On the 2nd March, Simon Puttock, Ross MacKenzie and Danny Weston were announced as the winners of the 2016 Scottish Children’s Book Awards during a special ceremony at Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel, attended by nearly 1,000 children.
Scotland’s largest book prize for children’s authors and illustrators, with each winning book receiving £3,000, the Scottish Children’s Book Awards are run by Scottish Book Trust and supported by Creative Scotland through Regular Funding. They celebrate the most popular children’s and young adult books by Scottish authors or illustrators and are voted for exclusively by children.
Nearly 30,000 votes were cast in this year’s awards, which are judged in three age categories – Bookbug Readers (3-7), Younger Readers (8-11) and Older Readers (12-16). Children across Scotland were encouraged to read the three shortlisted books in their age category and to vote for their favourite. A free copy of each of the three books in the Bookbug Category shortlist was gifted to every Primary 1 child as part of Book Week Scotland 2015.
All three winning books this year explore themes of magic and mystery, suggesting that the Harry Potter Effect continues to influence children’s reading tastes despite it being nine years since the final book was published.
Midlothian-based author Simon Puttock, who lives in Newtongrange won the Bookbug Reader’s (3-7 yrs) category for his picture book Mouse’s First Night at Moonlight School, illustrated by Ali Pye. Published by Nosy Crow, the book follows Mouse on her first day at Miss Moon’s Moonlight School for all the small creatures of the night, but she is very shy, too shy to even say hello. Luckily, with help from Miss Moon and her new friends Bat, Cat and Owl, a game of hide-and-seek makes Mouse feel right at home.
Simon is no stranger to the Scottish Children’s Book Awards, having won a 2006 Award for Little Lost Cowboy, and appearing on both the 2008 and 2010 shortlists. Born in New Zealand, he traveled all over the world with his family as a child. He wanted to be a vet when he was little, but grew up to become a bookseller. He was particularly interested in children’s books and was chosen to be a Children’s Whitbread judge. He has since become a full-time writer, creating over 30 children’s books.
Commenting on his win, Simon said: “What does it mean to me to win the award? Apart from it meaning me being enormously (but happily) surprised, it means being able to take huge pleasure in the fact that Ali’s and my book is out there, having an unpredictable but entirely satisfactory life of its own. What more could we wish for?”
Renfrew-based author Ross MacKenzie won the Younger Readers (8-11) category for his novel The Nowhere Emporium. Published by Floris Books, the book explores what happens when the mysterious Nowhere Emporium arrives in Glasgow, and orphan Daniel Holmes stumbles upon it by accident. Before long, the ‘shop from nowhere’ — and its owner, Mr Silver — draw Daniel into a breathtaking world of magic and enchantment.
A former winner of a Scottish Children’s Book Award in 2011 for fantasy adventure Zac and the Dream Pirates, Ross was born in Glasgow but grew up and still lives in Renfrew with his wife and two daughters. Ross studied graphic design at college, and after graduating went on to become a page designer for the Daily Record.
Commenting on his win, Ross said: “I’m so delighted to have won the SCBA for ‘The Nowhere Emporium’! Scottish Book Trust do such an amazing job, and these awards are extra-special because it’s the readers who make the final decision. Children don’t often get the chance to have a voice on this sort of scale, and I believe it’s important for them to know that they have that voice and that their opinions matter.
Long may the SCBA continue!”
Edinburgh-based author Danny Weston, who lives in Tollcross, won the Older Readers (12-16 yrs) category for his book The Piper. Published by Andersen Press, the book follows Peter and his little sister, Daisy, who are evacuated from London to the countryside and find themselves on an isolated farm in the middle of a treacherous marshland. As Daisy gets drawn deeper into the secrets of their new home, Peter starts to realise that something very sinister is going on. What is that music they can hear at night? And who are the children dancing to it?
Danny has published three novels (under the name Philip Caveney) with Edinburgh-based publisher Fledgling Press. These are time travel adventures, all set in Edinburgh at different points in its history. The first book Crow Boy is set in Mary Kings Close, Seventeen Coffins is all about the tiny coffins found on Arthur’s Seat in 1836 and the most recent book, One For Sorrow, is all about Robert Louis Stevenson.
Commenting on his win, Danny said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have won this award, especially because it has been voted for, not by critics and industry insiders, but by the people who matter most; the young readers for whom the story was actually written. Thanks to everyone who voted for ‘The Piper’. You have rocked my world.”
Jasmine Fassl, Head of Schools at Scottish Book Trust, said: “It’s a well-worn statistic that a love of books is more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status. Initiatives like the Scottish Children’s Book Awards are intended to instill a love of books in children right from the very start, by making the process of reading fun, interactive and collaborative. But it’s the teachers, librarians, parents, and of course the authors and illustrators, who bring this project to life for the pupils – who download the resources, who put on the silly voices, who cuddle and tickle and leap about. Today we’re celebrating all the people who bring the magic of books to children and set them on a path to being booklovers for life.”
Aly Barr, Head of Literature, Languages and Publishing at Creative Scotland, said: “Once again the Children’s Book Awards confirm Walt Disney’s maxim that “there is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island”. If you’re only buying one book for your child this year, buy all three.”