TV presenter Claudia Winkleman is to join author Cathy Rentzenbrink and Amazon's director of books, Dan Mucha, on the judging panel for children's book award Oscar’s Book Prize.
The £5,000 prize was set up in 2014 by the Evening Standard in memory of Oscar Ashton, the son of the paper’s executive editor and columnist James Ashton, who died suddenly in 2012 at the age of three-and-a-half from undetected heart condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The prize is being supported by Amazon and The National Literacy Trust.
As in previous years, Oscar’s parents, James Ashton and Viveka Alvestrand, will also be on the judging panel.
Winkleman said: “I can’t wait to read all the entries. I can still remember sitting on my parents’ lap while they read to me, loving their accents and squealing ‘more’ when they finished. My mum kept every book and I read them to my children.”
Rentzenbrink, author of the 2015 memoir The Last Act of Love (Picador) and contributing editor of The Bookseller, said: “My son Matt is seven, about the same age that Oscar would be now. When I explained to him why I was judging this prize, he thought it was very sad that Oscar had died and that it was brilliant that his parents had wanted to do this for him. He asked if he could look at the books with me and I agreed, so we are both really looking forward to reading them together.”
The prize is being supported as part of the Amazon in the Community programme, which aims to help children and young people thrive in the digital world, including equipping them with literacy skills.
Mucha, director of books at Amazon, said: “Amazon started life as a bookseller, and we are passionate about helping more children discover the joy of reading. It’s a privilege to support Oscar’s Book Prize, a competition which puts the love of stories above all else and encourages parents to read to their children from a young age.”
Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust added: “We are delighted to be supporting Oscar’s Book Prize. It’s never too soon for parents to start reading with their young children, which will allow them to develop the vital language skills that will set them up for future success. This competition celebrates the brilliant new early years literature that will capture the imaginations of both children and parents and that they will love exploring together.”
Oscar’s Book Prize was set up in partnership with the Evening Standard three years ago. The prize has previously been won by Benji Davies for Storm Whale (Simon and Schuster Children's Books) in 2014, Steve Antony for The Queen’s Hat (Hodder's Children's Books) in 2015 and last year by Gemma Merino for The Cow Who Climbed a Tree (Macmillan Children's Books).
Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands added: “Oscar's Book Prize is now a significant event in the publishing calendar and we are delighted to continue our partnership. It is for the pleasure of all children and in particular remembering a little boy who loved to read – Oscar.”
Publishers are invited to submit entries for the 2017 prize by the 3rd of March. The winner will be announced at a London-based event in May.