Winning over the next generation

7th March 2014 at 00:00
Readers' choices revealed in Scottish Children's Book Awards

Works by Chae Strathie, Janis Mackay and teacher Claire McFall were celebrated at the 2013 Scottish Children's Book Awards on 5 March in front of 800 children and young people.

Peebles High School teacher Ms McFall won the older readers category for her debut novel Ferryman, aimed at 12- to 16-year-olds. The love story opens with a train crash in which heroine Dylan meets the strange Tristan, who takes her on a journey through a desolate wasteland.

Ms McFall said she had been inspired to write a book for young people after taking a group to the awards ceremony a number of years ago. She added that she liked the fact that the children involved were reading the books "because they enjoy them, not to write an essay about them".

The English teacher - who published her second novel, Bombmaker, last month - said she had wanted to write something that would interest the children in her classes.

Mr Strathie's Jumblebum, illustrated by Ben Cort, won over the young readers who voted in the category for three- to seven-year-olds. In the book, a young boy's messy bedroom attracts the terrible jumblebum beast.

A sub-editor for the Sunday Post newspaper, Mr Strathie, from Fife, told TESS he had written the story years ago and was thrilled to see it do so well. The issue of messy rooms was one that all children and adults could identify with, he said.

"It is definitely not a going-to-sleep story, it is more something to read out loud and have a bit of fun with," he said, adding that his next book, due to be published in April, was the opposite. "It is called Bedtime for Tiny Mouse and it is absolutely non-scary and there are no monsters," he said.

The younger readers category (eight- to 11-year-olds) was won by Janis Mackay from Edinburgh for her novel The Accidental Time Traveller. This tells the story of Saul, who meets a girl from 1812 and tries to help her travel back to her own era.

The female character was based on Marjorie Fleming, a Scottish child-writer born in 1803, and Saul was inspired by Ms Mackay's nephew. She said she hoped the book would do well because she felt such a close connection to its main characters. A sequel had already been completed, she revealed.

The awards, now in their 14th year, are run by the Scottish Book Trust and recognise the best books for children and young people created by authors and illustrators residing in Scotland. After the shortlist is decided by a panel of expert judges, thousands of young people from across Scotland read the works on the list and vote for their favourites. Many also write articles for the review competition. This year, about 38,000 votes were placed - an increase of 6,000 on last year. In total, more than 1,700 schools registered to take part.

The authors said the fact that the prizes were decided by young readers added to their importance. "All the children at the awards have read the books. You know they are excited about them, and that makes all the difference," Mr Strathie said.

Ms Mackay, meanwhile, said it was "fantastic", and Ms McFall said she had been "astonished" to learn that she had won, and excited to share the moment with "those I wrote it for in the first place".

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