Annabel Pitcher‘s unsettling teen title, Ketchup Clouds, has been announced as overall winner of this year’s Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
Ketchup Clouds, which had earlier triumphed in the Best Book for Teens category, is not your usual Young Adult title – lacking as it does lustful vampires or magic of any sort. It tells the story of a teenage girl who reveals a terrible secret through a sequence of letters written to a condemned murderer in a Texan jail. The idea came from Pitcher’s own experiences of writing to a death row prisoner as a teenager.
Waterstones Managing Director James Daunt said “it is refreshing to see such a compelling, stand-out and stand-alone book as Ketchup Clouds ringing the bell victoriously for UK teen fiction.”
Melissa Cox, Children’s New Titles Buyer for Waterstones described Pitcher, whose novel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece was nominated for last year’s award, as “a genuine literary star” and her novel “a classic coming of age story” Although it deals with “death, betrayal and redemption” she added, “her handling of the subject is beautifully wrought and peppered with humour.”
Voted for entirely by booksellers, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize was created to champion new and emerging talent in children’s writing.
Pitcher was not celebrating alone however as American illustrator turned author R.J. Palacio took home the Best Fiction for 5-12s award and Rebecca Cobb triumphed in the Picture Book category.
R.J. Palacio’s book Wonder a previous Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month tells the story of a boy starting school with a facial deformity. Melissa Cox said “It is a thought-provoking read with timeless appeal… perfectly pitched at pre-teens but will equally charm older children and adults.”
Lunchtime by Rebecca Cobb, illustrator for Richard Curtis and Waterstones Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson, pipped Maurice Sendak’s protégé and former Waterstones bookseller Frann Preston-Gannon to the Picture Book award. The judges praised “its wonderfully expressive young girl and beautifully realised animals looming large on the pages”, calling Cobb “definitely one to watch.”
As category winners, Pitcher, Palacio and Cobb each received a cheque for £2,000 with Pitcher, as the overall winner, picking up an additional £3,000.
The announcement was preceded by a short film of the shortlists made by 16 year-old Francesca Rogers.
Francesca was commissioned to make the film when a video she had made about Waterstones for a school project was shared on Twitter by her local Waterstones bookshop in Folkestone.
Francesca said “It came as a complete surprise when Dan from Waterstones got in touch with me, and I was even more shocked when he asked me to produce a brand new film for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. I’m really excited about how this has turned out!”
Francesca is currently raising funds for a trip to Ecuador next summer when, along with a group of fellow pupils and teachers from Folkestone School For Girls, she will work as a conservation and community volunteer. As a reward for all Francesca’s hard work, Waterstones will be donating £1000 to help fund the Ecuador trip and Francesca will also receive a £250 Waterstones Gift Card.
You can read a sample of each of the category winners:
Dan Lewis, for Waterstones.com/blog