Thursday 14th September 2023: The winner of the 2023 James Cropper Wainwright Prize for Children’s Writing on Nature and Conservation was announced today at the 10th Anniversary celebration of the Prize in Kendal in the Lake District, the home of the much-loved nature writer, Alfred Wainwright.
Bestselling writer Kiran Millwood Hargrave and illustrator Tom de Freston from Oxford have won for their book Leila and the Blue Fox (Hachette Children’s Group), the story of a young fox and a girl on an unforgettable Arctic adventure, based on the true story of a fox who walked two thousand miles from Norway to Canada in seventy-six days. The judges praised Kiran’s ‘exceptional writing’ and Tom’s ‘hauntingly beautiful illustrations’ in a book that will ‘inspire young people to engage with the natural world’ in the face of climate change.
This is the second year of the Children’s Writing prize, which is awarded annually to the books which most successfully inspire young readers to explore the outdoors and nurture a respect for the natural world. Kiran and Tom were shortlisted last year for their first collaborative work, Julia and the Shark.
Mark Funnell, Chair and Communication and Campaign Director at the National Trust, said:
“This was a year of extraordinary riches in the children’s category, feeding a growing appetite for nature connection in young readers and parents alike. Any of the books shortlisted would have been worthy winners. The fact that the judges were able to savour exceptional writing and illustration for all age categories made our task particularly difficult, but in the end there was an overwhelming consensus that Leila and the Blue Fox was the stand-out title, building on last year’s near-winner Julia and the Shark. The interplay between Kiran’s profoundly affecting writing and Tom’s hauntingly beautiful illustrations is uniquely potent, plunging us into the intertwined worlds of family relationships and nature obsession with a visceral impact that readers won’t forget. It’s hard to think of a book that could do more to inspire young people to engage with the natural world, in this case as climate change tears up the rule book for species migration and survival, but without extinguishing all hope. Exceptional storytelling, and a triumph of the genre.”
Based on the true story of an Arctic fox who walked from Norway to Canada in seventy-six days, a distance of two thousand miles, Leila and the Blue Fox is a compelling, emotional and beautifully illustrated story following the fox as she walks across ice and snow, over mountains and frozen oceans, encountering bears and birds beneath the endless daylight of an Arctic summer. Meanwhile, Leila embarks on a journey of her own – finding her way to the mother who left her. Each navigating a world that is vast and wondrous, the parallel stories of Leila and the fox explore themes of migration, freedom and belonging.
Kiran and Tom win a share of the £10,000 prize fund, alongside the winners of the prizes for Nature Writing and Writing on Conservation which will be announced later today, Thursday 14th September. Each also receive a specially commissioned original artwork by dried flower embroiderer, Olga Prinku.