It’s probably about time I reviewed the winner of this fantastic prize. Whilst ‘Seven Sorcerers’ by Caro King didn’t win (if you remember my colleague John was representing it at the event) book sales from all the finalists have done very well.
The winner ‘The Great Hamster Massacre’ by Katie Davies has no doubt fared the best in all this. Publisher Simon and Schuster are winners of this prize for the second year in a row so they must be over the moon for Katie. The win has not come without some controversy though as there have been debates on both the Waterstones and Bookseller website regarding the appropriate age recommendation for this book. It has been classed as a 5-8 book and because of this a lot of people have suggested it’s just far too young and the content is not suitable. This ‘content’ they refer to deals with death…erm a hamster massacre to be exact.
Can I put in my opinion? As a bookseller, the question i’m asked the most by parents is ‘What age is it aimed at?’ This is the most incomprehensible question I can ever get asked because it depends on so much. The age guidelines created by Waterstones are merely that…GUIDELINES. Each child is individual (perhaps this is why we need so many children’s books for children- there’s a thought) and so their communication abilities are always developing as are their linguistic abilities and their likes and dislikes. Children also experience changeable life events at different ages and so we can’t begin to scope out a definitive list of books with a specific age for them. Especially when stubborn parents insist “He’s 7 but he’s got a reading age of 10!”
I digress. What I want to suggest to parents is, read a chapter of the book before you read it to your child if you are worried, seek out children’s booksellers and seek out book guides which are available in most bookstores and utilise the internet- there are so many informed reviews out there you really can’t go wrong. Most importantly, take a leap. Trust in a piece of writing, trust that you are doing a good thing getting your child reading and trust that your child may just like it.
Katie Davies said herself that she based parts of the story on her own young experiences with a pet hamster, so if she survived and is still sane and coherent I doubt it can do much harm. (Look at the picture below taken from The Telegraph, she looks ok to me).
Books are there for children to harness their imagination and let loose and they need to be exposed to all aspects of life- good and bad. What better way for them to learn than through reading? Katie Davies has produced a humorous, slightly gory but most importantly, a refreshingly honest account of life events and this achievement should not be taken away from her.
Congratulations Katie, congratulations Simon and Schuster. I can’t wait for your next book ‘The Great Rabbit Rescue’.