First novel with autistic heroine wins Stockton Children’s Book Prize

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Pictured: Elle McNicoll and Tamsin. Credit: Dawn McNamara Photography

Submitted by David Crosby

A novel with an autistic heroine has been crowned Book of the Year at Stockton.

More than 300 pupils from 19 of the borough’s primary schools voted to name Elle McNicoll’s debut novel, A Kind of Spark, winner of Stockton Children’s Book of the Year 2022.

She was named the winner of five shortlisted books at a ceremony attended by borough schoolchildren at Stockton Central Library last week.

Published by Knights Of, the story follows Addie, an 11-year-old autistic girl, as she campaigns for a memorial to the witch trials that took place in her Scottish hometown.

This is the latest in a series of awards for Elle, who is autistic herself and champions better representation of neurodiversity in publishing.

And she wasn’t the only winner, with Tamsin from Junction Farm Primary School winning the award for best book review, which is judged by a panel of librarians.

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Councilor Jim Beall, Cabinet Member of the Council for Health, Leisure and Culture, said: “The Stockton Prize for Children’s Book of the Year has been in existence since 1997 and is well established as one of the most prestigious in the industry.

“This year’s award is made all the more special as authors have resumed making face-to-face visits to schools and attending the awards ceremony in person.

“Everything is organized by our excellent library service, in partnership with local schools, and not only inspires a love of reading, but also gives local school children the opportunity to meet authors and write their own reviews of books.

She McNicoll and Tamsin. Credit: Dawn McNamara Photography

“What really stands out when we give out this award is the fun aspect of reading, or reading for fun, as it’s often called. To quote Dr. Seuss: “You can find magic everywhere you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.

“Competition for this prize is always very strong and I would like to say a big congratulations to the five shortlisted authors and thank you for spending time with us today.

“I would like to congratulate Elle, who joins an illustrious list of winners including Liz Pichon, David Almond and Piers Torday, and of course Tamsin for her brilliant book review.

“I would also like to thank all the children, teachers and library staff who have put so much effort into what is a great celebration of children’s literature.

The other shortlisted books were The Griffin Gate by Vashti Hardy (Barrington Stoke), The Unbelievable Biscuit Factory by James Harris (Hodder Children’s Books), The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery (Walker Books) and The Ghost of Gosswater by Lucy Strange (Chicken Loger ).

For more information on the Stockton Prize for Children’s Book of the Year (SCBY), visit SCBY website.

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