Benidorm star’s ‘joyful’ story wins children’s book prize

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Nathan Bryon played the “nice but dim” Joey Ellis in the ITV comedy series Benidorm

Benidorm star Nathan Bryon and illustrator Dapo Adeola have won the Waterstones children’s book prize for their “joyful” picture book Look Up!

It sees would-be astronaut Rocket trying to get her brother to turn his eyes to the sky rather than his phone.

Bryon, who played Joey Ellis in Benidorm, was inspired by a visit to Hyde Park, London with his girlfriend.

“She wanted me to see the Peter Pan statue and I was too busy looking down at my phone,” he said.

“The book is a message to me to be more present, to Look Up! and see all the wonderful things that are around me, as my emails really aren’t that important.”

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The book also explores the significance of role models and representation, as Rocket is a young black girl aspiring to follow a traditionally male career.

And it comes at a time when only 4% of British children’s books have been found to contain a black or minority ethnic main character.

Florentyna Martin from Waterstones said: “The mould of traditional picture book storytelling is redefined for a new era in this joyful and energetic tale; an inviting narrative plot is interspersed with nuggets of non-fiction, satisfying curious young minds with a multi-faceted experience away from screens.

“More than ever before, we are exploring non-fiction and inspirational characters at younger ages, and we champion Rocket’s boundless enthusiasm, curious nature and kind spirit as a hero for us all.

“She is a little person with big dreams, who has captured our hearts.”

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Dapo Adeola tried to capture Rocket’s “zest for knowledge”

As well as being an actor, Bryon has previously written for the children’s TV shows Rastamouse, Swashbuckle and Apple Tree House.

He asked his friend Adeola, an illustrator and character designer, to draw the character of Rocket. “I just told him she was a black girl, with big hair, and glasses – it was like he had a cable to my brain,” said Bryon.

Adeola added: “I tried to capture her curiosity and zest for knowledge in Rocket’s mannerisms as well as her innocently self-assured attitude to problem solving, traits that should be celebrated in both boys and girls.”

Look Up! won both the overall Waterstones children’s book of the year prize, and the illustrated book category.

Liz Hyder’s young adult dystopia Bearmouth won the older readers’ category, while High-Rise Mystery, Sharna Jackson’s whodunnit starring young black sister sleuths Nik and Norva, took the category for younger readers.

Jackson said High-Rise Mystery was an experiment “to see if mystery’s codes and conventions could be transposed to today in a new context, to a working-class setting, led by two contemporary, clever and funny black girls”.

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