The biscuit takes it: prize for children's book goes to baker's rebel

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The Independent Culture

The uplifting story of a biscuit that comes to life and tries to avoid being eaten yesterday won a prestigious prize for children's literature.

The uplifting story of a biscuit that comes to life and tries to avoid being eaten yesterday won a prestigious prize for children's literature.

Mini Grey's book, Biscuit Bear , was named the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize gold medal winner in the category dedicated to books for children aged five and under.

The Smarties awards have been running for 20 years and are voted for by children from shortlists chosen by a panel which this year included the broadcasters Mark Lawson and Libby Purves.

Julia Eccleshare, a journalist and chair of the judges, said Biscuit Bear was "wonderfully funny. It's a wholly satisfying story in which the hero triumphs".

Children aged six to eight voted for Fergus Crane by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell as the gold-medal winner for their age group. Their story is about the magical adventures of a boy and his winged mechanical horse.

It also won the 4Children Special Award, a separate poll of the views of children attending after-school clubs.

Ms Eccleshare said what was particularly striking about Fergus Crane was it was beautifully produced. "Everything about how it's made is lovely. There is a wonderful jacket with a map inside. It is a full-length novel with illustrations, which is perfect for the category who are beginning to read but like having pictures too."

The final gold medal winner was for books for nine- to 11-year-olds and was won by Sally Grindley's Spilled Water , a harrowing tale of child slavery in 20th-century China.

Ms Eccleshare said it was a sad story. "It gave great insight into somewhere different and how a life was lived but the characters seemed totally identifiable."

The gold medal winners each received a cheque for £2,500, and gold and bronze winners in each category were given cheques for £1,500 and £500 respectively in a ceremony at the British Library yesterday.

The Nestlé Smarties Book Prize has helped launch the careers of many of Britain's best-loved writers including J K Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson and Dick King-Smith. It is run by the independent charity Booktrust, which promotes books and reading.

Ms Eccleshare said: "This award counts because the final choice of winners is made by children, who are the toughest critics. There is a book for every child if only you could find it." Children's literature had never looked stronger, she added.

This year more than 35,000 children entered a competition for the chance to become judges. Fifty children's clubs and 150 schools won the chance to choose their favourites from shortlists whittled down from about 300 contenders.

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