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Ten of the Best


books that should have won prizes, but didn’t


10


‘Judging literary awards is a rocky road, paved with good intentions.’ says Geraldine Brennan, ‘Every year there’s several books that could have won a major award but didn’t: only time makes it clear which books should have won. I am collectively responsible for more than one of the outcomes in the following list and when I have nothing else left to worry about in the small hours there’s always that.


‘I’ve focused on the biggest current or recent mainstream literary awards for which most children’s books are eligible: the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, the Nestle Smarties Prize and the Costa (formerly Whitbread) Children’s Book of the Year. I haven’t included specialist or targeted awards such as the Branford Boase Award for first novels or the CLPE (formerly Signal) Poetry Award. My choice of the ones that got away might yet be proved wrong by history and is not intended to carp at the achievement of those who did win the relevant awards: it’s just me living in an ideal world where the weather’s better and my clothes fit. Bear with me.’


Kit’s Wilderness (1999)


David Almond, Hodder Children’s Books, 240pp, 978-0340944967, £5.99 pbk


This tale of a Tyneside mining family and their ancestors ancient and modern is David Almond’s second novel. I find it deeper and more unsettling than Almond’s breakthrough book, Skellig, but while Skellig won the Carnegie Medal, Kit’s Wilderness suffered a series of near misses in the UK (silver award in the Smarties Prize, highly commended for the Carnegie Medal, and shortlisted for the Guardian Prize). In the US, it won the


4 Books for Keeps No.199 March 2013


American Library Association’s Michael J Printz Award. Clay, published in 2005, covered similar territory for older readers with a central character who forms an alliance with a local bad lad, and a sense of evil barely kept at bay by love and faith. It similarly lost out on a major prize despite being shortlisted for the Costa and the Carnegie.


The Baby and Fly Pie (1993)


Melvin Burgess, Andersen Press, 256pp, 978-1849394550, £5.99


Burgess waited another three years to win the Carnegie Medal for Junk while The Baby and Fly Piemade Highly Commended. The tender but bleak tale of homeless child scavengers in a dystopian London of the future, and the shifting goalposts of respectability that prevented them escaping their lot, was before its time in theme.


The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1997)


Ted Dewan, Corgi, 32pp, 978-0552545280


Science, music and the spirit of invention combine in Dewan’s bicentennial steampunk retelling of Goethe’s Der Zauberlehrling, in which renegade vacuum cleaners replace Disney’s buckets and brooms and the Sorcerer owes his marvels to invention and toil, not magic. Dewan’s father’s electric organ is a significant presence, both physically and as inspiration for an electronic score of Paul Dukas’s music to accompany the book, an expensive flourish in pre-e-book times. Dewan is something of an inventor himself. This was shortlisted for the Kurt Maschler Award.


The Oldest Girl in the World: Poems for Children (2000)


Carol Ann Duffy, illustrated by Marketa Praticka, Faber and Faber, 96pp, 978-0571205769, £5.99


Although poetry is eligible for the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Children’s Book of the Year, poetry titles rarely make it even to the longlist submission stage of the Carnegie. Cue great excitement when Meeting Midnight, the first children’s collection from the future Poet Laureate, was shortlisted for the Whitbread (now the Costa) in 1999. Yet this second collection, which went unrewarded, deserves at least similar


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