Molly Jamieson of United Agents set and judged the April 2023 Slush Pile Challenge.



Molly set this challenge: “I’m asking for one picture book text (prose or rhyme), a maximum of 700 words and paginated into 12 spreads, on the theme of family. I’m particularly looking for types of families that we might not traditionally see represented in picture books. I’d also love a summary of the text in a paragraph beforehand.”


We received 57 entries from members across the British Isles and Europe for this competition. In agreement with SCBWI, Molly read a random sample of 25 entries. This is what Molly told us when announcing the results:


“My Slush Pile challenge winner is BUNNY BIRTHDAY by Natalie Rutherford. The tone was just right on the page, there are so many characters for an illustrator to sink their teeth into and for kids to look out for upon multiple re-reads, and the ending was lovely and satisfying. It brought to mind classic stories like Don’t Forget the Bacon (one of my all-time faves) and I liked that it foregrounded mum without losing the importance of the child characters.


I’d like to also give an honourable mention to FRANKIE AND THE FIVE GRANNIES by Fiona Bannatyne. The set-up of this one is spectacular with all the marvellous granny characters, but I just felt it needed some more tightening up in the narrative once it got going.


And also to OUR INDIAN CHRISTMAS by Jasbir Kaur, which includes such lovely cultural details and warmth throughout.


The quality overall on these entries was high, and it was tough to pick a winner. It was wonderful to see all of the representations of different families. If I had one piece of advice for the entrants it’s to think about the re-read potential. There were lots of very sweet and heartfelt texts, some tackling particularly difficult themes, and therefore the kinds of books you’d only read possibly once or twice for very specific moments in a child’s life. While there is a place for these books in the market, and rightly so, the specificity means that the road to publication may be even trickier as the competition is extremely high for limited space. For inspiration I would look at picture books like THE MEMORY TREE by Britta Teckentrup or RAIN BEFORE RAINBOWS by Smriti Halls and David Litchfield, which deal with big emotions and difficult themes but have an evergreen appeal.


Many thanks to everyone who sent in their work and congratulations to the winner and runners up!”


"Congratulations to Natalie Rutherford from all of us at Words & Pictures. We hope you are well on your way towards getting your writing published."


"Well done to Fiona Bannatyne and Jasbir Kaur for being given an honourable mention."


Thanks to everyone who entered. Keep writing and we hope you will be encouraged to try your hand at appropriate competitions.


Molly joined United Agents in 2017 as an assistant. She is now an Associate Agent and continues to work closely with Jodie Hodges and Emily Talbot on their lists of children’s authors and illustrators, as well as building her own list.


 Elaine Cline has been a SCBWI member for over eight years and loves to write picture books, chapter books and middle-grade. She loves writing about food. She lives by the sea and has a dog and a cat. Elaine is a member of the Words & Pictures' editorial team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge for writers. Connect with Elaine on Twitter: @elaineccline


Ell Rose (formerly Shannon Ell) is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. Find their work at Follow them on Instagram and Twitter. Contact them at

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