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Choosing a shortlist for the Gransnet (and Mumsnet) Book of Bedtime Stories

Walker shortlistThese past few weeks, every Friday has been the day we sit down and read through the latest batch of entries in the Walker/Mumsnet/Gransnet Book of Bedtime Stories competition. By the closing date, we were thrilled to have over 350 entries. Mumsnetters and Gransnetters are a creative bunch and we were not surprised to uncover some really exciting talent.

We were impressed with the variety of the stories and the freshness of the narratives – subjects ranged from the everyday to the fantastical. We also enjoyed the exploits of many memorable characters, from fearsome pirates to feisty princesses and adventurous animals. Many of the stories made us laugh out loud and a few almost moved us to tears.

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As we sifted through each weekly batch, we developed our own system. We read each story aloud, sometimes several times, as the way a story sounds is a vital attribute of a good bedtime story. There were several characters and themes that we repeatedly encountered and unsurprisingly, fairies, princesses and monsters all proved to be popular characters. Lots of stories also focused on day to day events that might seem scary or difficult to a child, such as brushing teeth, the first day at school, potty training and bedtime, and sought to transform these daily routines into something less threatening and fun. Thematically, we found that many stories focused on friendship or belonging, and tried to teach children into accepting that each of us is different.

As we read through the entries, we looked for interesting and original ideas; stories that weren’t afraid to depict the world in a different and exciting way. We also looked for ones that had imaginative depth and that delighted in transforming the everyday into something extraordinary. We liked being made to laugh, but the stories we really loved also had an emotional pull which meant we could believe and identify with the characters.

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The most successful entries were undoubtedly the ones that completely understood and immersed themselves in the child’s world and trusted to the power of the imagination. As we gradually narrowed down our selection, we also began to consider the way the stories would work with pictures. The best stories do not reveal everything through words, and can be brought alive by illustrations. The stories that made the shortlist were all ones that we felt had successfully created a world that could be visualized.

Our final twenty we feel represent the very best of the stories submitted and their authors should be praised for the quality of their ideas and writing. We would be proud to publish any of the twenty. There were of course a few favourites that we were not able to include for one reason or another. To everyone who entered, we would all like to say, keep writing, keep practising your craft and good luck.

We have now passed the shortlist to Michael Rosen for him to make the final decision and are really looking forward to seeing which stories he picks. Watch this space!

Denise Johnstone-Burt (Publisher) and Louise Jackson (Art Director) - Walker Books.

Michael Rosen is the author of our kids' book of the month for February 2013 - Fluff the Farting Fish.