Friday, 24 June 2011

Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award and Seven Stories

What a treat to attend the award ceremony for the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book  Award at Seven Stories yesterday. For anyone who does not know, the award was set up to encourage and promote diversity in children’s fiction. It is given for the best unpublished novel celebrating cultural diversity by an author who has not published a children’s book before. The prize is £1500 plus the option for Frances Lincoln Children’s Books to publish the book.

The winner this year is Helen Limon for Om Shanti, Babe. Going on the extracts that were read out, and what the judges said, it sounds very clever, funny and engaging. Fourteen year-old Cassia visits India with her Fairtrade-obsessed mother, and finds her preconceptions well and truly shattered. I’m really looking forward to reading this, especially after talking to Helen about it. The book was inspired by a visit to Kerala with her daughter, and by her conversations with mothers and children there.

Yesterday’s ceremony also celebrated the publication of last year’s winning novel, Too Much Trouble, by Tom Avery. It’s a gripping book that I read at a sitting on my journey back from Newcastle. Emmanuel and Prince are illegal child immigrants from Africa. Their grim and precarious lives become a whole lot scarier when they get trapped in a modern-day Oliver Twist existence. It was really good to meet Tom. He has taught in both secondary and primary schools and definitely knows and understands children living at the margins.

Visiting Seven Stories was a delight. What a fantastic place! The Anthony Browne exhibition is fabulous. It was particularly lovely to watch two small girls excitedly donning Little Red Riding Hood coats before exploring the shadowy woods. I loved the Puffin exhibition too. Loads of favourite books, and lots of fascinating information about their inception and publication.