Waterstones Children’s Prize 2016 shortlists: Younger Fiction

Posted on 26th February 2016 by Sally Campbell
Here is our introduction to the six shortlisted titles in the younger fiction category.

Last week we announced our shortlists for The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, which is now in its 12th year, and showcases the best in new children’s fiction. There will be a winner in each of three categories - illustrated books, younger fiction, and older fiction - before an outright winner is chosen.

Each week, we will introduce the titles in one of the three categories. This week, I will run through the six shortlisted younger fiction books. This category is aimed at ages 5-12 but the books will be enjoyed by many older readers too.

The six make an eclectic list, covering everything from defeating a minotaur to handling the loss of a sibling, and are written by some of the strongest voices in children’s fiction today.

Bird by Crystal Chan

The book: Twelve-year-old Jewel never knew her brother, but all her life she has lived in his shadow. Then one night, on her birthday, she finds a mysterious boy sitting in her oak tree. His name is John. And he changes everything.

The author: Crystal Chan grew up as a mixed-race kid in the middle of the Wisconsin cornfields and has been trying to find her place in the world ever since. She has published articles in several magazines, given talks and workshops across the country, facilitated discussion groups at national conferences, and been a professional storyteller for children and adults alike. Bird is her first novel.

Bookseller review: “Absolutely perfect. Beautifully written, realistic and about important topics without being in-your-face about it. The ending was lovely without being too sickly, and I loved the mix of cultures.”- Rachel, Canterbury

Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty

The book: They're Coming!  Legends (also known as terrifying, human-eating monsters) have invaded the town of Darkmouth and aim to conquer the world. But don’t panic! The last remaining Legend Hunter – 12-year-old Finn - will protect us.

The author: Shane Hegarty was the Arts Editor of the Irish Times, but left to be a full time writer after Darkmouth sold in a frenzied auction at Bologna Book Fair in 2013. He lives with his family near Dublin.

Bookseller review: “Funny, emotional and full of excellent illustrations, I've had real success with this book in my shop and I've got a feeling the series is going to take off really well.” - Darran, Durham

Witch Wars by Sibéal Pounder

The book: When Fran the Fabulous Fairy turns up in Tiga Whicabim’s shed to tell her she’s a witch, Tiga doesn’t believe her. Or at least not until Fran points out that TIGA WHICABIM is actually an anagram of I AM A BIG WITCH. Filled with silly spells, delectable dresses, ridiculous riddles and a serious shoe problem, Witch Wars is a witch story like no other.

The author: Sibéal Pounder currently works for the Financial Times, where she researches for the How To Spend It section and writes the For Goodness’ Sake column. She studied History at St Andrews, Publishing at City, Quentin Tarantino films at Yale and recently completed the Faber Academy’s Writing for Children course

Bookseller review: “Love the alternative presentation of witches! The main characters are really funny...I found the whole book delightful.” - Ciara, Manchester

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands 

The book: London 1665. Fourteen year old Christopher Rowe is apprenticed to master apothecary Benedict Blackthorn.  But it’s a dangerous time to be an apothecary’s apprentice. The sinister Cult of the Archangel is prowling the streets of London, targeting apothecaries in a wave of mysterious murders. 

The author: Since escaping from university with a pair of degrees in theoretical physics, Kevin Sands has worked as a researcher, a business consultant, a professional poker player and a teacher. He has a fascination for apothecaries and alchemists and a passion for mysteries, puzzles and games. 

Bookseller review: “A cleverly written book about murder, codes and conspiracies that combines history with mystery and adventure that will have you turning the pages long after lights out. This one is suitable for both boys and girls making it the perfect hand-sell book for the prize.” - Anjuli, Dorking

My Brother Is a Superhero by David Solomons

The book: Luke is a comic-mad eleven-year old who shares a treehouse with his geeky older brother, Zack. Luke’s only mistake is to go for a wee right at the wrong time. While he’s gone, an alien gives his undeserving, never-read-a-comic-in-his-life brother superpowers and then tells him to save the universe. Luke is massively annoyed about this, but when Zack is kidnapped by his arch-nemesis, Luke and his friends have only five days to find him and save the world…

The author: David Solomons has been writing screenplays for many years. His first feature film was an adaptation of Five Children and It, starring Kenneth Branagh and Eddie Izzard.  My Brother is a Superhero is his first novel for children.

Bookseller review: “Reminded me of David Walliams style of writing - funny and witty with strong characters doing amazing things in ordinary everyday scenarios.”- Sarah, Leeds


The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

The book: After the death of her father, genteel young lady Miss Sophie Taylor must seek employment. She’s thrilled to join the staff at Sinclair’s, the most beautiful department store in. There she enters a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and mystery around every corner.. When the priceless Clockwork Sparrow is stolen from Sinclair’s grand opening exhibition, it is up to Sophie and her friends to bring the dastardly villains to justice…

The author: Katherine Woodfine is a true champion of children’s literature. As an Arts Project Manager for Booktrust, she project-managed the Children's Laureateship and YALC, the UK’s first Young Adult Literature Convention. She is also part of the founding team at Down the Rabbit Hole, a monthly show for Resonance FM discussing children’s literature.

Bookseller review: “A class act. Promises, and will no doubt deliver a series with deepening mysteries and expertly plotted secrets to be revealed. Just superb with beautifully realised characters and a timeless quality of writing.” - Jo, Salisbury


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