Calling all writers for children: Suggs, lead singer of the group Madness, is one of the judges in our competition. He tells Hilly Janes about his favourite stories as a child.

I DIDN'T have a great many books as a child, but my mother was keen on reading and it was something she encouraged. I read adult books. I remember Beowulf, which was very long and involved, and the Odyssey - I can't remember whether they were children's versions - Grimms' fairy- tales, Hans Christian Andersen.

But one of my happiest memories was when the teachers at school used to read to us in the afternoon. The story that made a huge impression on me was James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. It began with a line about how James's parents were eaten by a rhino that escaped from the zoo. It really shocked me. How could a rhino escape from a zoo and how did it eat the parents, a rhino being whatever the opposite of carnivorous is? My own kids were horrified when I first read it to them, too.

Roald Dahl really made a connection and has throughout my life. He broke the stereotypes of nice people and nasty people. Characters who seemed horrible would in fact turn out to be the good ones.

When he was still alive my kids used to fight over who was going to read his latest book first. In fact, it was often me.

'Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound . . .': next week Judge Stephen Tumim, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons and another member of our judging panel, recalls the best read of his childhood.

(Photograph omitted)

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