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Branford Boase Award winner announced

9th Sep 20


Liz Hyder and her editor Sarah Odedina of Pushkin Children's Books have won the 2020 BRANFORD BOASE AWARD for her debut novel, Bearmouth. The award recognises the author and editor of an outstanding debut novel for children.


Katya Balen and her editor Lucy Mackay-Sim have also been awarded Highly Commended for her debut novel, The Space We're In. The winners were announced in live online ceremony by 2019 winner Muhammad Khan.


Liz Hyder's powerful dystopia Bearmouth is based on the real-life stories of 19th century child miners, Bearmouth is set in a deep underground mine, and told in a distinctive dialect, invented by Hyder and maintained throughout. The award is shared with her editor, Sarah Odedina, editor-at-large, Pushkin Children's Books.


Liz Hyder said that working with Sarah Odedina, her editor, on Bearmouth was "a true partnership". "I learnt so much from her and can honestly say that the experience changed my life in so many ways.

"To be shortlisted felt like prize enough but to win feels utterly incredible! It means the world to me not only because I'm following in the footsteps of so many authors who I admire and cherish but also because I share it with Sarah who is the best, most inspiring, wonderful editor. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!"

Writing about the inspiration behind Bearmouth in an earlier blog for ReadingZone (see link, below), Liz Hyder said, "A few years ago, I found myself donning a hard hat and venturing down a disused slate mine in North Wales on a rainy day on holiday. It wasn't a particularly deep mine but it was atmospheric with a sad sort of feel to it.

"The more I explored, the more appalled I became. Young boys having their nostril slit to prove that they were 'man enough' to work down there and stretchers shaped like coffins to shepherd out anyone unlucky enough to be wounded on the job. There was also, and you had to squint at it from a distance to see it, a huge stone figure in the rocks that the workers would doff their cap to as they left the mine at the end of the working day.

"The whole place had the feel of a strange sort of cult to it and I left feeling unsettled, haunted by it but also knowing that there was a spark of a story that had been lit within me."

Sarah Odedina added that Liz's "courage and originality and her faultless ability to create a story that holds the reader's attention by its sheer power" makes her writing stand out. "As an editor there cannot be many higher accolades than to be on the Branford Boase Award shortlist. To win the award in partnership with an author confirms that this task of bringing stories to young readers is a work of collaboration and one that is most successful when author and editor listen to one another and enjoy the process of creating a novel."

Muhammad Khan, last year's Branford Boase Award winner, says of Bearmouth: "Bearmouth is a tour de force of a page turner with an intricate and stylised plot. Liz Hyder has created a gritty world for her hugely likeable protagonist, Newt, and a unique language which evolves as the exciting story unfolds. Original and unforgettable."


The Space We're In, which was highly commended, is a challenging story about neurodivergent siblings and what 'family' and 'home' means to them, said Khan. "Katya Balen writes with an assuredness that takes you directly into the characters' lives and makes you feel every beat of their joys, woes and frustrations. An incredible first novel."


This year the judges were Sue Bastone, vice-chair SLA; Victoria Dilly, creator of the Book Activist blog; Layla Hudson of Round Table Books, Brixton; and Muhammad Khan, author of I Am Thunder, winner of the 2019 Branford Boase Award. The panel is chaired by Julia Eccleshare, children's director of the Hay Festival and Branford Boase Award founder.


The complete list of titles on the 2020 shortlist are:


Little Badman and the Invasion of the Killer Aunties by Humza Arshad and Henry White, edited by Holly Harris and Sharan Matharu, illus Aleksei Bitskoff (Puffin)

The Space We're In by Katya Balen, edited by Lucy Mackay-Sim, illus Laura Carlin (Bloomsbury)

A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby, edited by Liz Bankes and Sarah Levison (Egmont)

Bearmouth by Liz Hyder, edited by Sarah Odedina (Pushkin Press)

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, edited by Lindsey Heaven (Electric Monkey)

Frostheart by Jamie Littler, edited by Naomi Colthurst (Puffin)

The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton, edited by Naomi Colthurst (Penguin)


You can read Liz Hyder's blog about the inspiration behind Bearmouth, here:
readingzone.com/index.php?zone=sz&page...


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