Entertainment & Arts

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece wins Branford Boase award

Annabel Pitcher
Image caption Annabel Pitcher conceived the novel in a youth hostel in Ecuador

A book about a boy's struggle to make sense of the death of his sister in a terrorist bomb attack has won the Branford Boase Award for a debut children's novel.

The judges described Annabel Pitcher's My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece as "a practically perfect novel".

It has made the shortlists of several other major children's book awards.

Pitcher conceived the novel in Ecuador and wrote much of it while travelling around the world.

The annual Branford Boase award is given to the author and editor of the most outstanding debut novel for children.

Pitcher, and her editor Fiona Kennedy at Orion Children's Books , were announced the winners at a ceremony in London on Thursday.

"My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece started off as scribbles in a notepad and to see it now as a published book, winning this prize, makes me very proud indeed," Pitcher said.

She received her £1,000 prize from former children's laureate Dame Jacqueline Wilson.

Kennedy is the editor behind some of the biggest names in children's books, including Francesca Simon's Horrid Henry, and authors Michelle Paver and Caroline Lawrence.

Image caption The book was first published in March 2011

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece tells the story of 10-year-old Jamie Matthews five years after his sister's twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. Jamie, his dad and teenage sister Jasmine move to the Lake District for a "fresh new start".

The novel has also been shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, the Red House Children's Book Award and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.

"It has been an exceptionally strong year for debut novels, and any of the seven books on the shortlist would have made a worthy winner," said Julia Eccleshare, chair of the judges, and children's books editor of The Guardian.

"However, the judges felt that My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is a practically perfect novel. The writing is excellent, the difficult premise is handled with great skill, and Pitcher absolutely captures the voice of 10-year-old Jamie."

On her website , Annabel Pitcher reveals how she wrote much of the book while travelling around the world.

"Having never had a gap year, I decided to travel with my husband. In a youth hostel in Ecuador I got the idea for My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece in the middle of the night and wrote the book in notepads in lots of different countries.

"When I got home I finished it, typed it all up and edited it before sending it off to an agent."

The Yorkshire-based author graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English and had a variety of jobs including a TV production role on You've Been Framed and a stint in PR before training as an English teacher.

Her second novel, Ketchup Clouds, is awaiting release.

The Branford Boase award was set up in the memory of author Henrietta Branford and her editor Wendy Boase, who both died of cancer in 1999. It is the only award that acknowledges the editor as well as author.

In June, Patrick Ness's novel A Monster Calls - about a boy coming to terms with his mother's battle against cancer - won children's book prize the Carnegie Medal , and its sister award for illustration.

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