NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature
Virginia Euwer Wolff
Vera B. Williams
Mildred D. Taylor
Brian Doyle—The 2005 NSK Laureate
Brian Doyle, one of Canada's most beloved authors of fiction for young
people, was selected on July 15, 2004 as the 2005 laureate of the $25,000
NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature, awarded by the University
of Oklahoma and its international quarterly, World Literature Today.
The NSK Prize was established by Nancy Barcelo, Susan Neustadt Schwartz and Kathy Neustadt to encourage the improvement of writing for children by honoring an accomplished contemporary writer of children's literature every other year. The three sisters are members of a pioneer Oklahoma family whose support of the university spans more than a half-century, beginning with a gift from their grandparents, Walter Sr. and Doris Westheimer Neustadt, that ultimately became Max Westheimer Airpark. Doris Westheimer Neustadt later provided the endowment for the world-renowned Neustadt International Prize for Literature, also awarded by OU and World Literature Today, which is widely considered to be the "American Nobel" and one of the most prestigious international literary prizes. Barcelo, Schwartz and Hankin's parents, Walter Jr. and Dolores Neustadt, established an OU professorship to enhance the directorship of World Literature Today and to add even greater distinction to the Neustadt Prize.
The NSK Prize jury made special mention of Doyle's Angel Square (1984), set - as are five other of his other novels - in and around Ottawa,
Canada, his ancestral home, an area settled by Irish immigrants a century
ago. Canadian novelist, playwright, musician and songwriter Tim Wynne-Jones,
who nominated Doyle, points out that the landscape is more than just a
setting for his characters.
Photos courtesy: Groundwood Books
Noting that Doyle is praised by critics for the strength and clarity of
voice in his writing, the rooted sense of place and his ear for language,
Wynne-Jones writes, "It is poor country, the Laurentian Shield, the
oldest mountains in the world worn down to humpbacked hills, but mountains
enough to those who hail from thereabouts. It is a land of ancient rock
with a river running through it. Doyle gives the land a voice: the argument
of crickets, the double slurp of trout jumping in a creek, the mysterious
gurgling that can be heard with your ear pressed to the crack in a giant
rock, the roaring of Paugan Falls."
Wynne-Jones added that Doyle's great gift is how he "charts for us one small corner of the world and, in doing so, reveals that it is no more out-of-the-way than anywhere else, really, once you give it a listen. He puts that one small place on the map and does so with humor and a great feeling of shared humanity."
Doyle's first book, Hey, Dad!, was published in 1978. Ten books followed, accompanied by numerous awards and honors. Mary Ann Alice (2001) won the IODE National Chapter Award and the Leishman Prize and was short-listed for the Governor General's Literary Award, the Mr. Christie's Book Award and the Canadian Library Association's Book of the Year Award. It also was named a Horn Book Fanfare Selection and New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age, and received Blue Ribbons from the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.
In 1998 Doyle received a special honorable mention for the prestigious
Hans Christian Andersen Award. The German translation of Angel Square was nominated for the Jugendliteraturpreis, that country's national award
for children's literature; the book also recently was placed on a list
of the "Top 20 Canadian Kids Books" by the book-industry magazine Quill & Quire.
Doyle's books, which also include The Low Life: Five Great Takes from Up and Down the River (1999), Uncle Ronald (1996), Spud in Winter (1995), Spud Sweet Grass (1992), Covered Bridge, (1990), Easy Avenue (1988), Up to Low (1982), and You Can Pick Me Up at Peggy's Cove (1979), have been published in France, Italy, Germany, South America and Scandinavia.
This is the second NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature to be awarded. In 2003 Mildred D. Taylor, one of the foremost writers for young people in the United States for nearly three decades, was named as the first laureate. Doyle will receive the $25,000 award, a medallion and a certificate during official ceremonies at OU in 2005.