Fiction books reflecting the “concerns and issues” of modern day children and teenagers have been highlighted in the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2016 shortlists.
In the older fiction category, The Art of Being Normal (David Fickling Books) by Lisa Williamson and Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun (Walker Books) are two titles that have LGBT issues their core. In the former, two teens struggle with their gender identities at school - a place where "secrets are hard to keep". Children’s author, Juno Dawson, who has herself recently transitioned, called the book “a sensational, heart-warming and life-affirming debut”. In Nelson’s novel, which has been optioned for film by Warner Bros, a brother and sister "driven apart by tragedy are brought back together in the most unexpected way as they both find themselves falling for boys at the same time".
Also in the older fiction category are two novels that deal with issues of abuse: Lisa Heathfield’s Seed (Electric Monkey) follows a teenage girl’s "creeping awareness that all is not right” in the cult in which she has been raised. Meanwhile, long-buried family secrets are at the heart of Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s "atmospheric and unpredictable" novel, The Accident Season (Corgi).
In the younger fiction category, Crystal Chan’s Bird (Tamarind) tells of how grief and guilt threaten to overwhelm a family as a young girl struggles to overcome a tragedy that occurred the day she was born. Sibéal Pounder’s Witch Wars (Bloomsbury), is also shortlisted in the younger category, along with David Solomons’ My Brother is a Superhero (Nosy Crow) and Shane Hegarty’s Darkmouth (HarperCollins).
The animal kingdom “dominates” the illustrated books category with titles such as Hector and the Hummingbird by Nicholas John Firth (Alison Green Books), The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield (Frances Lincoln), Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow (Gecko Press), and The Crow’s Tale by Naomi Howarth (Frances Lincoln). All except one of the books in this category were illustrated by men, a change from 2015 when four out of six were by women.
Florentyna Martin, Waterstones children’s buyer, said: “It has been a brilliant year for children’s books, and these lists show that great new talent continues to be found and nurtured, not least by our expert booksellers. As proved by our shortlists, today’s children do not just enjoy books for the escapism they offer, but for how they can illuminate life in all its shade of light and dark. This is a wonderfully diverse selection of books to be justly celebrated.”
James Daunt, Waterstones m.d., added: “These exceptional shortlists confirm what was suggested by our choice of The Fox and The Star (Penguin) as Waterstones Book of the Year 2015 and The Lie Tree’s (Macmillan) recent Costa Awards triumph – that the world of children’s books is every bit as exciting and varied as any other area of publishing. We revel in this creativity and the hallmark of our bookshops is the ability of our booksellers to spot such extraordinarily good books.”
The winners will be announced at an evening reception at Waterstones Piccadilly in London on Thursday 17th March. The six books in each category will compete to be crowned category winner, with the three category winners then vying for the overall title of Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year 2016. The winner of each category will receive £2,000, with the overall winner receiving an extra £3,000.
Last year's prize was won by Observer art director, Rob Biddulph for his illustrated book Blown Away (HarperCollins Children's).
The full shortlist
Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow (Gecko Press)
Cinderella’s Sister and the Big Bad Wolf by Lorraine Carey and Migy Blanco (Nosy Crow)
Hector and Hummingbird by Nicholas John Frith (Alison Green Books)
The Crow’s Tale by Naomi Howarth (Frances Lincoln)
The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield (Frances Lincoln)
Super Happy Magic Forest by Matty Long (Oxford University Press)
Bird by Crystal Chan (Tamarind)
Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty (HarperCollins)
Witch Wars by Sibéal Pounder (Bloomsbury)
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands (Puffin)
My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons (Nosy Crow)
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine (Egmont)
The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle (Corgi)
Seed by Lisa Heathfield (Electric Monkey)
13 Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt (Orchard)
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Walker Books)
The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury (Scholastic)
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson (David Fickling Books)