Friday, 26 November 2010

I Learnt Two Interesting Things…

…at the Sheffield Children’s Book Award. They are so interesting (especially if you write and illustrate picture books) that I’m going to share them here. No, wait, I actually learnt three things! But first…

The award ceremony was a huge event, much bigger than I’d expected, with a 1000 school children in the audience, plus plenty of adult hangers on. Sheffield should be very proud of itself for hosting such a wonderful annual blast – a celebration of libraries, reading and books, with the kids themselves voting for the shortlists and the winners.

I didn’t win in my category, though just being shortlisted felt pretty special, I can tell you. Morris the Mankiest Monster by Giles Andreae and Sarah McIntyre won both the picture book category and the overall prize, and this is a much deserved win because, as I said, the children chose it themselves. It was in talking about this with editors afterwards that I discovered the first of the Interesting Things:

--Picture book editors, some of them at least, are growing less reluctant to publish rhyming texts.

This is exciting -- for me, anyway -- not only because kids love rhyme, but because it comes naturally to me when I write for the very young (as with Jack’s Tractor). The difficulty of landing a co-edition, especially in a language other than English, has made rhyming texts very difficult to sell in recent years. But I was told, “if it’s good enough, it will be translated.”

The second Interesting Thing was this:

-- Gross sells (Morris is a very manky monster indeed), but not so much in the US. Actually, Morris does have a US co-edition, but as a general rule, books about poo, vomit and farting, while hugely popular with young readers everywhere, often don't get picked up by US buyers, and the possibility of not landing an American co-edition keeps the lid on the number of gross picture books that come out in the UK. In other words, there’s no point in running off after Morris’s slime trail just because he’s very popular, even though these days there are certainly more gross books about than before. Gross alone isn’t enough. But that’s the thing about Morris – he manages to be charming, even when he’s squeezing his spots! Definitely something to keep in mind.

The third thing I learnt was this: if you are nominated for an award, then if at all possible please go to the ceremony. I know a lot of authors complain about having to traipse about attending these events because I’ve heard them doing it, but when, at Sheffield, the kids were told that their favourite author couldn’t be there, the look of naked disappointment on their faces was a lesson in itself.


  1. Interesting report, with a good bit of advice at the end. Congratulations for being so close, that's an honor in itself. So cool that all the children were there excited to see their favorite authors.

  2. In my experience, a lot of picture book authors are desperate to write a rhyming text, so that is good news. I wonder if we're going to see a swing back towards the picture book in the next few years - even if a lot of them do end up being published to an iPad.

  3. I think the US buyers have it wrong. American kids like poo, vomit, and farting.

  4. Yay for Sheffield kids!

    I loved reading Giraffes Can't Dance to my daughter when she was young - must dig it out for Reuben and see what else Andreae has out there...and you, mister, what have you got planned next?

    Very good advice there. After all, being a kids' author is about the kids! Or it should be. Super post!

  5. Thanks, Karen. Yes, just being there was an honour.

    Nick, I think this is indeed very good news for picture book writers, along with the rumour that publishers are acquiring text at all!

    Anita, you're right about those US buyers, but they in turn are bound to take notice of library and school buyers, and I think that's where the real difficulty lies.

    Hi, Rachel. Yes, the kids come first, and the award ceremony certainly made them feel very special. As for me, I have four projects on the go right now, but I can't talk about one of them yet because the Fates are watching...

  6. Sounds like a great bash, and congrats once again for just being nominated. I promise I'll go if I'm ever nominated for anything!

  7. Thanks, Simon. Just you see that you do!

  8. What kid doesn't love rhyming texts? I can understand the translation problem, though.

    It sounds like a great event.

  9. Well, I haven't read Morris, but I do think we Americans could use some more books about poo. I think it's awesome that you were shortlisted Thomas. :)


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