Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola have been named Overall Winners of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020 for their debut picture book Look Up!.
The Prize, now in its sixteenth year, consists of £5,000 and the promise of an ongoing commitment to the winners’ writing and illustrating careers, making it one of the most valuable and prestigious children’s book awards in the UK.
Look Up! is an utterly joyful picture book about Rocket, a science-loving Black girl with big dreams about becoming an astronaut. Illustrated with engaging, dynamic images and told with an abundance of wit and charm, Look Up! playfully explores important subjects, from the significance of role models and representation to the amount of time we spend glued to our mobile devices. Clean Up! the sequel to Look up! has just published.
Nathan Bryon is a writer and actor who has written for the critically acclaimed animation Rastamouse, BAFTA award-winning Swashbuckle and Apple Tree House. He wrote the story partly as a message to himself. “I was inspired to write Look Up! after walking around Hyde Park with my girlfriend, she wanted me to see the Peter Pan statue and I was too busy looking down at my phone refreshing my emails. The book is a message to me to be more present, to Look Up! and see all the wonderful things that are around me as my emails really aren’t that important.”
Dapo Adeola is an illustrator and character designer who creates characters and images that challenge gender norms in a fun and upbeat way. He found his inspiration for Rocket close to home. “Look Up! was visually inspired by one of my nieces. I tried to capture her curiosity and zest for knowledge in Rocket’s mannerisms as well as her innocently self-assured attitude to problem-solving, traits that should be celebrated in both boys and girls.”
The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize has been championing new and emerging talent in children’s writing and illustration for sixteen years and is unique in that it is voted for solely by booksellers. Look Up! is also the winner of the Illustrated Books category, Look Up!
The winner of the Young Readers category is High-Rise Mystery Sharna Jackson’s debut novel which was released in 2019. High-Rise Mystery is a great whodunit for younger fans of the genre. There has been a murder on The Tri, the high-rise home of sleuthing sister duo Nik and Norva, and the two girls decide to investigate. Full of suspense and surprising twists, the story keeps readers on their toes as they follow the young protagonists on their adventure. Jackson is also Southbank Centre’s Imagine A Story author for 2019/20 and created Looking With LeVar – the audio guide for children and families at The Broad in LA. She is a member of BAFTA’s Children’s and Learning and New Talent committees and the Children’s Media Conference advisory board.
Sharna Jackson says: “I’ve been reading, watching and playing with mysteries since I was small – thanks to a Sherlock Holmes-obsessedum. The genre is great fun – it’s ludic and gets your readers quickly engaged and feel smart, which they all undoubtedly are. The twists, the turns, the chicanery and all-out scammery in murder mysteries is fantastic – but the typically-posh, vintage, white and stuffy characters and settings were due an update. High-Rise Mystery was, therefore, an experiment. I wanted to see if mystery’s codes and conventions could be transposed to today in a new context, to a working-class setting, led by two contemporary clever and funny Black girls. I like to think that winning this prize means that the experiment was a success, so thank you!”
About the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize:
The Prize is unique in that it is solely voted for by Waterstones’ expert booksellers. The winner of each category will receive £2,000, with the Overall Winner receiving an extra £3,000. In the event of the Prize being awarded to a partnership, then the Prize money will be split equally between the joint winners. The winners also receive the promise of an ongoing commitment to their writing and illustrating careers, making it one of the most valuable and prestigious children’s book awards in the UK.