The KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards took place today and all five categories were won by female artists. Hosted by Rick O’Shea, the 2020 ceremony took place online for the first time in thirty years and this year also saw the prize fund doubled with support of new title sponsors KPMG and is the most prestigious prize for children’s books in Ireland. The winning titles cover a broad remit from picturebooks to young adult novels, Irish language, dementia.
BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD WINNER:
Máire Zepf for Nóinín
Published by Cois Life.
Máire Zepf, the first Children’s Writing Fellow at Queen’s Univerity Belfast and Seamus Heaney Centre has won the coveted Book of the Year Award for her compelling verse novel Nóinínthat depicts, with beguiling subtlety and nuance, the online grooming of a shy teenage girl, the slow build-up to a shocking crime and the aftermath from the perspective of her best friend. Judges praised the rich imagery, poetic language and intertextual references to fairy tales and Irish myth which lend resonance in this very modern and accessible tale of the dangers of social media.
HONOUR AWARD FOR FICTION WINNER:
Sarah Crossan for Toffee
Published by Bloomsbury YA.
Ireland’s former Laureate na nÓg Sarah Crossan has won the Honour Award for Fiction for her verse novel Toffee, a lyrical and moving portrayal of the relationship between a teenage girl who has run away from her abusive father, and an elderly woman with dementia, who mistakes the girl for a close childhood friend. Judges commented that each poem is a gem in itself and that through deft storytelling and masterful characterisation, complex themes of identity, child and elder abuse, memory loss, loneliness and connection are explored with sensitivity, honesty, warmth and respect.
HONOUR AWARD FOR ILLUSTRATION WINNER:
Ashling Lindsay for The Tide
Published by Little Tiger Press.
Ashling Lindsay has won the Honour Award for Illustration for her artwork in The Tide (written by Clare Helen Welsh), a poignant portrayal of a young girl coming to an understanding of her grandfather’s memory loss which is ultimately uplifting and enlightening for child and adult readers alike. Judges noted the exquisite illustrations, with gentle rhythms mirroring the ebb and flow of the tide, memory and the passage of time, and in particular a stunning double spread depicting the pair dancing at sunset creating a glorious sense of harmony that assuages earlier moments of disquiet.
EILÍS DILLON AWARD WINNER:
Kim Sharkey for Mór agus Muilc
Published by Éabhlóid.
The Eilís Dillon Award for a first children’s book went to Kim Sharkey for Mór agus Muilic, a stunning retelling in picture and text of an unusual and dark tale from oral Irish culture as told by John Óg Hiúdaí Neidí Ó Colla. Judges remarked on the rhythmic repetition of dialogue and the sumptuous and evocative illustrations which create a hypnotic sense of movement as a growing cast of characters join the elongated Mór and the jester-like Muilc in a dance towards their doom. This award is named in honour of the revered Irish children’s author Eilís Dillon, whose birth centenary was on 7th March of this year.
THE JUDGES’ SPECIAL AWARD WINNER:
Meg Grehan for The Deepest Breath
Published by Little Island.
The Judges’ Special Award this year goes to Meg Grehan for The Deepest Breath, a thoughtful, exquisitely gentle and heart-rending verse novel that explores with a superb lightness of touch important themes relating to anxiety, emerging sexual identity, friendship and love. The lyrical narrative captures with great delicacy the fragile voice of an eleven-year-old girl, whose feelings for her friend both excite and confuse her as she seeks understanding and affirmation from her mother. The motif of water, of drowning and breathing, lends a dreamy atmosphere to this tender, courageous and ultimately uplifting story.
The winner of the new KPMG Reading Hero award was also announced, recognising a young person’s potential and celebrating their remarkable passion for books.The new KPMG Reading Hero award was presented to Harry Darcy, a young reader from Gorey, Co Wexford.
The KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards recognise excellence in writing and illustration in Irish or English and are open to books by authors and illustrators who were born in Ireland, are permanently resident in Ireland or are citizens of Ireland and which were published between 1st January and 31st December each year. Founded in 1990, the Awards are the leading children’s book awards in Ireland. Each year a panel of judges read all of the books submitted by publishers, some 99 titles in 2019, and a shortlist of 10 is announced in March, with the final awards ceremony taking place in May. For more information see: https://childrensbooksireland.ie/
The KPMG Awards and Junior Juries programme are kindly supported by the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Ecclesiastical Movement for Good Awards.