Comedy triumphs in children's book awards

"Will this be the year a funny book wins the Carnegie Medal?" was overheard at this year's shortlisting meeting for the top children's literature award.

Winners in recent years have included some fine books (David Almond's Skellig , Aidan Chambers' Postcards from No Man's Land and Beverley Naidoo's The Other Side of Truth ) but the rib-tickling factor has not been obvious.

Terry Pratchett's first Discworld novel for children, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (published by Doubleday), which picked up the award in a year with a very strong shortlist is both very funny and profound.

At today's award ceremony at the British Library, Pratchett referred to the panel of librarians who had given him the medal as "the dirndl brigade", but they still let him keep it.

A ripping yarn to entertain anyone who has ever smelled a rat about the story of Pied Piper of Hamelin, it follows a group of rats with human intelligence (they can read, but have no teachers so don't know what to read) as they go to war and make peace: "the first rats in the world to be afraid of the dark", said Pratchett. "Then there's the even more fantastic idea that humans are intelligent too."

His Discworld series has a huge following among adults and teenagers. "Don't be confused by genre," he told the audience. "You put in one lousy dragon and they call you a fantasy writer. This is a book about justice."

And he added: "Laughter can get you through the keyhole when seriousness is still hammering on the door."

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