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Last Updated: Friday, 9 July, 2004, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Donnelly wins Carnegie book prize
Jennifer Donnelly
Donnelly said winning the prize meant a great deal
A US writer whose books were rejected by publishers for 10 years has been awarded the UK's most prestigious prize for children's literature.

Jennifer Donnelly won the Carnegie Medal, run by librarians, for her first teenagers' novel A Gathering Light.

She triumphed over favourite Mark Haddon, whose book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won the Whitbread Prize.

Donnelly struggled for a decade before being published last year aged 39.

As a struggling would-be author, she took various jobs by day and wrote by night.

Mark Haddon
Haddon had been favourite to win the prize
She was rejected by nearly every publishing house in New York, but last year her first novel made it into print.

A Gathering Light is her third book but her first for teenagers.

It is based on a real-life murder case involving the body of a young woman pulled from a lake in early 20th Century America.

Donnelly, whose family come originally from Co Meath and Dublin, studied at Birkbeck College in London. Her first book, Tea Rose, is set in the East End.

The Carnegie, now in its 68th year, is voted by children's librarians from Cilip, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, and awarded to "an outstanding book for children and young people".

Donnelly said winning meant a great deal to her.

"It is an incredible honour because it comes from people in the trenches, people who fight the good fight every day," she said.

Artist Shirley Hughes was awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal for children's book illustration for Ella's Big Chance, a retelling of the Cinderella story which she also wrote.

Her book transports the fairy tale to the 1920s and updates the ending.

The Liverpool-born author and illustrator also won the medal in 1977 for her picture book Dogger.

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