Celebrating the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and the Best Young Critics Competition

By Candy Gourlay

PIERS TORDAY. Photo: Quercus
I am the keeper of the SCBWI British Isles Brag Book. Right now, it's a bit out of date because I've been extremely busy (to be rectified soon!).

I mention this because this was how I became aware that Piers Torday was getting shortlisted for all the major children's book prizes.

On Thursday, Piers won yet another one: the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize for his middle grade novel The Dark Wild, a sequel to The Last Wild, in which a boy discovers he can understand animals in a world where animals are fast becoming extinct.

I've tweeted with Piers a few times but the Guardian awards evening was my first time to meet him in person (this being the age of social media, every event in real time is like a blind date).

Katherine Rundell, whose gorgeous Rooftoppers won the 2013 Guardian Children's Book Award, introduced the list of nominees, of which I am a proud member.

I only belatedly realised that the whole presentation would make a good video, so my film below is shaky and blurry and all kinds of wrong. But still - it captures the generous spirit and enthusiasm of the evening:

(Hear Piers' message at 9:20 on the video) 

Piers used his speech to criticise Education Secretary Nicky Morgan for declaring that the arts limited the choices of children, calling it a collective "slur on the value of the humanities".

"When you are writing for children, you are writing for the adults of tomorrow. They will make the decisions that inform and shape our society," he said.

"Reading a wide range of stories and studying them does not hold you back in life. It CHANGES your life. The very least we can do is give the children of today a literature that is worth reading and worth studying to make them wonderful human beings with opportunities and a life ahead of them, rather than just a kind of functional literacy which gives them tools and skills to become productive units. If we don't do the former, none of us deserve any prizes at all."

I was thrilled and hopeful when I heard that my book Shine was among the nominees (especially because the Guardian prize comes with CASH). I quickly downloaded the books I had not yet read and immediately realised it was going to be a tough fight. There are some absolutely stunning books on this list. So I didn't have to practise my gracious loser face -- I was just grateful to be introduced to such wonderful reads.

View the nominees for the Guardian Fiction Prize here

But the lovely company of authors and editors and publishers at the reception was not the best thing about the evening. The BEST thing was that the room was full of children -- alongside the Guardian Children's Fiction Award was the prize giving for the Best Young Critics Competition.

And here are the winners! Congratulations, you splendid young people!

Josephina Edwards, 12 who reviewed Shine by Candy Gourlay
Esme McNamara, 8, who reviewed Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
Ekaterina Rahr-Bohr, 13, who reviewed The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby: Flora in Love
Charlotte Walden, 12, who reviewed Phoenix by SF Said
Ella Harrison Coggins, 11, who reviewed We Were Liars by E Lockhart
Eloise Schaw Miller, 10, who reviewed The Lost Gods by Francesca Simon
Sam Miller, 15, who reviewed She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
Auden Chamberlain, 12, who reviewed She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
Rosa Gatley, 12, who reviewed We Were Liars by E Lockhart
Maya Sales-Hyde, 13 who reviewed We Were Liars
Petros Bougheas, 10 years old, who reviewed The Dark Wild

Remember these names, everyone. You'll be begging them for their autographs someday!

The winners of the group category of the Young Critics are students from Nightingale Academy
Also highly commended: students from Ellen Wilkinson Academy (pictured in the video)

The Guardian laid out a feast of SWEETS for the winning young critics. It made my teeth ache to look at it.

Thank you to the judges (on my list of favourite authors!): Frank Cottrell Boyce, Katherine Rundell and Gillian Cross. And thank you to the Guardian for keeping the faith with children's books.

(And Piers, your SCBWI membership lapsed just the other day. Please come back ... all is forgiven!)


  1. Oh no! More books I need to read....:)

  2. Yes, many congratulations to Piers! (Piers just got to scbwi.org to renew;).
    And many congratulations too to the Young Critics Awards winners! I love having children and young people featured on W&P!


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