From the real traumas of being adopted or living among loan sharks, to the imaginary fear and wonder of monsters and magic, the winners of the first Scottish children's book awards represent "a phenomenal body of talent", said the chairman of the judges, author Jamie Jauncey.
The new annual prizes of pound;1,000 each, awarded by the Scottish Arts Council this week in Glasgow, were to have gone to the top three books by Scottish authors or illustrators, or on a Scottish theme. Instead, the judges and arts council had to recognise that there were five equally deserving candidates.
The winners are Joan Lingard, "a veteran who has made a huge contribution to Scottish children's writing on sometimes tough, sometimes tender issues", for Tom and the Treehouse (Hodder); Catherine MacPhail for Fighting Back (Puffin), "a thrilling and hardhitting and often hilarious tale of the courage it takes to stand up against the mafia"; Frances Thomas and Ross Collins for Supposing (Bloomsbury), "a picture book that has a wonderfully imaginative approach to overcoming the terrors of childhood"; Susan Cooper for The Boggart and the Monster (Bodley Head), "plausible through the strength and warmth of character", and JK Rowling for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Bloomsbury), "a phenomenon. No other word for it".
Jauncey said: "For its size, Scotland boasts an almost disproportionate number of first class children's writers and illustrators. You only need to glance at the winners of the major British children's book awards over the past decade to see that this is so."