Horatio Clare Wins 2016 Branford Boase Award

Horatio Clare and his editor Penny Thomas have won the 2016 Branford Boase Award given annually to the author and editor of the outstanding debut novel for children, for Horatio and the Terrible Yoot published by tiny independent Firefly Press.

Horatio Clare has won awards for his books for adults and was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. Of writing for children he said: ‘I am absolutely lit up about writing for children. I feel there are no limits, their imaginations are so powerful, and I love being in dialogue with an imagined child reader. It is the most exciting writing I have yet discovered.’

On winning the award he said: ‘Winning this wonderful award means the world to me for three reasons. This is the book I am most proud of: it was written with heart and soul about something painful and important, but meant to read as a joy and an adventure

It was not even given a chance at London publishers because it was not thought 'commercial', but the brilliant Firefly, run by Penny Thomas, grabbed it and made it happen. 

It was funded by the Welsh Books Council: state support for writers in Wales is exemplary; I and many other Welsh writers are working to repay the support and faith placed in us by the executive and the people of Wales, with books which will travel and last. This award is theirs as much as mine.’

Founded in 2000 the Branford Boase Award has an impressive record in picking out future stars. Frances Hardinge, winner of this year’s Costa Book of the Year won the Branford Boase in 2006 while Meg Rosoff, recent recipient of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, is also a previous winner, as are Marcus Sedgwick, Mal Peet, Siobhan Dowd and Kevin Brooks.

Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot describes how Aubrey, a ‘rambunctious’ boy, receives help from the wild animals in the woods around his home to break the depression that is weighing down his father.  The source of the depression is a beetle, the Terrible Yoot, and through their encounter with it, Aubrey and his father discover the infinite wonder of the world.

Chair of the judges, children’s literature expert and children’s books editor of The Guardian Julia Eccleshare said, ‘Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot is beautifully written and highly original, proof that children’s books is a very exciting place in which to write. Clare describes both the natural world and the misery of depression with extraordinary accuracy, and acknowledges a child’s power to imagine a better world. This year’s shortlist was particularly strong, a great representation of what authors are writing today. It is very exciting to think about what is to come from all the shortlisted authors.’

The Branford Boase Award is the only award to recognise the role of the editor in nurturing new talent.

Winning editor Penny Thomas said, 'I was bowled over by Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot from the minute I read it and so delighted to sign Horatio for Firefly. The book is funny, big-hearted and original and derives its brilliance from a superb use of language, an empathy for people and nature and a refusal to patronise the reader. It also has one of the best visionary endings I’ve ever read. I’m overjoyed for Horatio and for Firefly that the Branford Boase judges loved Aubrey too. It means an enormous amount to all of us at Firefly to win this unique award.’

Horatio Clare’s first book Running for the Hills, an acclaimed account of a Welsh childhood, won a Somerset Maugham Award, was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and saw Horatio shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. His subsequent books included TruantA Single SwallowThe Prince’s Pen and most recently the travelogue Down to the Sea in Ships, shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year Award 2015. Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot is his first book for children.

Penny Thomas has a BA in English Language and Literature from Keble College Oxford and a lifelong passion for children’s books. She has worked as fiction editor for literary publisher Seren for ten years, where she has edited a number of award-winning titles. She and co-founder Janet Thomas set up Firefly Press in 2013 to publish quality fiction for 5-19 year olds. To date the press has published 20 titles including books by Shoo Rayner, Heather Dyer, Malachy Doyle, Wendy Meddour, Paul Magrs and Rhian Ivory, several of which have been listed for regional and Wales awards. Penny lives in Cardiff with her two teenage children.

Firefly Press is an independent children’s and YA publisher based in Cardiff and Aberystwyth. Set up in 2013, Firefly is the only dedicated children’s publisher in Wales and publishes quality fiction for 5-19 years olds. Their aim is to publish books by great authors and illustrators wherever they are from.

The Branford Boase Award was set up in memory of prize-winning author Henrietta Branford and Wendy Boase, editorial director and one of the founders of Walker Books.  Both Henrietta and Wendy died of cancer in 1999. The award is specifically to encourage new writers and to highlight the importance of the editor in nurturing new talent. It has an excellent record in identifying talented authors.

This year the judges are Russell Allen team leader for children’s services across the West Sussex Library Service, recently awarded Public Librarian of the Year; Simon Key, bookseller from the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green; Marion Lloyd, former children’s editor; and Rosie Rowell, author of Leopold Blue, winner of the 2015 Branford Boase Award. The panel is chaired by Julia Eccleshare, children’s books editor of the Guardian.

The 2016 winners of the Award were announced on Thursday 7th July at a ceremony at Walker Books in London. Former Children’s Laureate Dame Jacqueline Wilson OBE presented Horatio Clare with a cheque for £1,000 and both Horatio and Penny Thomas received a unique, hand-crafted silver-inlaid box.  

You can find out more about the award here.

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