Monday, 8 September 2008

Roald Dahl Funny Prize & What Children Want

Just in time for 'Back to School' and International Literacy Day, the shortlist for the first ever Roald Dahl Funny Prize was announced today by the reading charity Booktrust. The Roald Dahl Funny Prize is the first prize of its kind; founded to honour those children's books that simply make us laugh.

Alastair Clarke, author of The Pattern Recognition Theory of Humour (Pyrrhic House) says,

Humour marks important stages in the child’s intellectual development, and so do books, but only a humorous book provides that uniquely accessible combination of education and enjoyment.

The judging panel
comprises of the author Sophie Dahl, the comedian Dara O’Briain, author Kaye Umansky and author, illustrator and political cartoonist Chris Riddell. The panel is chaired by the Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen.

Commenting on the shortlist, Michael Rosen said:
"It was a joy and a half to sit round a table, knee-deep in funny books, talking about them with a group of clever, humorous and thoughtful people. Almost all children love funny books, it's what helps hook them into the reading habit. Parents are always on the lookout for funny books to read to their children or to give them as surprises and presents. Now, with these 12 titles, pared down from hundreds that we received, we have the cream of this year's crop. I swear I heard Roald Dahl chortling in the background as we waved the books at each other. I should add that there was a good deal of discussion, argument - is this a smile-book a laugh-book? Is this a book that adults will find funny and children won't? Does it matter if the text is funny but the pictures aren't? And vice versa? Does a funny book need a perfect punchline?

This prize cooincides with the announcement by The UK Year Of Reading that school children aged nine to fifteen from around England responded to a recent National Year of Reading survey which asked young people what ought to be read by every politician wanting to understand which books children today choose because they reflect their lives and concerns and help them cope with life.

The school children also shared thoughts on what makes the perfect story. Humour was the top attribute, with a happy ending and a storyline related to bullying also making the top 10.

The most popular reads were presented to MPs by a delegation of school children at a meeting of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on libraries. They will now be housed in the House of Commons library. Children are anxious to hear back from MPs and Ministers after the holidays about what they have gleaned from their summer reading.

Honor Wilson-Fletcher, Director of the National Year of Reading, said: “Every MP should read from our list this summer if they want to better understand the world of their younger constituents – and it’s what their younger constituents clearly want! It is fascinating, but will be no surprise to anyone writing for children, how important imaginative stories are for learning to deal with the world. It’s a perfect illustration of the happy mix of enjoyment and learning that reading uniquely delivers. It should therefore be no surprise that children see the books they rate highly as a medium through which adults can understand them better. We hope MPs enjoy their selection, and like children, learn from the experience too!”

The Roald Dahl Funny Prize shortlists:

The Funniest Book for Children Aged Six and Under:

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson, Illus. Axel Scheffler (Alison Green Books)
Elephant Wellyphant by Nick Sharratt (Alison Green Books)
The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
The Witch’s Children Go to School by Ursula Jones, Illus. Russell Ayto (Orchard Books)
There’s an Ouch in My Pouch! by Jeanne Willis, Illus. Garry Parsons (Puffin Books)
Manfred the Baddie by John Fardell (Quercus Books)

The Funniest Book for Children Aged Seven to Fourteen

Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton, Illus. David Tazzyman (Egmont Press)
Paddington Here and Now by Michael Bond, Illus. R.W. Alley (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
Stop in the Name of Pants! by Louise Rennison (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Aliens Don’t Eat Dog Food by Dinah Capparucci (Scholastic Children’s Books)
Urgum and the Goo Goo Bah! By Kjartan Poskitt, Illus. Philip Reeve - (Scholastic Children’s Books)

The winner of each category will receive £2,500, which will be presented at an awards ceremony in London on 13th November.

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