A book about a schoolgirl who has feelings for another girl is on the shortlist for this year’s Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan is the first LGBTQ+ story be featured in the younger readers category, which includes books for children aged between five and 12, in the awards’ 16-year history.
The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize shortlists consist of 18 entries across three categories – illustrated books, books for younger readers and books for older readers.
Each category comprises six entries which will compete for category winner. The three winners will then battle it out for the overall Waterstones Children’s Book Prize title.
Grehan’s book tells the tale of 11-year-old Stevie, who realises she likes a girl at her school more than her male friend, and is “a bit confused about how much she likes her”.
Dealing with this new feeling that she is too shy to talk about, she hopes to find the answer in a book. With the help of a librarian, Stevie finds stories of girls being in love with girls, which builds up her courage to tell her mother.
The book is described as being “of special relevance to young girls who are starting to realise that they are attracted to other girls, but it is also a story for any young reader with an open mind who wants to understand how people’s emotions affect their lives.”
It will go up against a book about a child’s journey across the Himalayas to find her missing father (Asha And The Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan), one about a “sleuthing sister duo” who attempt to uncover a murder in their London high-rise building (High-Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson), and one about a boy who is terrified because he keeps turning into animals (Charlie Changes Into A Chicken by Sam Copeland).
The other two books in the younger readers category are Our Castle By The Sea by Lucy Strange, and The Middler by Kirsty Applebaum.
The shortlisted books in the category for older readers, for readers aged 13 and up, includes Samira Ahmed’s Internment, Jemima Small Versus the Universe by Tamsin Winter, and A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson.
The illustrated books shortlist explores themes around nature, with entries including Ben Rothery’s Hidden Planet, Me And My Sister by Rose Robbins, and Look Up! by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola.
Florentyna Martin, Waterstones Children’s buyer, said: “One of the greatest pleasures in reading is the opportunity to explore, and this year’s authors and illustrators invite readers to join them on a voyage of discovery.
“In a shortlist of immersive fact and fiction, our booksellers have chosen to share narratives that offer readers of all ages the chance to explore a wide range of topics, from nature and identity, to inner strength and the fabric of society.
“Whether meeting intriguing characters, navigating vibrant settings or uncovering thrilling plots, these books investigate what it means to understand yourself and the world around you.”
Kate Skipper, Waterstones chief operating officer, added: “The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize is a highlight of my year. Every year, our booksellers consistently select stories which invariably jump off the page and into the reader’s imagination. No screen can compete with the power of a child’s imagination, it really is a wondrous thing.
“The shortlists this year are brilliant; I don’t envy the difficult choices ahead for our booksellers as they try to pick this year’s winners.”
The winners will be announced on Thursday March 26 at Waterstones Piccadilly in London.
The winner of each category will receive £2,000, and the overall winner will receive an additional £3,000.