Author: Christine Richard OBE FRSA

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Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 at 10:16 am
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Book Reviews

Monsters, Magic and Strange Happenings

The Kelpies book prize is awarded each year for a brilliant story set wholly, or mainly in Scotland and suitable for children aged 8-12 years old. Entries need to be original, previously unpublished prose between 40,000 and 70,000 words long. Authors do not need to live in Scotland to qualify. This year the three short-listed authors met with friends and supporters in the Book Festival Writers’ Retreat for the announcement of the winner and the atmosphere was at least as tense as the content of the books.

The three shortlisted books were ‘How to Make a Golem (and Terrify People) by Alette Willis, ‘The Really Weird Removals Company ‘ by Daniela Sacerdoti and ‘The Resurrection Spell’ by Roy Gill. As the tension mounted I was able to speak to each of the finalist in turn.

Daniela’s book is set in a Highland village but based on her memories of her grandmother and, in turn, her village. She said she was rather surprised and, indeed, overawed at being a finalist and told me this was her first public occasion and she felt very nervous. Daniela said it was such a privilege to be included. Her book is written in the first person and contains a good deal of humour as we learned when the excerpts were read from each book.

By coincidence Roy Gill’s book ‘The Resurrection Spell’ also involved a grandmother and her place in the life of her granddaughter who was being bullied at school. The theme, whilst dark was all about overcoming fear and whilst there was little dialogue the descriptive writing evoked a very visual feeling.

Our third finalist, Alette Willis said she was almost speechless at being shortlisted. She was also extremely nervous! Again a theme of overcoming fear runs through the work. She based it on the experiences of Jewish people being bullied in Prague and the Golem was, in fact, a real object like a totem pole made from mud and designed to terrify the bullies. This entry contains some very strong writing, in the first person and the main character, who is a girl, learns to deal with her fears.

Janis Mackay, author of the Magnus Fin series of novels read extracts from each of the finalists’ manuscripts with great verve and obvious enjoyment. Lari Don, author of First Aid for Fairies kept us in suspense before the announcement of the winner by giving us a humorous talk about writing. Then, with anticipation reaching fever pitch she announced the winner of the 2011 Kelpie Award. It went to Alette Willis for her novel ‘How to Make a Golem (and Terrify People)’.

Alette, who originally came from Canada and is currently a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh said she was “almost speechless and very thrilled”. Judging by the thunderous applause the audience certainly shared the second part of her comment.

The Kelpies Prize is open annually, the deadline for submissions for next year is 28 February 2011. For full terms and conditions and an application form go to The competition is administrated by Floris Books and supported by Creative Scotland. There is a cash prize of £2000 to the winner whose manuscript will be published in November by Floris in the Kelpies range.

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2 Responses to “Monsters, Magic and Strange Happenings”

  1. anne graham Says:

    Lovely to see this inspired prize continues. My own children much enjoyed the earlier series.

  2. Rosemary Gemmell Says:

    Really enjoyed that overview of a great contest and worthy prize winner.

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