NZ title among hard-hitting novels longlisted for the Guardian children's fiction prize - Bernard Beckett in exulted company
Stories of schizophrenia, concentration camps and guns on the longlist for the Guardian children's fiction prize
A startling children's book in which a boy, diagnosed with schizophrenia, is sent to a hospital and put through electroconvulsive therapy, has been longlisted for the Guardian children's fiction prize, alongside a collection of novels tackling an array of challenging subjects.
Julie Hearn's Rowan the Strange, set at the outset of the second world war, sees her hero, Rowan, undergoing experimental treatments to cure him of the voices in his head, which have driven him to violence.
It was selected alongside Morris Gleitzman's Then, in which two children who have escaped from internment in a Nazi death camp search for a new life, and Marcus Sedgwick's Revolver, which sees a boy alone in the Arctic circle with the body of his father, struggling to decide whether to use a gun on the terrifying stranger who has arrived in his home.
"This longlist shows there is absolutely no subject which children's authors aren't willing to tackle," said the chair of judges and the Guardian's children's books editor Julia Eccleshare. "There is nothing which is not capable of being dealt with in a children's book."
The magic and fantasy, vampires and fairies which have dominated children's writing over the last few years are notable by their absence from the longlist, which also features the late Siobhan Dowd's poignant tale of a runaway foster child, Solace of the Road, and an adventure set in the French revolution from Sally Gardner, The Silver Blade. "We haven't really got any fantasy," said Eccleshare. "There is still a lot of fantasy around, but exceptional fantasy has always been rather hard to find."
Terry Pratchett's Nation, a novel set outside his popular Discworld universe on a South Sea island in an alternate 19th century, Mal Peet's South American reworking of Othello, Exposure, and Bernard Beckett's exploration of a society cut off from the outside world, Genesis, complete the longlist.
The winner of the £1,500 prize – the only children's award in which authors are judged by their peers – will be announced on 8 October 2009, following the unveiling of the shortlist in September. Young critics will also be able to have their say in a competition launching this weekend at the Hay festival, which invites those aged 16 or below to write a review of not more than 200 words of one of the longlisted books, and submit it to the Guardian. The 10 best reviews will win sets of the longlisted books for their schools and themselves, and a book voucher.
Authors Celia Rees, Andy Stanton and Patrick Ness – winner of last year's prize for his novel The Knife of Never Letting Go – join Eccleshare on the judging panel.
Past winners of the prize, which has been running since 1968, include Philip Pullman, Ted Hughes, Anne Fine and Jacqueline Wilson.
Genesis by Bernard Beckett
Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd
The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner
Then by Morris Gleitzman
Rowan the Strange by Julie Hearn
Exposure by Mal Peet
Nation by Terry Pratchett
Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
Report from The Guardian.
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