A Birmingham teacher has won an award for penning a children's story that celebrates diversity.
Tom Avery, a teacher at Queensbridge School, a performing arts college in Moseley, has won the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Award 2010 for Too Much Trouble, a story the judges described as "an Oliver Twist of our times".
The contemporary adventure story is a drama about Emmanuel and Prince, two brothers who fall in with a gang of pickpockets when their family abandons them.
It explores big issues such as illegal immigration, what makes a family and the ethical dilemmas surrounding crimes committed for survival.
Created in memory of publisher Frances Lincoln who died in 2001, the prize of £1,500 plus the option for Janetta Otter-Barry at Frances
Lincoln Children's Books to publish the novel, is awarded to the best manuscript for eight to 12 year olds that celebrates diversity in the widest possible sense.
The competition was open to anybody aged 16 or over who had not previously published a novel for children.
Judges said the standard of entries this year had been good, with more contemporary stories this year and settings ranging from Nigeria to Newcastle.
Speaking about the winning story, the panel of judges said: "The author has set out to create an Oliver Twist of our times and has pulled it off.
"The gritty reality is important with such serious subjects but Avery is very adept at writing and does what fiction is meant to do. He takes reality and heightens it but not to the point where it loses credibility."
Tom, 26, originally from Lewisham, said: "I wrote Too Much Trouble when I heard the story of a boy and his sisters who had been sent to live in England without their parents.
"I couldn't stop thinking about what that responsibility must be like. In the end I had to put the story down on paper."
Tom received his award at a presentation at Seven Stories, the national Centre for Children's Books in Newcastle, on Tuesday. The event also celebrated the publication of Takeshita Demons by Cristy Burne, winner of last year's award.
John Nicoll, managing director of Frances Lincoln, said: "Frances was passionate about nurturing new talent on the Frances Lincoln Children's list, and she would be delighted with the success of the winner of the inaugural award.
"Today we are here to celebrate Tom Avery's achievement and to wish him success. The Takeshita demons followed our heroine from ancient Japan to modern London, the demons in Too Much Trouble surround us now - reported daily in the news - and Tom's story helps children to understand the suffering that some children have to tolerate, without being didactic.
"It's a great read and I am pleased to announce that Janetta Otter-Barry will be working with Tom so that you can all read it."
Kate Edwards, chief executive of Seven Stories, the national Centre for Children's Books, added: "The Diverse Voices Children's Book Award is going from strength to strength.
"Once again we've had a fantastic response to the award from unpublished writers in the UK and beyond, and we've enjoyed involving Seven Stories staff and volunteers in debating the entries.
"We are proud to be associated with the publication of last year's winner, Takeshita Demons, and are delighted that it will be included in the Booked Up list.
"This goes to prove that there's a very real place for this award, ensuring that books which recognise and celebrate cultural difference are published for today's children."
Goal Dreams by Remi Oyedele was highly commended and Rafi Brown And The Candy Floss Kid by Sue Stern was commended by judges at the awards ceremony.
* For more information or an entry form for next year's awards email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0845 271 0777. Seven Stories is Britain's children's literature museum. It aims to bring the world of children's books to life through exhibitions and learning events.
For more information go to www.sevenstories.org.uk.