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King Arthur runs off with first prize!

Who would have thought that a rather moody King Arthur would run off with the first-ever Firefly Children’s Books Prize 2014?

When we asked for twenty-first century stories set in Wales, we didn’t expect Arthur to turn up. But we’re very pleased he did.

Sarah Todd Taylor’s story Arthur and Me is a tale of young schoolboy, Tomos from Harleck, who has a bit of a track record with school trips. It involves vats of soup, rabbit bites and, erm, giraffe sick. So his teacher Mrs Wendell-Jones (who happens to have a bit of a crush on King Arthur) is rightly nervous about taking him on a school coach to Caerleon. But she has no idea of the chaos to follow when Tomos finds himself falling down a muddy hole and landing on top of the once and future king - who turns out to be not quite the hero the children have been led to believe...

Sarah’s skillful and funny storytelling, and her lively characters, complete with annoying sister and squabbling knights, made her story a great winner. And we’re really looking forward to publishing it in our Dragonfly series later this year.

But among the many entries there was plenty for the judges, Catherine Fisher, Francesca Rhydderch, and myself to choose from. The two runners up were Ruth Joseph from Cardiff with The Magic Wok, a moving story about a Tibetan boy who finds himself befriended by a Polish Girl in the valleys, and Jack Dawson by Mary Howells, telling the tale of Jack and a talking jackdaw called Commander. Another renowned Welsh character made the shortlist with Laura Sheldon’s memorably melancholy ghost in Mr Mahli’s Shed, while Huw Davies’ Scrambled - a tale of motorcycling schoolboys - is genuine and full of heart.

The prize was offered for a story for seven to nine year olds, set in contemporary Wales, which was a bit like putting a tin of sweets on a high shelf, just out of reach. It was a tall order, but we were delighted to receive so many great entries, and our heartfelt thanks to everyone who entered, for their patience in waiting for the results, and for making the first Firefly Children’s Book Prize such a success!

Penny Thomas