LIANE HANSEN, host:

If "The Willoughbys" sound like they might fit nicely in Charlie's neighborhood in the story "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," it's no coincidence. Lois Lowry was profoundly influenced by the children's books written by humorist Roald Dahl. This year, the United Kingdom's Booktrust is sponsoring the first Roald Dahl Funny Prize to select the best and funniest children's books out this year. The deadline for submissions was this past Monday. Author and poet Michael Rosen, the U.K.'s children's laureate and creator of the prize joins us to tell us more about it. Welcome to the show.

Mr. MICHAEL ROSEN (Children's Laureate, U.K.; Creator, Roald Dahl Funny Prize): Hi there.

HANSEN: What inspired you to create this award?

Mr. ROSEN: Well, we have a kind of problem about prizes, don't we, for children's books? We'll give special weight to a book that is serious, thoughtful, deals with issues that maybe have never been dealt with before. And so we get all quite heavy when we sit there, when we're judges, and somehow or other a really funny book, we said, well, that's a funny book and we've in a sense demoted it.

And if you like Roald Dahl himself, I mean, he's evidence for this. He never won a children's literature prize in the U.K. apart from one that was judged by children alone, but no book of his that was judged by adults ever won a prize.

HANSEN: That's remarkable.

Mr. ROSEN: Reading a book with a child and having a fantastic laugh, you know, that is some - these are very special moments, so it will be nice to be able to, if you like, celebrate that in the form of a prize.

HANSEN: You said that the only prize that Roald Dahl won was judged by children. Adults and children sometimes don't agree on what constitutes funny. So how will you be judging the submissions?

Mr. ROSEN: Well, because we really wanted to get this thing up and running as quick as possible, this year it will be judged by adults, some of whom are comedians and some of whom are people who write humors books for children, including myself. And so we're going to be relying on our own funnybones, but all of us have got children so we can road test the books on our own children. We can inflict them on them and see if, you know, they laugh. But I think in future, we're going to build in children as judges.

HANSEN: And what specifically are you looking for in a winner?

Mr. ROSEN: Well, I personally am looking for a book that not only has good gags but also that has, if you like, an overall, overarching humorous idea. Not just a very good laugh in chapter one, but there's got to be humor that grows in the situations, the plots, the characters. And children's humor nearly always involves some kind of indignity that's inflicted on adults. And I think probably that's going to be the touchdown.

HANSEN: Michael Rosen is the children's laureate of the United Kingdom and creator of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. The winners of each category, ages 6 and under and 7 to 14, will be announced in early November. Both authors will receive 2,500 pounds. Michael Rosen, thanks a lot for joining us.

Mr. ROSEN: Well, thank you for having me.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.