Sheena Wilkinson Wins Literary Gong

Northern Irish author scoops two awards in the Bisto Children's Book of the Year Awards 

Taking Flight by Sheena Wilkinson soared at the Bisto Children's Book the Year Awards in Dublin this week, winning the Bisto Honour Award for Writing and The Children's Choice Award. Wilkinson is only the second author to receive the Children's Choice award, the first going to Chalkline author, Jane Mitchell. 

For Wilkinson it is vindication of her decision to eschew the pinky, soppy, girly and undead in her writing. Taking Flight is a gritty, contemporary and urban take on the 'pony books' that were a fixture of many a teenage girl's reading list.

‘I like things that are slightly unexpected and that challenge stereotypes,' says the author. 'I know from my involvement with horses that there are lots and lots of boys who love horses, it just isn’t cool to admit it.

‘In Taking Flight I took that a step further and wrote about a boy who’s never even thought about horses. In fact, the only riding Declan ever did was joyriding.

'Naturally I am over the moon at getting two awards, when I was hardly daring to think of one. The Honour Award for Fiction means a lot to me, as it puts Taking Flight in such august company. And to have that endorsed by the Children's Choice Award is just fantastic.'

The judges of the Bisto Children's Book of the Year Awards described Taking Flight as 'fifteen-year-old Declan’s journey of self-discovery as he swaps the cheap thrills of joyriding for the emotional intensity of the show-jumping world of his

cousin, Vicky. This masterfully structured narrative suggests, in an unsentimental manner, that the inner struggle to understand oneself can be redemptive'.

Congratulations also go to  Chris Haughton, author and illustrator of A Bit Lost, whose story about an owl falling out of his nest won both the Children's Book of the Year and the Eilís Dillon Award. The first time both awards have been given to the same person.

Oliver Jeffers won the Judges Special Award for The Heart and The Bottle, dealing with a sensitive subject in an outstanding way, while Andrew Whitson won the Honours Award for Illustration with Mac Rí Eireann.

As for Wilkinson, Taking Flight might have been her first novel but it isn't going to be her last. She says that she is working on a sequel to Taking Flight, but one thing is sure: Wilkinson might do Bisto, but she doesn't 'do vampires'.