The judges were: Gillie Russell, Fiction Publishing Director of HarperCollins Children’s Books, Emma Soames, Editor of Saga Magazine, and author Helen Dunmore, winner of the first Orange Prize for Fiction.
For me the clear champion is Hybrids by David Thorpe. His wonderfully original and compelling story is told in the alternating voices of the two young teenage protagonists in a totally fresh and exciting way.
The reader is instantly drawn into a world which is current but not quite; which is real but only just; which is horribly close to our fears of what is happening and may happen in future. Exciting, page-turning, vivid and unputdownable, Hybrids and David Thorpe will I am sure be a real winner.
The alternating voices of the two protagonists will draw children in immediately with their fresh contemporary and compelling teenage voices.
The author writes so that one is immediately drawn in -- shown rather than told the story, which is key and critical for success and isn't always the case with new writers.
It questions our human dependency on technology and the loneliness of children and teenagers who may well have a stronger relationship with their computer, iPod and their mobile than with their own families and is a powerful and interesting way of dealing with an ever present difficulty in writing children's books, that is the way of "removing the parents" from the main thrust of the plot, in an original way.
It shows the reader our world in a different light and, like all the good, seminal writers of sci-fi, it takes the new technology and pushes it further and faster than is actually happening -- thereby tapping into our fears that things are changing faster than we can really cope with -- just as the great writers like John Wyndham did with Day of the Triffids and HG Wells with the War of the worlds etc.
The narrative is vivid and the imagery is strong -- I believe children will get a real buzz from Hybrids -- it will snatch the imagination and change the world a little bit each reader, which is what good fiction does. If strong imager stay in the mind, e.g. the Gene Police chasing the boy who had bonded with a scooter and forcing him to crash.
I believe we can take Hybrids into the marketplace in a way which is fresh and exciting and that it will attract good reviews and publicity on the strength of its writing and originality.