The Branford Boase award recognises authors who are publishing their first children’s book aimed at readers aged 7+. Meg Rosoff won back in 2005 and Francis Hardinge in 2006 – both are now established writers of children’s books. Other previous winners and shortlisted authors include Kevin Brooks, Siobhan Dowd, Mal Peet, Philip Reeve, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Patrick Ness, all of whom went on to win the CILIP Carnegie Medal.
The aim of the prize is not just to reward writers but also to recognise the work of editors. Editing is such an important part of writing, but it is often difficult for a writer to be objective and to edit their own work. This is where the input of an editor, particularly with a new writer, is key. Kay Stansfield, editor of ‘My Brother is a Superhero’ talks of ‘cutting approximately 15k words’ whilst other editors talk of working with the writer to make the most of character and plot. The strength of the Branford Boase award is that it not only recognises the skill of the author and the hard work of the editor, but it also helps to encourage editors to find and promote new writers whilst alerting readers to new and interesting authors.
This year the long list for the award included 23 books and the judges reduced this to a shortlist of six. The books this year are all aimed at readers aged 9+ and cover subjects as diverse as:
- a child who can talk to animals and the issue of depression (Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot by Horatio Clare and edited by Penny Thomas);
- adventure and risk (Stone Rider by David Hofmeyer and edited by Ben Horslen);
- fantasy and eccentricity (The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt and edited by Ben Horslen);
- a comedy with superpowers (My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomon and edited by Kirsty Stansfield);
- time travel (Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford and edited by Nicholas Lake) and
- the meaning of gender (The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson and edited by Bella Pearson).
The winner will be announced on July 7th 2016.
This year the judges are
- Russell Allen team leader for children’s services across the West Sussex Library Service, recently awarded Public Librarian of the Year;
- Simon Key, bookseller from the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green;
- Marion Lloyd, former children’s editor;
- and Rosie Rowell, author of Leopold Blue, winner of the 2015 Branford Boase Award.
The panel is chaired by Julia Eccleshare, children’s books editor of the Guardian.
Alongside the award, a competition is run called the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition with the aim of encouraging writing talent in under 19’s. The closing deadline for 2016 is now past, so make sure not to miss out next year.