilfully capture the original tale’s humour and satire. An engaging read-aloud for junior classes and a valuable book for readers about the futility of war and the importance of respecting different perspectives.”


The judges also praised Louise O’Neill. “Reading Asking For It is a harrowing, intense and thought-provoking experience. O’Neill skillfully draws the reader into the world of privileged teenage queen bee, Emma, and then ruptures both Emma’s and the reader’s complacency by exposing the violence, misogyny and hypocrisies shrouding the idyllic facade of her Irish town and the wider world. This is an important novel for twenty-first century Irish Young Adult literature and for youth culture in Ireland. Examining issues of consent, victim blaming and rape culture, O’Neill’s scalding exploration of sexism, scapegoating, sexual assault and the ethics of using and abusing social media offers immense crossover appeal for young adults and adults alike.”

Of Irelandopedia, the judges said: “This ‘compendium of maps, facts and knowledge’ about Ireland and Irish life by father and daughter team, John Burke and Fatti Burke, has infectious appeal for all the family. Each county’s doublespread is vividly evoked with witty and detailed illustrations which work perfectly in counterpart with the accessible, engaging text and an endless treasure trove of facts. This absorbing book will immerse even the most reluctant reader and will spark curiosity, pleasure and pride about local environments, history, culture and the richness of modern and ancient Ireland.”

The CBI Book of the Year Awards are the leading children’s book awards in Ireland. Previous winners include John Boyne for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas; Sheena Wilkinson for Grounded, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick for There and Hagwitch and Oliver Jeffers for Once upon an Alphabet.

Students from King’s Hospital School Palmerstown and St Brigid’s National School Glasnevin presented Crossan with the Children’s Choice Award, voted for by young readers from across the country.

Patricia Kennon, chair of the judging panel, said: “It was an honour to spend some of 2015 and 2016 reading almost 90 award entries with our incredibly dedicated and hardworking judging panel. The books being celebrated today highlight the excellence that children both at home and abroad can expect from books created by Irish authors and illustrators. We are exceptionally lucky to be able to enjoy the skills and talents of a diverse groups of Irish authors and illustrators writing for children.”