What exactly does "handicapped" mean? Charlie's Eye by (Hamish Hamilton Pounds 10.99) has won the children's category in the National Association for Special Educational Needs book awards by offering an unexpected answer to that question.
Charlie is a girl with a glass eye. She pops her glass eye out all over the place; she plays tricks; no one is sorry for her, especially as she is best player in the junior-school football team. Her disability is part of her life and Charlie's Eye is a book for any child's bookshelf, not just for the special needs corner. Children with special educational needs belong in books just as they belong in life, say the organisers of the award.
The high calibre of books considered for this award suggests that when Charlie says: "Who cared what they thought anyway?" she was far from alone.
The rest of the shortlist spans the whole range of children's fiction. In Scribbleboy (Viking Pounds 10.99), Philip Ridley's idiosyncratic style and zany plot combine with Chris Riddell's wild graphics to describe how an anxious small boy uses graffiti to defeat his fears in the concrete jungle where he lives. Gold and Silver Water by Elizabeth Arnold (Mammoth Pounds 4.99) was described by the judges as "beautifully written with an imaginative use of language". Someone Like Me by Elaine Forrestal (Puffin Pounds 4.99) keeps the reader guessing until the last page: a family from northern Ireland moves to an Australian farm to escape the Troubles but they have troubles of their own. The Listener (A and C Black Graffix Pounds 3.99) by Elizabeth Laird is a graphic novel about a boy who rescues his grandmother with the help of a deaf girl. For younger children, Bernard's Magic by Dick Cate (Walker Pounds 6.99) is a comedy about a boy who worries compulsively, but who finds his own solution.
Victoria Neumark * More children's books on page 12, and in '101 of the Best', the children's book guide, free with 'The TES' this week