Cristy Burne


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Diverse books to read in 2015

DemographicsWhat’s on your reading list for 2015?

Any books featuring diverse characters?

Julie M. Fiedler recently contacted me about the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award and prepared a fabulous presentation on the award, which is for diversity in children’s fiction, and was won by Takeshita Demons in 2009.

Diverse books to read in 2015

In her presentation, Julie recommended a number of books featuring diverse characters for use in the classroom, and I’m adding them to my To Read list for 2015: lack of diversity

  • Esperanza Rising – by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • Bud, Not Buddy – by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes – by Eleanor Coerr
  • I Never Saw Another Butterfly – a collection by Jewish children who lived in the concentration camp Theresienstadt

And I recommended one of my all-time favourite books:

Take The Long PathTake The Long Path – by Joan de Hamel

This is the book my Kiwi grandfather gifted to my youngest sister, just weeks before he passed away, so it’s special in our family as well as being an incredible book: a thrilling adventure story about belonging and heritage.

It has everything I think a great children’s book should have and I’ve just bought myself a copy for my birthday.

I can’t wait to read it again! Have you read it? It can be tough to find a copy, so good luck (or you can ask to borrow mine :-))

Download Julie’s presentation on the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award


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The Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Books Award 2013 – Shami Chakrabarti and Alex Wheatle join Judging Panel

Was it your New Year’s Resolution to write a book? Yes? Then here’s your chance to get it done and get it published.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty (The National Council for Civil Liberties), and Alex Wheatle MBE, the award-winning British novelist of Jamaican heritage, have joined the judging panel of The Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Award.

This is terrific news for anybody who has never published a childrens novel but has always longed to write one….

Grab on and enjoy the ride: the Diverse Voices award is for YOU!!!

I won this award back in 2009 and now have four books coming out with Frances Lincoln Childrens Books in the UK, and Walker Books in New Zealand and Australia, not to mention translations in Indonesia, Finland and more. This is a REALLY BIG CHANCE, so go to it!

The award is for a manuscript that celebrates cultural diversity in the widest possible sense, either in terms of its story or in terms of the ethnic and cultural origins of its author.

The prize of £1,500, plus the option for Frances Lincoln Children’s Books to publish the novel, will be awarded to the best work of unpublished fiction for 8–to-12-year-olds by a writer, aged 18 years or over, who has not previously published a novel for children. The writer may have contributed to an anthology of prose or poetry.

The work must be written in English and it must be a minimum of 15,000 words and a maximum of 35,000 words. Previously submitted manuscripts which were not short-listed may be re-entered two more times.

The closing date for all entries is Monday 31 December 2012.

You can download the 2013 Diverse Voices Award leaflet here, and stick it up on your wall (or your friend’s wall), and you can download the entry forms here.

So go, go, go…and I wish you best of luck!!

(With thanks to matryosha for the photo)


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Interview with Helen Limon, winner of the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award

Helen Limon accepts her prizeHelen Limon was recently announced the winner of the 2011 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book award.

The award is for a manuscript that celebrates cultural diversity in the widest possible sense, either in terms of its story or in terms of the ethnic and cultural origins of its author.

Helen’s winning manuscript, Om Shanti, Babe, is set in India and, like Takeshita Demons, includes elements of local legend and mythology. Just the kind of book I like 🙂

Below Helen is lovely enough to answer some questions on her forthcoming book, being a writer and what it’s like to win this writing award… THANKS HELEN!

– Why did you enter the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book award?

I entered because it seemd a great opportunity to get a thoughtful reading of my manuscript and because I think Seven Stories is a fantastically wonderful and important resourse for children’s books and because some of the characters in Om Shanti, Babe such as Cassia’s gay dad, the deaf girl, Nandita, and the middle-class Indian family are not frequently represented in children’s books.

– Where did inspiration for Om Shanti, Babe come from?theyyam face
Inspiration came from a two week winter holiday in Kerala and was followed by months (and then even more months) of research.

– Can you tell us more about the mythology of the Theyyam and how it is important to the story (without giving too much away)?
The Theyyam is a very ancient and very colourful part of the spiritual culture of Kerala, particularly in the northern hill regions.

It is kept alive through private donations and celebrated by karali of many different religions and backgrounds.

In the story, Cassia has an encounter at the Theyyam which sets in motion some important changes in her relationship with the young Indian charater, Priyanka.

mehandi wet– What has happened to Om Shanti, Babe since winning the award?
Winning is AMAZING! I’ve had so many opportunities to be involved in interesting projects since the award and it has made me feel like a ‘proper’ writer.

How do you find the publishing process?
I love the publishing process – looking at book covers, thinking about strap lines and sharpening things up. I have even enjoyed tidying up my eccentric punctuation!

– Favourite part of being a writer?
The opportunity to talk to groups about why children’s books are hugely important and because they always give me tea and (great) cake.

– Least favourite part of being a writer?
Not having enough time to write!

– Advice to aspiring writers?
Read, write, read, write, don’t edit yourself too much, let it flow, make mistakes (sometimes they turn out to be the best bits) read, write repeat from start!

– And a sneak peek extract from Om Shanti, Babe: ( I want to read more!!!)

I went back inside and tugged at the doors. The wooden frame stuck and they closed with a bang.

Inside the bedroom, a ceiling fan turned, gently moving the warm air around just enough to make it breathable. I slid out of my shoes and put my bag on the bed nearest the door. The mosquito nets were a glamorous touch, but I’d expected our room to be a bit more five-star-and-mini-bar. Dad wouldn’t have rated it at all.

I cranked up the ceiling fan and, as the blades began to turn faster, something moved on the wall. A pale pink lizard had scuttled along and stopped just inches away from the light switch. It blinked. A tiny tongue shot out of its mouth and slid back between its jaws. I stood very still, holding my breath. The lizard blinked again as I moved slowly away from the wall and ran for the door.

Lula would have a fit when I told her and, while Mr Chaudhury got rid of it, I would be able to reclaim the order book. But when I got downstairs no one seemed bothered about mini-beasts stalking the walls.

‘They are called Geckos, Cassia. We think of them as our guests. They will help keep your room free of spiders and flies,’ Mr Chaudhury said. His teeth were very white and when he smiled, his mouth crinkled at the corners. What a creep. He’d made it sound like geckos were his best friends and that I was some kind of teen psycho-killer.

Lula looked a bit embarrassed. She had told me loads about India, but, clearly, there were some things she’d left out.

– More on this international and annual awardidiom booksellers (You should enter!)(Yes you!)
The Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award is for a manuscript that celebrates cultural diversity in the widest possible sense, either in terms of its story or in terms of the ethnic and cultural origins of its author.

The prize of £1,500, plus the option for Frances Lincoln Children’s Books to publish the novel, will be awarded to the best work of unpublished fiction for 8-to-12-year-olds by a writer, aged 16 years or over, who has not previously published a novel for children. The writer may have contributed to an anthology of prose or poetry.

The purpose of The Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award is to:

• Take positive steps to increase the representation of people writing from or about different cultural perspectives, whose work is published in Britain today.

• Promote new writing for children, especially by or about people whose culture and voice are currently under-represented.

• Recognise that as children’s books shape our earliest perceptions of the world and its cultures, promoting writing that represents diversity will contribute to social and cultural tolerance.

• Support the process of writing rather than, as with the majority of prizes, promoting the publication.


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Announcement of the winner of the 2011 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award

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

and…

Helen Limon accepts her prizeIt 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.”

Launch of Too Much Trouble

From left to right, Helen Limon (2011 winner) Tom Avery (2010 winner – Too Much Trouble was released on the night) and Karon Alderman (2011 runner up)

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 Shortlist
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.


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Woo-hoo! Takeshita Demons is part of Booked Up!!

And in the most Exciting and Pinch-me-please Brilliant News Ever…….

…..last night’s award ceremony was also an opportunity to announce that Takeshita Demons has been selected to be part of Booked Up, an awesome program that gives free books to children.

Booked Up is a national programme that aims to give a free book to every child starting secondary school in England.

Booked Up’s goal is to encourage reading for pleasure and independent choice. Year 7 pupils choose their free book from a list of specially selected titles.

How FABULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And can you believe? Takeshita Demons is one of those specially selected titles!!! (I am shooting around the room with sparks coming out of my ears as I write this…it’s utterly, utterly brilliant and exciting and wonderful!)

Also on the list are fabulous fellow Aussies Shaun Tan (with The Lost Thing) and the hilarious duo Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (with The Big Fat Cow That Went Kapow). And check out the list: every one’s a winner. There are utter legends of children’s literature on this list: I feel woozy just thinking about it.

The best thing is, thousands of Year 7 kids will have the chance to read Takeshita Demons for free. Which is SO COOL because hopefully it’s a story that will get kids reading and encourage all kids to race through an entire book, sometimes laughing, sometimes trembling, but always having fun. YAY!

Many thanks to the selection panel for Booked Up 2010…

This year the panel included:

Nikki Gamble (Chair)
Nikki Gamble has worked in education and reading promotion for over 25 years, Formerly a teacher and teacher educator, she is a lecturer, writer and education consultant. Nikki is Director of Write Away UK and Associate Consultant at the University Of London Institute Of Education. She is currently a member of International EC of IBBY and Director of the 2012 IBBY World Congress. She is also on the current Executive Committee of United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA).

Sean Edwards
Sean Edwards, Head of Children’s & Youth Libraries, for the London Borough of Haringey, has worked in Children’s Libraries for twenty years. He is passionate about reading and books for all ages and thoroughly enjoyed the whole decision making process for the ‘Booked Up’ panel. He thinks that the whole range of titles available for both boys and girls reflects the continuing need to provide material that not only extends the reading experience but also enhances reading for pleasure.

Irene Marillat
School Librarian and Booked Up Coordinator, Tolworth Girls’ School, Surrey. (You can follow Irene on Twitter.)

Karen McCombie
Karen McCombie is a best-selling author whose novel An Urgent Message Of Wowness was on the Booked Up list for 2010. She worked on teenage magazines before becoming a full-time writer, and now has more than sixty titles to her name. Originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, she lives in leafy North London (the setting of her hit series ‘Ally’s World’) with her husband, small daughter and two dopey cats, who all provide her with inspiration, whether they like it or not.

Carol Webb
Carol Webb is a librarian working at Forest Hill School in Lewisham, London. She has extensive experience in creating a positive school reading culture and of developing boys’ reading abilities and interests. Carol is currently studying for a Doctorate in Education and recently co-authored The innovative school librarian: thinking outside the box.

Rebecca Wilkie
Rebecca Wilkie is the editor of Booktrust’s children’s books website and produces the annual Best Book Guide. She also works on The Big Picture campaign, which aims to promote and reawaken public interest in picture books. Rebecca read English at University College London and has worked in children’s books for the last eight years.

Alexandra Strick (Consultant on accessible titles)

Alex works as a freelance consultant/project manager on a range of activities around children, books and disability. These include:

  • Bookmark, the online resource regarding books and disability
  • Bookstart, as the scheme’s disability consultant
  • Outside In, children’s literature in translation
  • In the Picture, a campaign to encourage publishers, illustrators and writers to embrace diversity

More on Booked Up…

What an awesome idea! Thanks to funding from the UK Department for Education (DfE) and support from children’s book publishers, the programme is run by Booktrust, an independent charity dedicated to encouraging people of all ages and cultures to engage with books.