Books full of fun and excitement, together with strong messages, win the Welsh-language Tir na n-Og Awards 2023
The winners in the Welsh-language categories of the Tir na n-Og Awards were announced in a special ceremony held at the Carmarthenshire Urdd Eisteddfod today, Thursday 1 June 2023. The prize-winning books – Dwi Eisiau bod yn Ddeinosor by Luned Aaron and Huw Aaron, and Manawydan Jones: Y Pair Dadeni by Alun Davies – celebrate each child’s uniqueness, and the importance of accepting what makes you amazing. And, in addition, both books show how powerful a good story and strong characters are in firing the imagination.
The annual Tir na n-Og Awards, established in 1976, celebrate the best books for children and young in Wales. They are arranged by the Books Council Wales with sponsorship by CILIP Cymru Wales, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Wales.
The winners receive a financial prize of £1,000, sponsored by CILIP Cymru Wales, together with a trophy specially commissioned and created by designers from Dawn’s Welsh Gifts, a company located at Aberystwyth and Tregaron.
Winner of the primary age category:
Dwi Eisiau bod yn Ddeinosor by Luned Aaron and Huw Aaron (published by Atebol) This is a picture story book bursting with mischief and imagination. The main character wants to be a dinosaur, or a “robot, rocket, crocodile or dragon” – to name only a few things on his list! Rather than seeing the differences between himself and the other creatures in the book, he comes to realise that he is unique in his own way – and that there is no-one like him. And that, of course, is what makes him special. This is a modern, humorous and very colourful book that discusses an important message – you’re good enough just as you are.
Morgan Dafydd, Chair of the Judging Panel, said: “After the dark years of the pandemic, enjoying a book containing an element of humour was a tonic and a breath of fresh air. The rhyming text flows smoothly and naturally, and the story itself is so playful. This book would be suitable for a child to read independently, or to share with a parent. The panel could imagine an adult smiling whilst reading with a child.
“Even though the book is fairly short, the illustrations are colourful, clear, modern and striking. The judges liked the message in the book, namely ‘being comfortable in your own skin’ – it was clear without being preachy, or feeling forced in any way. We were all agreed that light books, full of humour, are important in order to attract (and retain) readers.”
Luned Aaron said: “It means a great deal to us both to have won a Tir na n-Og Award with our picture story book Dwi Eisiau Bod yn Ddeinosor, and we consider it to be a great honour. It’s a great feeling to be joint winners! Many thanks to Rachel Lloyd from Atebol, the publisher, for her help as creative editor of the book. The sterling promotion work in connection with the competition this year has been wonderful, with numerous activities such as the Shadowing Scheme, the Treasure Hunt and a competition for the best exhibition in bookshop windows adding to the excitement.”
On behalf of Atebol, Rachel Lloyd said: “The Tir na n-Og Awards provide a special opportunity to draw attention to books for children and young people, and to celebrate the wealth of new and exciting publications that we have here in Wales. We are delighted that the book appealed to the judging panel, and that it succeeded in coming to the fore this year. Winning the Primary age category is a great honour for us.”
Winner of the secondary age category:
Manawydan Jones: Y Pair Dadeni by Alun Davies (published by Y Lolfa) The story opens with the discovery of a dead body, and readers soon realise that this book will be full of mystery and suspense. We then meet a young boy called Manawydan Jones, who is different from the other children he knows in school – but that’s not a bad thing. That’s what makes him special – together with the fact that he is related to Manawydan fab Llŷr, a character from the Mabinogi. And this realisation is just the start of the exciting adventure.
But Manawydan Jones is not simply a fantasy adventure book – it is also a sensitive story about family, friendship, identity and belonging. It introduces brave, strong and memorable characters who emphasize the important message of ‘following your own path’. This is an exciting novel that crosses the boundary between the real world and the world of myth and magic: a modern, fresh interpretation of the old tales of the Mabinogi being presented to a new generation of readers.
Morgan Dafydd, Chair of the Judging Panel, said: “The author, in his first attempt at writing for young adults, gives a modern twist on the traditional tales of the Mabinogi. The story moves between the main narrative, namely a young boy’s journey on a magical adventure, and the Police’s attempt to solve a mystery about a suspicious murderer. These sections added to the story and connected the real word with the magical world of the island of Fosgad. This novel would appeal to any reader who is fond of adventure, history and fantasy.”
Alun Davies said: “I’m delighted and very proud to have won a Tir na n-Og Award this year. The shortlist was very competitive, and I warmly congratulate Manon Steffan Ros and Wyn and Efa Blosse Mason for creating such wonderful books. This title is just the start of Manawydan Jones’s adventure, and I’m glad that so many have enjoyed it; I hope the readers are looking forward to seeing more of the character in the near future.”
Lefi Gruffudd, Head of Publishing at Y Lolfa, said: “We’re very excited that Alun Davies has won his category this year. He is one of our most talented authors and has worked hard over recent years. His trilogy of novels for adults about the detective Taliesin MacLeavy are masterpieces; the novel Manawydan Jones: Y Pair Dadeni is also a joy to read and showcases the author’s craft in introducing Welsh myths to teenage readers.”
The Tir na n-Og 2023 shortlist introduces young readers to a cast of strong characters, both mythical and creative, who take pride of place in remarkable and imaginative stories. The other titles on the shortlist in the Welsh-language categories were as follows:
Primary age category
- Enwogion o Fri: Nye – Bywyd Angerddol Aneurin Bevan by Manon Steffan Ros, illustrated by Valériane Leblond (Llyfrau Broga)
- Dros y Môr a’r Mynyddoedd by several authors, illustrated by Elin Manon (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch)
Secondary age category
- Gwlad yr Asyn by Wyn Mason, illustrated by Efa Blosse Mason (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch)
- Powell by Manon Steffan Ros (Y Lolfa)
Amy Staniforth from CILIP Cymru Wales said: “Many congratulations to the winners on their 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.”
This year, the Books Council of Wales has introduced a new element to the awards, namely the Readers’ Choice – a special award for which the winner is chosen by the children and young people who have taken part in the Tir na n-Og Shadowing Scheme. The winners of the Readers’ Choice award were also announced during today’s ceremony, where Manon Steffan Ros was the winner in both Welsh-language categories with her books Enwogion o Fri: Nye – Bywyd Angerddol Aneurin Bevan and Powell.
Helgard Krause, Chief Executive of the Books Council of Wales said: “Thank you to everyone involved in this year’s competition, and many congratulations to the winning authors, whose stories have stood out among the many fantastic titles on the shortlists. And a special thank you this year goes to the children and young people who have taken part in the Shadowing Scheme and contributed with such enthusiasm to the Readers’ Choice awards.”
The winner of the award in the English-language category, and the Readers’ Choice award, will be announced on Radio Wales during The Review Show on Friday evening, 2 June 2023.