Ali Sparkes wins Blue Peter Book of the Year award
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 3 March 2010 17.00 GMT
‘Everyone understands about the Blue Peter prize’ … This year’s winner Ali Sparkes
Ali Sparkes’s novel Frozen in Time – the adventure of two children cryonically frozen for half-a-century and then returned to life in 2009 – has won this year’s Blue Peter Book of the Year award.
Announced this afternoon on a special edition of the venerable children’s TV show, the Blue Peter Book awards have the unusual distinction of being judged by a panel of eight- to nine-year-old readers. Sparkes pronounced herself delighted to have won the prize. “I think if you asked any children’s author which they thought was the most important prize for children’s books, it’s highly likely they would say the Blue Peter prize,” she said.
“Not only does it have a big TV audience, which is important, but well, it’s Blue Peter! You can talk about Carnegie, and Kate Greenaway, you can talk about Smarties – but everyone immediately understands about the Blue Peter prize.
“Even on the way over to the TV studio, the taxi driver asked me if I had got a Blue Peter badge!”
Initial entries for the prizes were whittled down into three shortlists of three by the programme’s editor, Tim Levell, children’s librarian Debra Conway and last year’s overall winner, Matt Haig. Panels of young readers then decided on winners in three separate categories, as well choosing the overall Book of the Year.
So, as well as the top honours, Frozen in Time took the Book I Couldn’t Put Down prize. Dinkin Dings and the Frightening Things by Guy Bass, meanwhile, took the Most Fun Story With Pictures prize, and Why Eating Bogeys Is Good For You by Mitchell Symons carried off the Best Book With Facts prize.
Jamie Fenlon, 10, was one of the prize’s judges; he reported a process as engaged and passionate as any of the infamous behind-the-scenes debates at the Man Booker prize. Fenlon said that discussions, while restrained and good-mannered for the most part, did generate some “big fights”, and at one point a lady told the judges they had to halt their deliberations before things turned physical.
As Fenlon’s verdict on Frozen in Time reveals, the judges subjected each of the books to a thorough and exacting analysis. “It’s not the kind of book that I would have picked out in a shop,” he said. “The cover didn’t persuade me and the blurb didn’t persuade me, and the introduction [in which the two modern characters are stuck indoors on a rainy day in the summer holidays] was really dull. But the rest of the book is fantastic – it’s outstanding.”
Fenlon said that judging the prize had been “really hard”, with nine books to get through, but it was “really good fun”.
And to go with the trophy that all winners receive, did Ali Sparkes get her coveted Blue Peter badge? “I did of course, almost immediately after I arrived – and pinned, correctly, on the right-hand lapel. A wonderful moment.”