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Winners: feral girl and basketball player

October 17th, 2016

A wild girl in 19th century France and a contemporary competitive basketball player were the characters that captured the judge’s hearts for the 13th annual Victoria Book Prizes. The winning authors respectively were Pauline Holdstock for The Hunter and the Wild Girl (Goose Lane Editions 2015), who took the $5,000 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize; and Dawn Green for In the Swish (Red Deer Press 2015), which earned the $5,000 Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize. The prizes were awarded at the Victoria Book Prizes gala on October 12, 2016.

Pauline Holdstock’s fictional story of a feral girl who roams the forests of France, steals food from remote farmyards and avoids human contact is essentially a dark fairy tale. Someone spies the wild girl on one of her thieving missions and she is chased by suspicious townspeople to the edge of a deep gorge, where she jumps and disappears, vanishing into village legend.  The book’s themes are the urge to be free, the power of human connection, and the affirmation of the persistence of life.

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Author Pauline Holdstock (r.) with Brian Butler

Dawn Green’s young adult novel is a coming-of-age story. Bennett Ryan is a talented basketball player who propels her team to a regional championship. Then, in her last year at high school, she has to switch schools and her world suddenly becomes much more complex. She has to make friends with the team she helped defeat the year before; a new friend is on the autism spectrum; and many of her new teammates are from different cultures. To top it off, Ryan has to face her old team and is confronted with many old assumptions.

Pauline Holdstock has written six novels, including Into the Heart of the Country (HarperCollins 2011), long-listed for the 2012 Giller Prize, and Beyond Measure (Cormorant 2003), winner of the Ethel Wilson Award for Fiction and short-listed for both the 2004 Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

Dawn Green graduated from the University of Victoria with degrees in languages and education. She is a high school Spanish and English teacher, a basketball coach, and a volunteer with Special Olympics BC. When
Kacey Left (Red Deer 2015) was her first young adult novel.

From the Victoria Book Prizes website, here are the jurors’ citations:

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Author Dawn Green (l.) with Bolen Books’ Samantha Holmes

For In the Swish – “None of the jurors were basketball fans, but they found it impossible not to respond to the passion for the game that infuses this intelligent coming-of-age novel. Nicely told, believable characters, and interesting developments that explore friendships and what it means to win and lose.”

For The Hunter and the Wild Girl – “Holdstock belongs in the long tradition of classic storytellers. What makes this novel enchanting is the oral, spellbinding quality of the voice, the steady building of character and unfolding of one revelation after another.”

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Sponsors for the Victoria Book Prizes

The City of Victoria is a founding member of the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize and Brian H. Butler has contributed to the arts community of Greater Victoria for many years. He is past president of the Victoria Symphony Society and has served on various community boards, including a church and a school, and a corporate campaign for the United Way. Butler was born locally and graduated from the University of Victoria with a B.A. in Philosophy.

The Bolen Books Children’s Book award was inaugurated in Victoria in 2008. Until that time children’s books were competing with adult fiction and non-fiction as well as poetry. Mel Bolen, owner of Bolen Books said “Children’s books are adjudicated for the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize and their quality and variety is acknowledged. However, we felt that it was difficult for the many fine children’s books published in the region to compete with adult literature. We hope to address this problem by establishing this prize.” Bolen Books received national acclaim in 2007 when presented with CBA Libris Award for Bookseller of the Year.

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