In the Winners’ Circle

At a ceremony Thursday night at Walker Books in London, the 2014 Branford Boase Award was given to author C.J. (Chelsey) Flood for her debut novel Infinite Sky, while Venetia Gosling shared the award as the book’s editor. Infinite Sky tells of the friendship between Iris, lonely and sad after the breakup of her family, and Trick, a boy whose traveler family has set up camp in the neighboring field. The two are determined to overcome the prejudices of those around them but all goes horribly wrong. Flood wrote the story to counteract the hostility toward travelers in the U.K. and to challenge their stereotypical portrayal. She told PW, “Venetia was so passionate about my book that she got a little wet-eyed in our first meeting, and I knew from that minute I had to work with her. S&S recently sent me on a tour of North America, taking in Toronto, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, and it was amazing to see the way that people over there are beginning to respond to Infinite Sky. I never thought my book would spread from the little cornfield of my imagination to halfway across the world.”

Infinite Sky was the first BBA win for Gosling, then fiction editorial director at Simon & Schuster and now fiction publishing director at Macmillan. “It was wonderful editing an author who was so committed to her story, to making it the best it could possibly be,” she said. “Chelsey is very determined, immensely talented, and a lovely person to boot. I’m excited to see what she does next.”

Now in its 15th year, the Branford Boase Award was set up in memory of author Henrietta Branford and her editor Wendy Boase to celebrate a debut novelist and the editor who worked with them. Previous winners include Meg Rosoff, Mal Peet, Siobhan Dowd, and this year’s CILIP Carnegie Medal winner, Kevin Brooks. The awards were presented by Jacqueline Wilson.

Books About Town

London has been brightened up this summer by the installation of 50 colorful BookBench sculptures – book-shaped benches featuring literary artwork – which will remain on view around the city through September 15.

A Dr. Seuss BookBench. Click for larger image.

Launched by the National Literacy Trust and Wild in Art, which promotes public art events, the projects benches feature both original and specially commissioned artwork. Among the novels represented are Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, with artwork by Ralph Steadman (who in the 1970s illustrated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland); Anthony Horowitz’s Stormbreaker; and Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses. Picture book art includes images from Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat, Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and a bench called “from the Gruffalo to scarecrows: the world of Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson,” which shows nine characters from the collaborators’ books.

The BookBenches will be auctioned in London on October 7 to raise funds for the National Literacy Trust, which is dedicated to raising literacy levels across the U.K. Visit the Books About Town website for more information.

House of Illustration

The opening of the new House of Illustration in King’s Cross gives the U.K. its first public gallery and education space devoted to illustration. Artist Quentin Blake (below), perhaps best known for his work on Roald Dahl’s books, conceived of the idea for the gallery during his time as the inaugural U.K. children’s laureate (1999–2001) after the success of The Telling Line, an illustration exhibit he curated for the National Gallery.

House of Illustration will be a dedicated center for illustration in all its forms as well as an arts space hosting exhibitions, talks, and events. Director Colin Mckenzie told PW, “We know that there is a tremendous public appetite for illustration but it is a demand that really hasn’t been satisfied until now. It’s about giving illustration as an art form the recognition it deserves.”

Fittingly, the gallery’s opening exhibition is of Quentin Blake’s work. Inside Stories includes sketch books, roughs, storyboards, and finished artwork for his own books (the wordless Clown) as well as for books by Roald Dahl, John Yeoman, Russell Hoban, and Michael Rosen.

At the well-attended opening ceremony, Blake said, “House of Illustration is about to do something remarkable. Illustration has been one of the most distinctive strands in the history of British art and I’m delighted that there will now be a dedicated space where everyone can view, discuss, or learn about illustration; British and international; past, present and future.”

The Booktrust Best Book Awards

The 2014 Booktrust Best Book Awards, sponsored by Amazon Kindle, were announced last week at a packed ceremony in London. Among the attendees were authors and illustrators, including current children’s laureate Malorie Blackman and former children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo, as well as a number of children, who enjoyed illustration sessions with Chris Riddell and Sarah McIntyre while waiting for the award announcements.

Some 12,000 children cast their votes in six categories, based on a shortlist of titles selected by a panel of adult judges that included authors, critics and celebrities working in other children’s media. The winners were: Peck Peck Peck by Lucy Cousins (Walker), best picture book (ages 6–8); Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis (Walker), best story book (ages 6–8); Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (Puffin), best story book (ages 9–11); Operation Ouch!: Your Brilliant Body by Dr. Chris and Dr Xand van Tulleken (Little, Brown), best fact book (ages 9–11); The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Puffin), best story book (ages 12–14); and Little Red Riding Hood by Ed Bryan (Nosy Crow), best tech stuff (up to age 14).