Heartstopper creator Alice Oseman was declared Illustrator of the Year at the 2023 British British Book Awards last night, her latest in a growing list of plaudits. Meanwhile S F Said’s novel Tyger, illustrated by Dave McKean, won the top prize in the Children’s Fiction category.

From Oseman’s website

According to the Awards – also called ‘the Nibbies’ – on Oseman’s Illustrator of the Year win:

“Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper series was at the forefront of a record year for graphic novels in 2022. When named 151st on The Bookseller’s list of the most influential people in UK publishing—its de facto “Person of the Year”—in 2022, Oseman was billed as “Britain’s first truly global breakout children’s superstar in two decades”, with “Heartstopper Volume 1 the bestselling children’s book across Nielsen BookScan’s 11 international territories”.”

They added:

“This is not an overnight success. In 2016, aged just 22, Oseman began to post webcomics online. She had no formal art training and knew YA graphic novels were a tough sell, but felt passionately about the work and queer representation. Her subscribers multiplied and as the buzz increased she launched a Kickstarter edition in 2018, which hit its target in under two hours.

“In 2019, Hachette Children’s Group published the first two volumes of Heartstopper to enormous commercial success. The illustrated form broke new ground in the YA fiction market, and ever since this LGBTQ+ love story has been at the cutting edge of the UK’s mass-market success in graphic novels. Oseman also had a huge creative input on the Netflix series of “Heartstopper”, won an Emmy in 2022 for Outstanding Writing, and is tireless in her support of booksellers.

“Congratulations to Alice Oseman, The British Book Awards Illustrator of the Year 2023.”

Oseman is also due to formally receive a Medal for Fiction from Britain’s prestigious Hay Festival for Arts and Literature later this month.

It wasn’t the only category Oseman was present in – with the Heartstopper Yearbook (Hachette UK) and Jamie Smart’s latest Bunny vs Monkey (David Fickling Books) collection, Rise of the Maniacal Badger, being the only two comics entries across twelve of the award categories (both placed in Children’s Illustrated). They lost out, however, to Harry Woodgate’s LGBTQIA+ children’s picture book Grandad’s Camper (Andersen Press) – though one could possibly argue that the book does partially read like a comic at times.

Excerpt from Grandad’s Camper

Judges for the Children’s Illustrated category included The Week Junior’s editorial director Anna Bassi, Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho, The Works commercial director Nina Findley; chaired by The Bookseller’s deputy features editor Caroline Carpenter.

According to the Nibbies website

“Our judges fell in love with the “beautiful” and “joyous” message of Harry Woodgate’s picture book, Grandad’s Camper. This “gentle and heart-warming” tale, a celebration of love in all its forms which was inspired by the lack of older LGBTQ+ characters in children’s books, was awarded Best Illustrated Book at the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in 2022.

“Author Woodgate worked hard to promote the book: decorating the windows of six bookshops across the UK, creating postcards for the Queer Lit bookshop, and teaming up with National Literacy Trust to create KS1 resources for schools to use alongside the book. The “purity” and “simplicity” of the book’s message and the drive behind the “hell for leather” marketing campaign from Andersen Press made it a winner for our judges.”

In another category, another familiar name took home a prize – the Book of the Year: Children’s Fiction went to S.F. Said’s novel Tyger (David Fickling Books), which has illustrations by Dave McKean. 

The Nibbies remarked:

“S F Said’s Blakeian adventure, strikingly illustrated by Dave McKean, was nine years in the making, with publisher David Fickling Books determined not to rush the book to market until it was fully ready. This patience paid off: Tyger is the independent publisher’s second-bestselling fiction hardback ever and the title is now in its fifth reprint. The publisher utilised the glowing reviews from early readers to build connections with key retailers, ensuring the book stood out in a crowded children’s market. One judge said: “This to me feels like a book I really want children to read and have access to.” The “synergy” between the text and illustrations was applauded, with our judges agreeing that Tyger already “felt like a classic”. A “stand-out”, they all concluded.”