Heartfelt wartime novel wins 2022 Tir na n-Og English-language Children’s Book Award


The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr (published by Bloomsbury) is this year’s winner of the 2022 Tir na n-Og English-language award for children’s and young people’s literature.

The winning book was announced on the Radio Wales Arts Show at 18:30 on Friday 20 May, with the author receiving a cash prize of £1,000 sponsored by CILIP Cymru Wales, as well as a specially commissioned award created by Cardiff-based designers The Patternistas.

Established in 1976, the annual Tir na n-Og Awards celebrate the best books for children and young adults in Wales. They are organised by the Books Council of Wales and sponsored by the librarians’ association CILIP Cymru Wales.

The Valley of Lost Secrets, a novel for readers aged 8–12, is a gripping wartime drama set in the south Wales valleys. Jimmy, his little brother Ronnie and their class have been evacuated to Llanbryn from London. Their hosts Gwen and Alun Thomas offer a warm Welsh welcome, but it’s a completely alien landscape and Jimmy finds it hard to settle into the community.

Up on the mountains Jimmy finds a skull hidden in a tree and needs to share the mystery with someone. His best friend is no longer an option; his brother is too young. Instead, he discovers an ally in someone unexpected and they unearth secrets, find friendship, and heal the past.

Simon Fisher from the judging panel said: “Lesley Parr has written a beautiful, tender and totally absorbing debut with characters to care about. You are drawn into this captivating story from the beginning, connecting immediately to the authentic characters.

David Dean’s beautiful cover and illustrations add something rather special to the book. At the start of each chapter there is a tree spreading out over the page. As the story develops items of relevance are added to the tree. These additional puzzles make for an intriguing and utterly beguiling read.

Despite being a fictional name for the valley, the landscape and community are totally authentic, evocative and lovingly described. A book which will stay with you and you will want to return to the Valley again and again.”

Lesley Parr said: “I’m absolutely landed (as we say in Port Talbot!) to have won a Tir na n-Og Award for my debut book, The Valley of Lost Secrets. This feels extra-special as I’m very proud to be Welsh, and love setting my stories in the sort of valley community I know so well.”

Amy Staniforth from CILIP Cymru Wales said: “Many congratulations to Lesley on her terrific achievement. We are proud to sponsor the Tir na n-Og Awards again this year, and to continue helping children and young people to discover the very best of books from Wales and about Wales.”

Helgard Krause, Chief Executive of the Books Council of Wales said: “The Tir na n-Og Awards have been celebrating the very best books for children and young people in Wales since 1976, and the quality of the entries just keeps getting better and better. I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in this year’s competition, which has been a wonderful showcase of the talents of writers and illustrators in the field of children’s literature in Wales.”

The winners of the two Welsh-language category Tir na n-Og Awards 2022 will be revealed at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Denbighshire on Thursday 2 June 2022. Three titles are shortlisted for the prize in each category. They are:

Primary age category

  • Gwil Garw a’r Carchar Crisial by Huw Aaron (Broga)
  • Sara Mai a Lleidr y Neidr by Casia Wiliam (Y Lolfa)
  • Gwag y Nos by Sioned Wyn Roberts (Atebol)

Secondary age category

  • Fi ac Aaron Ramsey by Manon Steffan Ros (Y Lolfa)
  • Hanes yn y Tir by Elin Jones (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch)
  • Y Pump, ed. Elgan Rhys (Y Lolfa)