Struan Murray is the winner of the 2021 Branford Boase Award for the year’s outstanding debut novel for children for his ambitious, beautifully written fantasy adventure Orphans of the Tide. Set in the last city of a drowned world, the book opens with a dead whale washing in with the tide, only for a living boy to climb out. The City’s religious authorities believe his body to house The Enemy, the god they hold responsible for putting the world in its watery grave but Ellie, a young inventor, is convinced he’s innocent.
The Branford Boase Award is recognised as one of the most important awards in children’s books with an impressive record in identifying authors with special talent at the start of their careers.
Uniquely, it also honours the editor of the winning title and highlights the importance of the editor in nurturing new talent. This year the award is shared with Murray’s editor, Ben Horslen, of Puffin.
The Shortlist comprised:
When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten, edited by Sarah Odedina (Pushkin Children’s Books)
Witch by Finbar Hawkins, edited by Fiona Kennedy (Zephyr)
And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando, edited by Jane Griffiths (Simon and Schuster)
A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll, edited by Eishar Brar (Knights Of)
Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann, edited by Carmen McCullough (Penguin)
The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson, edited by Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker, illustrated by Rob Biddulph (Usborne)
Children’s literature expert and chair of the judges Julia Eccleshare says, ‘The Branford Boase Award has always celebrated the special role new writers play in expanding the scope of what children read. New voices telling new stories add to the already rich seam of children's books: in the hands of skillful storytellers they are vital in giving a fictional commentary on current emotional, social and political issues. This year’s shortlist includes books that show just how exciting, diverse and fresh storytelling for all ages of children can be. The level of talent among the new writers is extraordinary as is their determination to ensure all children can find themselves in a story. Congratulations to Struan and Ben and to all the authors and editors on the shortlist.’
Judge Liz Hyder, author of Bearmouth and winner of the 2020 Branford Boase Award winner says of Orphans of the Tide, ‘This book utterly stole my heart. Exquisitely written, it’s a phenomenal page-turner with characters that leap off the page and straight into your imagination. Orphans of the Tide explores lots of big themes - environmental issues, friendship and xenophobia to name but a few - all wrapped up in an utterly compelling tale told by a master storyteller. Struan is an exceptional talent and I can’t wait to read everything else he ever writes.’
Struan Murray says, ‘I am so honoured and thrilled to have won the Branford Boase Award. This award is extremely special as it celebrates not only the author but the editor too, and understands and recognises that writing is a collaborative process that wouldn’t be possible without the commitment, imagination and skill of the editor. Working with Ben has stretched me as a writer and his insight contributed so much to the world of Orphans of the Tide that I couldn’t imagine it without him.’
Ben Horslen said: ‘Every year I look forward to the announcement of the Branford Boase Award shortlist with particular excitement. The author-editor relationship lies at the very heart of our industry, and to have an award that celebrates and showcases that relationship is a very special thing indeed. To be nominated is a career highlight that every editor hopes for. To win is simply a dream come true.’
This year the judges were Zoey Dixon, YLG Librarian of the Year 2020; Scott Evans, teacher, consultant and founder of TheReaderTeacher.com; Natasha Radford of Chicken and Frog bookshop, Brentwood; and Liz Hyder, author of Bearmouth, winner of the 2020 Branford Boase Award. The panel was chaired by Julia Eccleshare, children’s director of the Hay Festival and one of LoveReading4Kids' editorial experts.
The Branford Boase Award was set up in memory of the outstanding and prize-winning author Henrietta Branford and Wendy Boase, editorial director and one of the founders of Walker Books. They worked together on a number of Henrietta’s novels, a partnership they greatly enjoyed.
Henrietta Branford was a gifted novelist for young people. During her short career she won the Smarties Prize in 1994 for Dimanche Diller (Harper Collins) and the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1998 for Fire, Bed and Bone (Walker Books); she was twice shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize, in 1994 and 1997. Her progress and development as a writer was watched with interest by publishers, critics and fellow writers alike.
Wendy Boase, Editorial Director of Walker Books, and one of its founders, was a passionate children's book editor wholly committed to developing new writers and nursing them through their early writing careers. She is credited with bringing on many new talents. She and Henrietta worked together on a number of her books, a partnership that was warmly appreciated by Henrietta.
Both Henrietta and Wendy died of cancer in early 1999. The Branford Boase Award wishes to celebrate and encourage, in their names and in their memories, the crucial early development of new writing talent.
The winner of the Branford Boase Award 2021 was announced on Thursday 15th July in a live event hosted by LoveReadingLitFest. The winning author received a cheque for £1,000 and both author and editor received an inscribed plaque.
For more information on the Branford Boase Award visit www.branfordboaseaward.org.uk.