Author Struan Murray (pictured top) and his editor at Puffin, Ben Horslen, have won the 2021 Branford Boase Award for Orphans of the Tide.
The 2021 winners of the prize, awarded to an outstanding debut novel for children and supported by walker Books, were announced on 15th July as part of a public event presented by the LoveReading LitFest. It is unique in honouring an editor as well as the author of a book. Murray will receive £1,000 for his "ambitious, beautifully written" fantasy adventure novel, in addition to an engraved trophy, also awarded to Horslen.
Set in the last city of a drowned world, the book opens with a dead whale washing in with the tide, only for a living boy to climb out. The city’s religious authorities believe his body to house The Enemy, the god they hold responsible for putting the world in its watery grave but Ellie, a young inventor, is convinced he’s innocent.
This year the judges were YLG Librarian of the Year 2020 Zoey Dixon, founder of TheReaderTeacher.com Scott Evans, Natasha Radford of Brentwood's Chicken and Frog bookshop, and Liz Hyder, author of 2020 Branford Boase winner Bearmouth (Pushkin). The panel was chaired by Julia Eccleshare, children’s director of the Hay Festival.
Hyder said: "This book utterly stole my heart. Exquisitely written, it’s a phenomenal page-turner with characters that leap off the page and straight into your imagination. Orphans of the Tide explores lots of big themes - environmental issues, friendship and xenophobia to name but a few - all wrapped up in an utterly compelling tale told by a master storyteller. Struan is an exceptional talent and I can’t wait to read everything else he ever writes."
Murray said: "I am so honoured and thrilled to have won the Branford Boase Award. This award is extremely special as it celebrates not only the author but the editor too, and understands and recognises that writing is a collaborative process that wouldn’t be possible without the commitment, imagination and skill of the editor. Working with Ben has stretched me as a writer and his insight contributed so much to the world of Orphans of the Tide that I couldn’t imagine it without him."
Horslen added: "Every year I look forward to the announcement of the Branford Boase Award shortlist with particular excitement. The author-editor relationship lies at the very heart of our industry, and to have an award that celebrates and showcases that relationship is a very special thing indeed. To be nominated is a career highlight that every editor hopes for. To win is simply a dream come true."
Previous winners of the award include Meg Rosoff, Mal Peet, Siobhan Dowd, Marcus Sedgwick, M G Leonard and Frances Hardinge.
Eccleshare said: "The Branford Boase Award has always celebrated the special role new writers play in expanding the scope of what children read. New voices telling new stories add to the already rich seam of children's books: in the hands of skilful storytellers they are vital in giving a fictional commentary on current emotional, social and political issues. This year’s shortlist includes books that show just how exciting, diverse and fresh storytelling for all ages of children can be. The level of talent among the new writers is extraordinary as is their determination to ensure all children can find themselves in a story. Congratulations to Struan and Ben and to all the authors and editors on the shortlist."