Announcement of the winner of the 2011 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award
This year’s Diverse Voices award was presented last night at Seven Stories, the UK’s national centre for children’s books…
It was won by Helen Limon for Om Shanti, Babe, a story about growing up, family and friendships that the judges described as ‘Fabulous . . . laugh-out-loud funny’.
Enter the 2012 award!
The closing date for the next award is 31st December 2012.
Want to enter in 2012? This is what the judges are looking for…
The judges looked for a strong story that an 8 to 12-year-old would want to read rather than a worthy book that overtly explores social issues. The decision to give the Award to Om Shanti, Babe was unanimous. The panel said: “The story is authentic, the narrative voice rock solid throughout, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny.”
More on Om Shanti, Babe
Om Shanti, Babe is the tale of teenage Cassia, who is forced to drop her preconceived ideas when she joins her mother on a business trip to south India, takes in fair trade and environmental issues alongside Cassia’s struggles to accept her mother’s new Indian partner, her spiky tussles with fashion-mad friend-to-be Priyanka and her crushes on pop star Jonny Gold, and Dev, a boy she meets on a train.
More on the Diverse Voices award
The Award, now in its third year, was founded jointly by Frances Lincoln Limited and Seven Stories, the national centre for children’s books, in memory of Frances Lincoln (1945-2001) to encourage and promote diversity in children’s fiction. The prize of £1,500 plus the option for Janetta Otter-Barry at Frances Lincoln Children’s Books to publish the novel is awarded to the best manuscript for eight to 12-year-olds that celebrates diversity in the widest possible sense.
Ongoing success for the award…
To date Janetta has commissioned or published six books by writers who have entered the award: the Takeshita Demons trilogy by Cristy Burne, winner of the inaugural award, Too Much Trouble by Tom Avery, the 2010 winner, and A Hen in the Wardrobe and Chess and Chapattis, the first two titles in the Cinnamon Grove series by Wendy Meddour, who entered the 2009 award.
Paying tribute to the success of the Award, Janetta said:
”The exceptional quality of the winners of the first two awards is a real measure of the success of our Diverse Voices joint venture with Seven Stories. I am proud that the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award is achieving exactly what it set out to do – to discover and encourage new writers of exciting, culturally diverse fiction.”
More about the shortlist
By coincidence, both the winner and the second-placed author in this international award are from Newcastleupon-Tyne (the judges are not given any details about the writers until they have made their decision).
Karon Alderman, who teaches literacy skills to adults, received the Highly Commended award for For Keeps, the tale of a young asylum seeker and her family.
Australian author Michelle Richardson received a Special Mention (an award which the judges can choose to give to a manuscript that shows great potential but is not ready for publication) for Tek, about a young girl from the Aboriginal Australian Murrinh-Patha community who can communicate with the ngepan, the spirits of the dead.
Meet Helen Limon…
The winning author, Helen Limon, lives in rural Northumberland with her partner, a painter. Her daughter, who is studying tailoring in London, had an influence on the character of Priyanka with her passion for fashion. Helen spent her childhood mostly abroad until she was 10, including four years in Penang, Malaysia, where she learned about life in England from second-hand children’s books.
“Until we came back to England, in the 1970s, I thought most British kids were a cross between The Family from One End Street and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five.”
After spending her early adulthood travelling in Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, Helen arrived in the North-East as a student at Newcastle University. She started writing in 2000 when she set up a children’s literacy project in a neglected allotment behind a Metro station in Newcastle. The project turned into a publishing venture for local authors and illustrators, Zed Said. Helen has just finished a PhD in creative writing at Newcastle University.
But where do you get your ideas?
The inspiration for Om Shanti, Babe came from encounters with local people on a 2009 visit to Kerala.
She said: “Talking to the mothers about their lives and their ambitions for their families, and listening to what the children said they wanted, inspired the story and made me conscious of the social and environmental themes that are woven into the book.
“My characters are not the sort of children that get written about much and I lived most of my life not in England, so I do sort of know what it is like to be different inside your head even if you look like everyone else on the outside.”
And a Too Much Trouble party to boot!
The presentation at Seven Stories also celebrated the publication of Tom Avery’s contemporary Oliver Twist story, Too Much Trouble, winner of last year’s Award.
Presenting the Award, John Nicoll, Managing Director of Frances Lincoln, said:
“I’m delighted, once again, that the judges have found such a worthy winner, whose writing both entertains, and helps the young reader to understand the ever more complex society in which they are growing up. Truly this seems like a worthwhile project and one of which Frances would have been proud.”
Accepting the Award, Helen Limon said:
“I am thrilled to have won this award. Om Shanti, Babe was inspired by the families I met in India and the very positive response to the book is a tribute to them. Growing up, making friends and forming loving families across cultures is what my story and Diverse Voices is all about.”
Kate Edwards, chief executive of Seven Stories, added:
“Last year’s Diverse Voices Award winner Too Much Trouble, deserves to be a big hit. It’s a great story that brings the plight of many young victims of crime and exploitation to the fore. I’m delighted that 2011’s winning manuscript is another page-turning adventure, this time set in India. Seven Stories is committed to this prize and our work to promote new storytelling and to celebrate and recognise different cultures and experiences. The strength of our partnership with Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and the enthusiasm of the judges have, once again, made the Award a great success.”
The winner of the Award is chosen by an independent panel of judges. The distinguished panel of judges includes:
- Trevor Phillips – Chair of The Equality and Human Rights Commission
- Jake Hope – Children’s Librarian for Lancashire Libraries and a freelance consultant
- Geraldine Brennan – Journalist and former Books Editor at the TES
- Mary Briggs – Co-Founder of Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books
- Janetta Otter-Barry – Janetta Otter-Barry Books at Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
The judges discussed a short list of four titles, without knowing anything about the authors. The range of material
impressed them. The decision to give the Award to the winner was unanimous.
The Winner: Om Shanti, Babe by Helen Limon
Synopsis: Cassia joins her mother, who runs a fair trade craft shop, on a buying trip to India, a country that she
mostly knows from her Bollywood dance routines. Troubled by a friendship gone sour at home, and feeling out of
place in a new culture that challenges her assumptions, she reacts badly to her mother’s relationship with an Indian
colleague. As Cassia sheds some of her preconceived ideas, she finds friends where she least expects to and starts to
realise her dream to follow her mother into business.
Highly Commended: For Keeps by Karon Alderman
Synopsis: Benedicta (Ben), her mother and younger sister are asylum seekers from Cameroon. While their
uncertain future and hand-to-mouth existence cast a shadow over Ben’s friendships and fun times at school glee
club and on church outings, she has decided that Newcastle is her home. With her friend Becky, she resolves to
help a bullied schoolfriend, Jaz.
Special Mention: Tek by Michelle Richardson
Synopsis: Tek accompanies her cold and distant father, an expert on Australian Aboriginal culture, to a desert
army base where her gift for communicating with the ngepan (spirits of the dead) surfaces just when it is most
inconvenient. (Michelle lives in Australia. She did not attend the ceremony.)
Enter the 2012 award!
The closing date for the next award is 31st December 2012.