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Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 13:13 GMT
Gladiator writer wins book prize
Smarties Book prize winners
Bob Graham, Nick Sharratt, Jacqueline Wilson, Newsround presenter Lizo Mzimba and William Nicholson
Leading Hollywood screenwriter William Nicholson, whose credits include the blockbuster movie Gladiator, has won a top UK children's book award for his first published novel.

British writer Nicholson's fantasy/adventure The Wind Singer, set in an evil city state called Aramanth, won a Smarties Book Prize Gold Award in the section for nine to 11-year-olds.

Nicholson's Hollywood credits include the 1993 film Shadowlands, based on his play about the life of author CS Lewis.


I've read a lot of current children's fiction, which often seems too rich in invention, at the expense of character

William Nicholson

He also wrote this year's Ridley Scott smash hit Gladiator and Lord Attenborough's recently released Grey Owl, starring Pierce Brosnan.

His TV credits include the 1987 TV drama, Life Story, starring Jeff Goldblum and Tim Piggott-Smith, about the discovery of DNA.

But success as a children's author is also highly important to Nicholson, who lives in Sussex with his wife and three young children.

Predecessors

Money is not his motivation as screenwriting is far more lucrative.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper earlier this year he said: "As a parent, I've read a lot of current children's fiction, which often seems too rich in invention, at the expense of character."

JK Rowling
JK Rowling has won a gold prize three times

So he welcomed the chance to create "another world, an imaginary place that exists on its own terms and it had to be for children".

He described the result as "a complete mess of stuff that boiled up inside me. I just went with it; a bit like therapy, I suppose".

The Smarties Book Prize was set up by the charity Book Trust in 1985 to encourage children to read for pleasure.

There are two other categories - Silver and Bronze - and the books are judged by a panel of adults as well as children picked from schools across the UK.

Other Gold Award winners this year were Lizzie Zipmouth by Jacqueline Wilson and Max by Bob Graham.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling is a former three times gold winner of the prize. Current Children's Laureate Quentin Blake and the late Roald Dahl have also been winners.

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See also:

01 Dec 99 | Entertainment
Potter's award hat-trick
20 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Attenborough slams Hollywood
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