Children's column: The Branford Boase and beyond

Nicolette Jones
Opinion - Children 13 Jul 2009

The Branford Boase Award for a first children's book (and its editor), announced last Thursday (9 July), and set up in memory of Henrietta Branford and her editor Wendy Boase, is now in its 10th year. Taking stock, the award's track record reveals it to be an accurate indicator of potential, and apparently a spur to productivity. The prize warrants the attention of booksellers who might (if they can move quickly) use the anniversary as a promotional opportunity.


The number of entries for the Branford Boase has grown year by year; this year it was 57 books, which is a credit to publishers' encouragement of new talent. Winners to date have been: Katherine Roberts (2000), Marcus Sedgwick (2001), Sally Prue (2002), Kevin Brooks (2003), Mal Peet (2004), Meg Rosoff (2005), Frances Hardinge (2006), Siobhan Dowd (2007), Jenny Downham (2008), and now Bridget Collins, for The Traitor Game.
Katherine Roberts, who won for Song Quest (and had published scores of stories in magazines before her first book came out), went on to write two further volumes in the Echorium series, seven books in the Seven Fabulous Wonders series, and three more novels, of which the latest is I Am the Great Horse. Six of these books also sold in the US, and her work has been translated into 11 foreign languages, including Greek, Thai and Serbian. Roberts has also written the text for a picturebook, Magical Horses, published by Carlton in September.
Marcus Sedgwick has published nine novels since his winner, Floodland, and garnered many prizes and shortlistings, notably for My Swordhand Is Singing, which won the Booktrust Teenage Book Award and the Carnegie Shadowing vote, and Blood Red, Snow White, which was shortlisted for the Costa children's book award. His latest is Revolver, out this month. He has also embarked on a series for younger readers, The Raven Mysteries, of which the first, Flood and Fang, is now out. Book two, Ghosts and Gadgets, comes in the autumn.
Sally Prue has written three more enthusiastically received stand-alone novels since Cold Tom (which also won a Smarties Prize silver award), three books in The Truth Sayer series, and five books for younger readers.
Kevin Brooks, whose winning debut Martyn Pig was also shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, was shortlisted again this year for Black Rabbit Summer. Lucas (2003) was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize and the Booktrust Teenage Prize, before winning the North East Book Award. His latest, and 10th stand-alone novel, just out, is Killing God. He has also written two novels in the Johnny Delgado series.
Mal Peet is one of three Branford Boase winners so far to have gone on to win the Carnegie Medal: for Tamar in 2005. He has also written The Penalty, a sequel to his Branford-Boase-winning debut, Keeper, and Exposure (2008).
Meg Rosoff's debut How I Live Now also won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the Whitbread (now Costa). Just in Case won the Carnegie in 2007, and was shortlisted for the Booktrust Teenage Prize and the Costa. What I Was was also shortlisted for the Carnegie and the Costa. Her latest, The Bride's Farewell, is out in September.
Frances Hardinge has followed her winning debut, Fly by Night (also shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize), with two acclaimed novels, Verdigris Deep and Gullstruck Island.
Siobhan Dowd died a year after her debut, A Swift Pure Cry, won the Branford Boase, but she wrote three more books, two of them published posthumously: Bog Child won this year's Carnegie Medal. The four books already constitute a body of work that show she was one of our finest contemporary writers for young people.
Jenny Downham, 2008 winner for Before I Die, and B R Collins, who won on Thursday for The Traitor Game, have all before them. (B R Collins has a second book, The Trick of the Dark, coming out in September.) Collins is a remarkable writer, but Patrick Ness, whose The Knife of Never Letting Go seemed a likely winner after bagging the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize as well as the Booktrust Teenage Prize (and being shortlisted for the Carnegie), can console himself with the thought that the following books were also shortlisted for the Branford Boase, but didn t win: Louise Rennison's Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging (2000), first of a bestselling series that became a movie - she went on to be shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Prize and to win Queen of Teen ; William Nicholson's The Wind Singer (2001), which started both the acclaimed Wind on Fire trilogy and a distinguished new career as a children's writer; Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines (2002), the first of his astonishing Hungry Cities quartet and he won the Carnegie last year for Here Lies Arthur; and Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce (2005), which went on to win the Carnegie, for which his third novel Cosmic was shortlisted this year (as it was for the Guardian).
The near misses have been noteworthy too. This is a prize it is a waste to ignore.

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