Bullied 'Loser', peanut tale take Dahl 'funny book' honors

LONDON Tue Dec 10, 2013 10:25am EST

LONDON (Reuters) - The fictional diary of Barry Loser, an unfortunately named schoolboy, and a second book about two creatures tussling over a peanut in a shell won this year's Roald Dahl Funny Prize on Tuesday.

The prize, now in its sixth year, was inspired by Dahl, who wrote much-loved children's classics including "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "James and the Giant Peach", featuring dark humor and wry plot twists.

The winners picked up their prizes at the London theatre that hosts the musical based on Dahl's book "Matilda" at a ceremony organized by the British literary charity Booktrust.

"I Am Still Not a Loser" by Jim Smith - the second book in the Barry Loser series - was judged the funniest book in the children aged 7-14 category.

"It's based on me when I was a kid, getting into scrapes and having flights of fancy," Smith told Reuters at the award ceremony.

Smith is writing his fifth book in the series and said there would be at least six Loser titles, as well as a spin-off based on Barry's TV hero Future Ratboy.

The books recount the daily life of the hapless hero and his battles with school bully Darren Darrenofski.

"The old adage that no one likes a loser is gloriously subverted with Barry who is both lovable and hilarious," said Michael Rosen, chairman of the judges' panel.

"The mix of words and drawings are a playful reminder of everyone's home-grown cartoons and the big-nose motif has become a cult," Rosen added, referring to the main character's prominent proboscis.

"Monkey Nut", which won the age six and under category, is a boldly illustrated picture book with just 41 words by Simon Rickerty that portrays two creatures battling for a peanut in a shell.

"I got the idea when I saw two parrots fighting over a peanut. Originally I was going to do squirrels, and then spiders, but the brightly colored blobs worked better visually," Rickerty said.

He has illustrated six books, with this the first that is completely his content.

Rosen said the book had echoes of Jonathan Swift's 18th-century classic "Gulliver's Travels".

"Just as Jonathan Swift told us about pointless battles over which way to put an egg in its cup, so Simon Rickerty has created a comically pointless struggle over a monkey nut (in its shell)," Rosen said.

"With brio and inventiveness he fills the pages with splashes, squabbles, contrast and laughter."

The prize was dreamt up by Rosen when he was Britain's Children's Laureate, a position awarded every two years to a book writer or illustrator, to reward authors and artists who write and illustrate their books using humor.

The winner was decided with a combination of votes from a panel of judges and votes from more than 400 school children from across Britain.

(Reporting by Simon Falush; Editing by Michael Roddy and Alistair Lyon)

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