Shelton and Fickling win Branford Boase

Shelton and Fickling win Branford Boase

Author Dave Shelton and his editor David Fickling have won the 2013 Branford Boase Award for A Boy and a Bear in a Boat (David Fickling Books).

The £1,000 award is given annually to the author and editor of the most outstanding debut novel for children, and has now been won by Fickling an unprecedented three times (he also won in 2007 with Siobhan Dowd's A Swift Pure Cry and in 2008 with Before I Die by Jenny Downham).

Meanwhile Lydia Syson and her editor Sarah Odedina were highly commended for A World Between Us (Hot Key Books), the first time since 2004 that a book has been highlighted in this way, and "proof of the strength and depth of the 2013 shortlist", the prize organisers said.

Julia Eccleshare, chair of the judges, said: "The UK children's book market is flourishing and the 2013 shortlist was extraordinarily strong – even so, A Boy and a Bear in a Boat stood out: the judges loved it for its originality, for the unique way it tells its story. We all agreed we had never read anything like it."

The winning book tells of a boy and a bear who go to sea in a boat called Harriet, accompanied by a suitcase and a ukelele, only to find themselves at the mercy of a turbulent storm and a sea monster.

In his acceptance speech, Shelton said: "I am especially pleased that the Branford Boase Award gives such emphasis  to the role of the editor in the process of creating a book. It's not a role you hear that much about normally but, in my extremely limited experience, it's a vital one, especially on your first go. And I suspect I may have been rather spoiled in landing David as editor for mine.

"Every word in the book is mine. But a lot of rubbish ones that aren't in the book any more were mine too. The original title that no one can remember, that was mine. It's not that David ever made me make changes, it's just that almost everything he suggested was a really good idea."

Shelton added that Fickling had given him the confidence he needed to go ahead with his writing, even when he "floundered and doubted". He said: "That kind of faith in somebody new, that excitement in taking a punt on a risky prospect, is, I suppose, a large part of what this award is all about. These are interesting and difficult times in publishing and there must be a temptation, I imagine, to favour safe bets and unknown quantities much of the time. But the nurturing of new talent, by publishing companies big and small, has to be encouraged, and bravo to Branford Boase award founders Julia Eccleshare and Anne Marley for creating an award that does just that."

Fickling said: "Hooray for the Branford Boase, by far the best talent-spotting prize in UK children's books. I am so proud that Dave Shelton has won and that his amazing storytelling and drawing skills are being shouted out to the world. A Boy and A Bear in a Boat is an astonishing piece of work that takes you gently by surprise and which will lodge in the memory of every reader."

Ficking added: "I am a 'potato print' type publisher, by which I mean, I read it! I like it! I publish it! That's important. To be decisive. If you really like something and you 'know' (as in no-one could dissuade you) it's good, then, if you are a publisher, it's important to get on and do something about it and not to dither too much.

"In the case of Dave Shelton I already knew he wrote wonderfully well from his brilliant comic strip Good Dog Bad Dog. (Read it immediately if you haven't already). I didn't really have to do any research to see if other people like it too. I knew they would. So when Dave said he would like to write something else I was keen from the off. When I first read it I liked it immediately. From then on it was just a case of, 'Can I say anything at all that will help him make it exactly what he wants it to be, as good as it can be.'"

Also shortlisted for the prize were After the Snow by S D Crockett, edited by Emma Young (Macmillan); The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant, edited by Julia Heydon-Wells (Faber); Daylight Saving by Edward Hogan, edited by Mara Bergman (Walker); A Hen in the Wardrobe by Wendy Meddour, edited by Janetta Otter-Barry (Frances Lincoln); and Black Arts by Andrew Prentice and Jonathan Weil, edited by Simon Mason (David Fickling).

This year's judging panel were author Annabel Pitcher, consultant and lecturer Prue Goodwin, former Scholastic Book Clubs m.d. Julie Randles, and Joy Court, learning resources manager for Coventry city council.

The Branford Boase award was set up in memory of author Henrietta Branford and Walker Books co-founder Wendy Boase, who both died of cancer in 1999.