Three Debut Novelists reach shortlist in Nestlé Smarties Book Prize.
Frogs, fairies and fire eaters are among the diverse themes to be found in this year's shortlisted books for the 2003 Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, announced Wednesday October 8th.
First time novelists Eleanor Updale, SF Said and Steve Augarde join established writers David Almond, Harry Horse, and Sally Gardner on the shortlist, which represents the best of children's fiction published in the UK this year. The Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, now in its 19th year, is the biggest children's book prize in the UK. Twenty-five thousand schoolchildren are expected to take part this year, with the winning books chosen from the shortlist by children.
The three debut novels are: Montmorency, a crime novel by Eleanor Updale, set in Victorian London; Varjak Paw, a story by SF Said about a Mesopotamian Blue kitten who learns a mystical martial art for cats; and The Various, by Steve Augarde, which relates the adventures of some strange, wild and sometimes deadly creatures. (See later for the full shortlist.)
The daunting task of choosing the shortlist of nine from more than 250 books faced the five judges when they set out on their reading marathon earlier this summer. Eight weeks later, they have settled on what the judges describe as "a fantastic selection of books, with something for everyone. This shortlist includes some brilliant books that we'll be talking about as children's classics in years to come."
Julia Eccleshare, chair of the adult judging panel charged with drawing up the shortlist, said:
"This year's excellent shortlist reflects the huge output of quality writing for children of all ages, with a marked return to the best traditions of storytelling, characterisation and illustration".
"It's particularly heartening to see how historical novels, a genre long thought to be dead in children's literature, are making a comeback."
"It is also encouraging to see so many beautifully presented books in which text and illustration are seamlessly integrated in a complete package".
"Lastly, authors are addressing contemporary family issues realistically but reassuringly, with boys emerging as sensitive characters in their own right rather than as stereotypes in the shadow of more assertive girls," she said.
The final selection of the winners rests with the schoolchildren who decide which authors will get the gold, silver and bronze medals. The winners will be announced on Monday December 1st at the British Library in London.
The full shortlist is:
Age 5 and under
Tadpole's Promise Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross (Andersen Press)
Two Frogs Chris Wormell (Jonathan Cape)
The Witch's Children and the Queen Ursula Jones illus. Russell Ayto (Orchard)
The Countess's Calamity Sally Gardner (Bloomsbury)
The Last Castaways Harry Horse (Puffin)
Varjak Paw SF Said (David Fickling)
Montmorency Eleanor Updale (Scholastic)
The Various Steve Augarde (David Fickling)
The Fire-Eaters David Almond (Hodder)