Orphaned owl tale the sauce of Bisto books

LOOK out, JK Rowling, the next superstar of children’s literature may be about to emerge.

Chris Haughton, author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, A Bit Lost, was yesterday declared winner of the 2011 Bisto Children’s Book of the Year Award, which comes with a prize of €10,000.

A Bit Lost tells the story of an orphaned owl, who, after falling from his nest while sleeping, sets out with the help of new friends to find his way home.

The judges said that the work’s “brilliantly simple verbal text, complemented by a quirkily psychedelic and surreal visual text, captures both the anxiety and thrill of being lost”.

Haughton joins an illustrious group of past winners that include John Boyne for his book The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Roddy Doyle, Eoin Colfer and Kate Thompson were previous category winners.

The Bisto awards, now in their 21st year and which are open to writers and illustrators born or living in Ireland, were presented at the National Library by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald.

There are six awards in all — with a total prize fund of €19,000 — including the Children’s Choice Award.

The latter is selected by a panel of juries comprising of young people from school and library reading groups. The book overwhelmingly chosen by the junior juries was Taking Flight by Sheena Wilkinson, who also won the Honour Award for Fiction.

The winner of the Eilís Dillon award for debut authors or illustrators, valued at €3,000, was also Chris Haughton for A Bit Lost. This is the first time in the history of the awards that both the overall and Eilís Dillon awards have been presented to the same person.

Sean Brett, marketing controller with Premier Foods Ireland, owners of the Bisto brand, which has sponsored the awards since their inception in 1990, said Bisto was proud to continue to support excellence in children’s writing and illustration.

“Children’s literature is so valuable in so many ways and it is only right and proper that excellence in writing and illustration should be celebrated and rewarded,” he said. “Bisto believed that 21 years ago, when we first suggested that an awards scheme should be introduced and we believe it just as much today.”

Keith O’Sullivan, chair of the judging panel, said the quality of submissions this year reflected the growing sophistication and appeal of books by Irish authors and illustrators.

“The arrival of several new picture-book talents in this year’s shortlist is a very significant development for Irish children’s books,” he said.

Main awards

* A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton

A witty picture book charting the journey home of Little Owl who is just “a bit lost” after falling from his nest.

* Taking Flight by Sheena Wilkinson

Fifteen-year-old joyrider Declan is shocked to find himself falling in love with horses when he is forced to stay with his snobby cousin “Princess” Vicky.

* Judges Special Award: Oliver Jeffers for The Heart and The Bottle.

* Honour Award for Illustration: Andrew Whitson for Mac Rí Éireann.

* Honour Award for Fiction: Sheena Wilkinson for Taking Flight.


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