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Picture book about space wins Waterstones prize

30th Jul 20

Look Up! by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, about a science-mad young black girl trying to distract her brother from his phone, has won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, with Bearmouth by Liz Hyder taking the prize for older readers, and High-Rise Mystery winning the younger readers' prize.

Bryon, a writer and actor, was inspired to write the story after spending an entire visit to Hyde Park in London on his phone. After studying a range of picture books, he approached his friend and illustrator Dapo Adeola to illustrate the story for him.

Adeola said his niece helped him develop Rocket's character. "I tried to capture her curiosity and zest for knowledge in Rocket's mannerisms as well as her innocently self-assured attitude to problem solving, traits that should be celebrated in both boys and girls."

The picture books he saw at the time were "dominated by young boys, young white boys, to be precise," he added. "I wanted to see what I could do that was original, and stands out."

Research has shown that just 4% of British children's books include a black character, so the win for both Look Up! and High Rise Mystery support the ongoing shift to greater diversity in children's books.

Look Up! won both the overall Waterstones children's book of the year prize, and the illustrated book category.
Waterstones children's buyer Florentyna Martin said that the "joyful and energetic" picture book is helping to "redefine" the mould of traditional storytelling. "More than ever before, we are exploring non-fiction and inspirational characters at younger ages, and we champion Rocket's boundless enthusiasm, curious nature and kind spirit as a hero for us all. She is a little person with big dreams, who has captured our hearts."

Liz Hyder's young adult dystopia Bearmouth, which won the older readers' category, follows Newt who has worked in a coalmine since the age of four. It was described by Martin as a "powerfully atmospheric story ... with an addictive narrative".

High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson, a whodunnit starring two sisters, which won the award for younger readers, was "a fresh, pacey and exciting angle for the genre" said Martin.

Here are the three shortlists for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2020:

Picture books:

Once Upon a Unicorn Horn by Beatrice Blue (Frances Lincoln)
Look Up! by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola (Puffin)
Otto Blotter, Bird Spotter by Graham Carter (Andersen Press)
One Fox by Kate Read (Two Hoots)
Me and My Sister by Rose Robbins (Scallywag Press)
Hidden Planet: An Illustrator's Love Letter to Planet Earth by Ben Rothery (Ladybird)

Younger Readers

Charlie Changes Into a Chicken by Copeland (Puffin)
High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson (Knights Of)
The Middler by Kirsty Applebaum (Nosy Crow)
The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan (Little Island)
Asha & the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan (Chicken House)
Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange (Chicken House)

Older Readers

Bearmouth by Liz Hyder (Pushkin Children's Books)
Internment by Samira Ahmed (Atom)
I Will Not Be Erased by gal-dem (Walker Books)
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson (Electric Monkey
The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton (Puffin)
Jemima Small Versus the Universe by Tamsin Winter (Usborne Publishing).

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