With submissions for the 2017 prize now open, we look back at the 2016 Little Rebels Award winner: I Am Henry Finch, written by Alexis Deacon and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz. Judge Wendy Cooling described the book as “philosophy for beginners…introducing the power of ideas and thought to the youngest of children”.
We spoke to Viviane and Alexis about winning the award and the inspiration behind the book.
Q&A with Alexis Deacon:
CONGRATULATIONS ON WINNING THE LITTLE REBELS AWARD IN 2016! HOW DID IT
FEEL TO LEARN YOU’D WON?
It was amazing! I’ve never won anything like that before, where they call your name out. I could get used to it!
It was especially exciting to be given this award as I believe it is essential for storytellers to ask questions of our society.
THE JUDGES DESCRIBED I AM HENRY FINCH AS “AN EXCEPTIONAL PICTURE
BOOK, DECEPTIVELY SIMPLE YET DOING A BIG THING”. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT
THE BOOK AND THE INSPIRATION BEHIND IT?
The book is about the power of thought to shape to world. It is about having the freedom to think for yourself and the strength to act on your thoughts.
It was inspired by a little finch that Viv once owned, called Thingummy, not Henry. He used to rely on his best friend, a finch called Bob, to do all the thinking for both of them. After Bob died, Thingummy discovered all sorts of hidden talents when he had to think for himself.
THE LITTLE REBELS AWARD CELEBRATES RADICAL CHILDREN’S FICTION. WHAT
DOES THAT PHRASE MEAN TO YOU?
I think for children’s fiction to be radical it has to risk not being liked by everyone, to ask difficult questions or to break with fashion and convention. All of these things are very important if we want our children to grow up in a living culture with open minds and the spirit of enquiry wide awake inside them!
LASTLY, DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVOURITE RADICAL READS? (FOR KIDS OR
Sure, here are two…
For older readers, a work by another Henry:
‘On the Duty of Civil Disobedience’ By Henry David Thoreau
Or for younger readers:
‘The Wild Washerwomen’ by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake