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Bedtime Story

2023 - Shortlisted


Judges' Comments

Bedtime Story is a personal memoir written by Hooper, mother of two young children, as she grapples with a diagnosis of cancer in her partner, Don, and the possibility of his death. The book is written in two forms: as a conversation with her eldest son, and through an exploration of death in children’s stories and fables over centuries past. The tragic early death of close family members, we learn, has stalked many famous children’s authors. In exploring rituals of storytelling, Hooper considers the question of how we can help children better understand death and prepare for the loss of a parent. Hooper’s internal conversations with her son are interwoven with broader questions of how death is handled across cultures and through time. She ponders the ways these rituals might be useful to children experiencing parental loss, and to parents anticipating their own demise. 

Hooper’s tender, poetic prose draws readers into her family home, the children’s bedroom, the kitchen and garden. Ordinary family life continues incongruously against monumental looming crisis as Don’s cancer treatment proceeds. The children are protected from the worries of their mother and father by the warmth of the home, but the spectre of death lingers in dark corners all the same. Anna Walker’s exquisitely eerie illustrations, evoking children’s picture books, add to the power of the text.