Rosie Rowell [pictured] and her editor Emily Thomas have won this year’s Branford Boase award for little-known YA novel Leopold Blue (Hot Key Books).
The award, which is given annually to the author and editor of an outstanding debut novel for children, is a work of “originality, power and intelligence”, said chair of the judges Julia Eccleshare. “The characters and setting are brilliantly observed and described… The background gives it particular depth and it transcends the coming-of-age genre.”
Leopold Blue, set in South African in 1993, is about 15-year-old Meg and how she feels stifled by Leopold, the small town where she lives. Meg is annoyed with her mother, whose campaigning for AIDS awareness distances them from the local farm workers, and is jealous of her friend Simon, the son of the family’s black housekeeper who is about to go to university. She then becomes friends with the new girl at school, Xanthe, but the friendship doesn’t bring all the new possibilities it had promised.
Editor Thomas said: “When I acquired Leopold Blue, my passion for the story and Rosie’s seemingly effortless, evocative narrative was instant. To have that excitement shared by the judges is a real boost to the editor as well as the author.”
Rowell said the award is an “enormous honour” that confirms that stories about everyday people matter.
Rowell was presented with a £1,000 cheque by Jacqueline Wilson at a ceremony in London today (9th July). Both Rowell and Thomas were given a silver inlaid box.
Leopold Blue beat off a competition from six other shortlisted books: Trouble by Non Pratt, edited by Annalie Grainger and Denise Johnstone-Burt (Walker Books); Half Bad by Sally Green, edited by Ben Horslen (Penguin); Bone Jack by Sara Crowe, edited by Charlie Sheppard and Eloise Wilson (Andersen Press); The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss, edited by Jane Griffiths (Simon & Schuster); Cowgirl by Giancarlo Gemin, edited by Kirsty Stansfield (Nosy Crow); and The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis, edited by Jane Griffiths.