The dark tale of a teenage girl writing to a murderer on death row, based on the author’s own experiences, was tonight awarded the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
British writer Annabel Pitcher was dubbed a “genuine literary star” when she was presented with the £5,000 award for her novel Ketchup Clouds at Waterstones’ flagship store in Piccadilly.
The book first won the teen category earlier in the evening, before beating two other category winners for the main prize. Writing before the scandal erupted, Ms Pitcher dodged a bullet as her protagonist was originally going to write her confessional letters to Jimmy Savile. Her husband inadvertently saved the title from being pulped after he pointed out that many modern teenagers would not have known who Savile was.
Melissa Cox, children’s new titles buyer for Waterstones, admitted: “It may not sound the most obvious subject for a teen bestseller,” but added: “Ketchup Clouds is a classic coming of age story featuring death, betrayal and redemption.”
Ms Cox added: “It’s an unsettling yet fantastically fresh and brave take on the teen confessional. Pitcher is a genuine literary star.”
Ms Pitcher said she had written to a man on death row as a teenager, after she heard an Amnesty International talk given by a nun who had befriended prisoners facing execution.
At the awards, RJ Palacio won the best fiction prize for five to 12-year-olds for his debut work Wonder about a boy with facial deformity starting school for the first time at the age of 10.
Rebecca Cobb was awarded the best picture book of the year with Lunchtime about a girl who doesn’t want to eat her lunch.