Posthumous award goes to author for her ‘yetis’ book

Bicester Advertiser: Winners Richard Byrne and Anne-Marie Conway with their winning books represented by cakes Winners Richard Byrne and Anne-Marie Conway with their winning books represented by cakes

CHILDREN’S author Eva Ibbotson died before her latest book was published.

But it has now been given special mention at this year’s Oxfordshire Book Awards.

Her book, The Abominables, which tells the story of a family of yetis who move to Europe, was shortlisted for the title of best Primary Book.

The Oxfordshire Book Awards (OBA), now in its fifth year, asks hundreds of children from schools across the county to vote for their favourite authors.

Mrs Ibbotson died of a heart attack in October 2010, aged 85.

She sent off the final proofs for her last book, One Dog and his Boy, days before she died, and it was published the next year.

But while her sons Piers and Toby were sorting through her effects at her home in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, they discovered the finished draft for “the yeti book” which she had always spoken about during their childhood.

Toby tidied it up, illustrations were drawn by Sharon Rentta, and Scholastic published it last year.

Piers, 59, a management consultant who now lives in Summertown, said his mother “would have loved” OBA because “it is voted for by children and that was something that really mattered to her”.

About 1,500 children from 23 secondary and 28 primary schools voted for their favourite books earlier this year.

On Friday, November 8, about 300 young readers packed out the Amey Theatre at Abingdon School to watch the winners receive their awards.

Each author was also presented with a “book cake” – rice paper versions of their book.

Eva Ibbotson’s son Piers spoke about his late mother at the awards ceremony.

The title for best Primary Novel was won by RJ Palacio for his book Wonder, and the best picture book was voted The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur by Richard Byrne, published by Oxford University Press.

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Mr Byrne, 50, said: “I think the OBA is fabulous, I really enjoyed the ceremony and it was lovely meeting the kids. When the kids are involved and the books are read in class it is bound to encourage them to take more interest in what they’re reading and look at things more critically.”

The best secondary book was Butterfly Summer by Anne-Marie Conway, published by Usborne Publishing, and Shirley Hughes’ Hero on a Bicycle, published by Walker Books, was highly commended.

Richard Byrne and Anne-Marie Conway both attended the ceremony in person to accept their awards.

Organiser Jacky Atkinson said: “It was very good, Piers Ibbotson was excellent. The children just loved it.

“Richard Byrne and Anne Marie Conway were both first-time winners, and they were just so excited they were absolutely enthused by it.”

The OBA was founded by Burford School librarian Lynne Cooper in 2008.

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