The winners of the Welsh-language Tir na n-Og Awards 2021 have been announced as Sw Sara Mai by Casia Wiliam and #helynt by Rebecca Roberts.
Modern-day stories about the bravery of two girls who find themselves in very challenging but very different situations have triumphed in the Welsh-language categories of the prestigious Tir na n-Og Awards 2021.
Now in their 46th year, 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.
Announced during S4C’s Heno, the winner of the Welsh-language primary school age category was Casia Wiliam for her novel Sw Sara Mai (‘Sara Mai’s Zoo’, published by Y Lolfa), with #helynt (‘#trouble’) by Rebecca Roberts (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch) taking the top prize in the secondary school age category. The two authors will each receive a cash prize of £1,000 as well as a specially commissioned poem by Bardd Plant Cymru (Welsh Children’s Laureate) Gruffudd Owen.
Sw Sara Mai by Casia Wiliam is a contemporary story about a girl who grows up on her parents’ zoo and finds it easier to understand the behaviour of the remarkable creatures who live there than the other girls in her class.
“I’ve been reading the work of authors who have won a Tir na n-Og Award since I was a small child, and I can’t believe that I’m in the same league as them!” said Wiliam. “I’m also very proud of Sara Mai — she’s the real winner. It’s so important that young Welsh people who are black or mixed race see themselves as main characters in Welsh-language books, and it means so much to me that this book has received this special recognition.”
“This is a novel that deals with contemporary issues of bullying and prejudice against people from a different ethnic background,” commented Hywel James, chair of the Welsh-language judging panel. “It is a book which fills an important gap in provision for this age group and is a step in the right direction in terms of better reflecting the diverse and inclusive nature of the Wales in which we live.”
The secondary age category was won by a novel aimed at older teenagers. #helynt by Rebecca Roberts tells the story of a teenage girl and what happens to her after she misses the school bus one morning — a commonplace event but one that changes the course of her life.
“#helynt is a story about loving yourself, about being different and proud of it — a message I think young people need to hear often,” explained Roberts. “Rachel is dear to my heart, and I’m thrilled that the judges felt the same way about her. Winning the Tir na n-Og Award is a huge honour, and a personal high point. A massive ‘thank you’ to everybody who helped bring #helynt into being.”
Chair of judges, Hywel James, said: “This is a story that grips the reader from start to finish and conveys some of the reality of the impact of poverty and domestic violence on a young person in contemporary Wales. A very sensitive and subtle portrait of a main character with a disability is skilfully woven into the story — but the focus of the narrative is on a brave girl, not on her disability. As a panel, we believe that this novel is an excellent if not ‘classic’ example of the young adult genre — and achieving that is no mean feat.”
The winner of the English-language Tir na n-Og Award 2021 will be revealed on the Radio Wales Arts Show at 18:30 on Friday the 21st of May 2021. Three titles are shortlisted for the prize: Where the Wilderness Lives by Jess Butterworth (Orion), The Short Knife by Elen Caldecott (Andersen Press), and The Quilt by Valériane Leblond (Y Lolfa).
To read more about the works shortlisted for the Tir na n-Og Awards 2021, click here.
The Tir na n-Og Awards books are available through local bookshops and libraries.