The announcement of the Booker Prize longlist this week marks the start of a new cycle of literary awards in the UK. The so-called “Booker Dozen” of 13 novels not only provides a handy summer reading list, but represents the moment when readers begin to find form in the deluge of titles released each year. With nearly 190,000 books, the UK’s annual output is the third largest in the world, behind only China and the US. So, whether you love them or hate them, awards play an important role in helping readers find their way through them.
The landscape will be different in the coming year, following last month’s sudden and inexplicable announcement that coffee retailer Costa is scrapping Booker’s main competitor for literary prestige, effective immediately. Formerly known as the Whitbread Book Awards, the Costas offered awards in five categories – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s and first novels – with an overall Book of the Year being selected from the section winners.
Unlike many other countries, the UK has no government subsidized book prices, making them dependent on commercial funding. This has the disadvantage of being vulnerable to corporate whims, but it has also generated a Darwinian energy: This week’s other news was the Rathbones Folio Prize, previously a one-part generalist prize with winners including novelist Colm Tóibín , poet Raymond Antrobus and journalist Richard Lloyd Parry, will triple branch to replicate three of Costa’s sections: poetry, fiction and non-fiction, with an overall winner at the end.
Unfortunately, this new list does not include children’s literature in addition to first novels. While debut fiction is well catered for – a new prize was launched this year by bookseller Waterstones – the world of children’s literature will be in tears at bedtime, especially as it comes on the heels of the 22-year-old’s axing. old Blue Peter awards. The organizers of the Rathbones Folio Prize cite two reasons for the failure: first, that nominations for the prize are made by an “academy” of writers who lack children’s book expertise, and second, that the gap left by Blue Peter was filled by expanding the existing Laugh Out Loud award.
Neither reason will satisfy advocates of children’s publishing, and with good reason. There are more than 300 members of the Rathbones Folio Academy, so adding a few children’s book authors to the mix wouldn’t be a big deal. Regarding the intellectual landscape of publishing, there is a greater frustration: for all its importance – and the last few decades have been a golden age – children’s literature is all too often the Cinderella of publishing.
Philip Pullman, who won Costa Book of the Year for The Subtle Knife, the third installment in his His Dark Materials trilogy, said the award was a personal turning point as nobody cared about the special children’s awards he had previously won . Drawing an equal sign between children’s literature and the other four category winners is a statement of the value of children’s literature, he said. It’s not too late to recognize this value further, so that another children’s novel could be named Book of the Year.