Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hurrah! At long last a prize for humour

The Roald Dahl Funny PrizeBooktrust, in association with Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, is delighted to announce the inaugural Roald Dahl Funny Prize.
This exciting new prize has two categories – the funniest book for children aged six and under, and the funniest book for children aged seven to fourteen. Fiction, non-fiction and poetry will be welcomed.

A panel of five judges will be chaired by Michael Rosen; the other judges are Sophie Dahl, Dara O'Briain, Chris Riddell and one other.

The judges will select a shortlist of six books in each category in early September to tie in with the third Roald Dahl Day on 13 September.

The winner of each category will receive £2,500, which will be presented at an awards ceremony in London in November 2008.

Michael Rosen explains:

'If there had been a prize for funny books when Roald Dahl was writing, he would have won it with every book he wrote! That’s why this award was named in his honour.

'Children love funny books but when adults draw up lists of the best books they nearly always leave the funny ones out. When I became the Children’s Laureate, I said that my job should be as an ambassador for fun. That's why I came up with the idea of this funny prize, all part of the job!”

The Roald Dahl Funny Prize aims to:

> promote laughter and humour as a feel-good factor when reading, by encouraging families to read together and discover the pleasure of humorous (funny) books. This in turn will reinforce the message that reading together promotes family well-being.

> draw attention to funny books as readable and enjoyable books. We hope that the prize will enable these books to gain a profile that makes them more accessible to children and young people. The prize will work to achieve this through a range of activities supported by libraries, teachers and parents.

> reward and encourage authors (and illustrators) who write and illustrate books using humour in their stories, poetry and fiction. By creating these awards we hope to promote a vibrant area of publishing often overlooked by other awards.

Felicity Dahl, the author's widow, said:

'Roald would have been absolutely thrilled to have this prize named in his honour. Humour is at the heart of all his writings and, as a strong supporter of new talent, he'd have been tremendously excited at all the wonderful funny books being published for young people today.'

Sophie Dahl, eldest grandchild of Roald Dahl and the inspiration for the character of Sophie in The BFG, added:

'I am thrilled and tickled to join the judging panel of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize this year. A prize that involves laughing until your belly aches and you get the hiccups is the kind of prize I want to be involved with for eternity. It's a pretty irresistible proposition.'

Roald Dahl himself, of course, appreciated the role of humour in his writing:

'My lucky thing is that I laugh at exactly the same jokes that children laugh at and that's one reason I'm able to do it. I don't sit here roaring with laughter but you have wonderful inside jokes all the time and it's got to be exciting, it's got to be fast, it's got to have a good plot but it's got to be funny. It's got to be funny. Each book I do is a different level of that ...

'The fine line between roaring with laughter and crying because it's a disaster is a very, very fine line. You see a chap slip on a banana skin in the street and you roar with laughter when he falls slap on his backside. If in doing so you suddenly see he's broken a leg, you very quickly stop laughing and it's not a joke anymore. I don't know, there's a fine line and you just have to try to find it.'

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