Monday 17 December 2018

Tragic children's writer who died of breast cancer wins top award

Geoff Morgan accepts the Bisto Book of the Year Award yesterday on behalf of his wife who died last year
Geoff Morgan accepts the Bisto Book of the Year Award yesterday on behalf of his wife who died last year

John Spain Books Editor

An acclaimed children's writer who died from cancer last year has won the Bisto Book of the Year Award for her novel 'The London Eye Mystery'.

Siobhan Dowd's husband, Geoff Morgan, attended an emotional ceremony in Dublin yesterday, where the award was accepted on her behalf by her publisher David Fickling.

Her Book of the Year Award of €10,000 will be donated to the trust which she set up before she died to help disadvantaged children improve their reading skills.

The annual Bisto Awards are the most important prizes for children's books in Ireland. Among the other winners yesterday was Roddy Doyle, who received a €2,000 Honour Award for his book 'Wilderness'.

Siobhan Dowd was born to Irish parents living in London but spent a lot of time in Wicklow and Wexford when she was growing up. More recently, she lived in Oxford.

Before starting to write children's books, Ms Dowd worked in publishing and then with PEN, the writers' organisation.

During a seven-year stint with PEN in New York she led the Rushdie Defence Committee and was named one of the "top 100 Irish-Americans" by 'Irish America' magazine for her global anti-censorship work.

But she always wanted to write for children. Ms Dowd's first novel, 'A Swift Pure Cry', won the Eilis Dillon award at the Bisto Awards last year for a first-time children's author.

Her story was inspired by Anne Lovett, the girl who died alone giving birth in a Virgin Mary grotto at Granard, Co Longford, in 1984.

Thriller

Yesterday, Ms Dowd won the Book of the Year Award for her second novel, 'The London Eye Mystery', a spine-tingling thriller in which two children search for their cousin who vanished while riding on the London Eye.

Her third novel, 'Bog Child', a story for older teenagers, was published posthumously earlier this year and was set against the background of the 1981 Maze hunger strikes.

Ms Dowd's win yesterday was seen as recognition of her great talent as a children's writer, one willing to tackle difficult subjects with courage and honesty.

Last May, she was named one of the "25 Authors of the Future" by Waterstones but, sadly, she died last August aged 47 after a three-year battle with breast cancer.

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