Charlton author Andrew Donkin up against Marcus Rashford for Waterstones book prize

Andrew Donkin is up for the award with co-author Tracey Turner and illustrator Libby VanderPloeg

Charlton-based author Andrew Donkin is up for a prestigious book award – but he faces stiff competition from Marcus Rashford and Sir Paul McCartney.

A History of the World in 25 Cities – written by Donkin and Tracey Turner, illustrated by Libby VanderPloeg and produced with curators at the British Museum, is on the shortlist for the Waterstones Book of the Year award.

Aimed at all ages, it takes readers on a tour of the globe, taking them to every continent on Earth, from the walled city of Jericho built over 10,000 years ago, to the modern-day metropolis of Tokyo.

Donkin said he and Turner were “delighted” to be up for the award. The shortlist also includes McCartney’s The Lyrics and Rashford’s You Are A Champion, while previous winners include Sally Rooney for Normal People and Greta Thunberg’s No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference.

Cover of History of the World in 25 Cities

He added: “This book has been a labour of love for us both, brought to fruition working with the wonderful curators at the British Museum and Libby. It’s a joy to see it flying off bookshop shelves and being enjoyed by young and old readers alike.

“I love a detailed map to pore over, and what better than 25 beautiful maps packed with facts that plot the development of human civilisation from the very first city, Jerico, through Rome, Athens, Venice, Paris, New York and of course our own London. It’s a book for everyone from 11 to 99.”

Readers can take a trip around the world thanks to Libby VanderPloeg’s illustrations

Asked about the shortlist, he joked: “The shortlist is amazing. It’s slightly surreal to suddenly find yourself up against other full time professional authors like Marcus Rashford and Paul McCartney.”

Three years ago, Donkin was in the spotlight for his award-winning children’s book Illegal, about a boy’s epic journey to Europe. He recently teamed up with his Illegal co-author Eoin Colfer to launch a podcast, Double Booked.

He said: “Children’s books account for 30 per cent of money taken in bookshops, but get around 5 per cent of feature and review space in newspapers and magazines. Double Booked is a chatty, family-friendly podcast for anyone who likes children’s books, graphic novels, books, bookshops, libraries, librarians, second0hand bookshops or second-hand librarians.”

A History of the World in 25 Cities is available at Waterstones in Blackheath and Greenwich, and also via The Hive to pick up at Ottie and the Bea in Blackheath.

The Double Booked podcast is on Apple, Spotify and Acast.


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Meet Charlton-based graphic novel author at Thames-Side Studios

Andrew Donkin, Eoin Colfer and Giovanni Rigano
Prize guys: Andrew Donkin, Eoin Colfer and Giovanni Rigano. Andrew and Giovanni will be speaking next week

Last year, The Charlton Champion caught up with writer Andrew Donkin to talk about the success of his award-winning graphic novel, Illegal, about a boy’s epic journey to Europe.

Now he is holding a talk at Thames-Side Studios in Warspite Road on Thursday 17 January with illustrator Giovanni Rigano (above) to talk about the process involved in putting Illegal together, from their initial thoughts and ideas, location sketches and characterisation, through to storyboarding, final artwork and publication.

Giovanni will be flying in from Italy and drawing live during the talk. Individually customised copies by Giovanni will also be available on the evening.

Illegal, written by Andrew and Eoin Colfer and with artwork by Giovanni, won the Judges’ Special Award at the Children’s Books Ireland Awards in May, and the UK paperback edition was released in August. It is also curently nominated for the Carnigie Medal and Kate Greenaway Medal.

The talk, at 6pm, is free, but spaces are limited – contact Thames-Side Studios to book a place.

Illegal is available from Hive Books (pick up at Ottie and the Bea on Old Dover Road) and through


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Illegal: Charlton author’s graphic novel scoops top award

Andrew Donkin, Eoin Colfer and Giovanni Rigano
Prize guys: Andrew Donkin, Eoin Colfer and Giovanni Rigano

A graphic novel about a boy’s epic journey to Europe co-written by a Charlton author has won a prestigious book award in Ireland.

Illegal, written by Eoin Colfer and SE7-based Andrew Donkin, and with illustrations by Giovanni Rigano, scooped the Judges’ Special Award at the Children’s Books Ireland Awards in Dublin yesterday.

Judges said: “This timely and powerful graphic novel charts a young boy’s journey across the Sahara Desert on the long, dangerous trek towards Italy and the potential for a new life there and reunion with his sister.

“This affecting book weaves together real stories of migration with immersive, naturalistic illustrations and carefully paced, minimalistic text. Combining intensity with accessibility, this is an important book that will stimulate important conversations and reflection about human rights, inclusion, solidarity, and prejudice.”

The trio, who have previously worked on adaptating Colfer’s sci-fi fantasy series Artemis Fowl as graphic novels, have picked up a string of plaudits for Illegal, which was published last year.

Colfer collected the prize at the Irish capital’s Smock Alley Theatre.

The Guardian called the book “a deeply affecting and thought-provoking account of the 21st-century refugee experience”.

Donkin said the inspiration for the book came from seeing a small news report of a migrants’ boat sinking in the Mediterranean, killing scores of people: “It seemed extraordinary that thousands of people were dying on Europe’s doorstep and there was hardly a mention in mainstream media at the time.

“When a sinking was mentioned it was just in terms of numbers – no individuals, no personalities, no names. Eoin, Giovanni and I decided that we wanted to take one of those numbers and tell their story.

“What we wanted to do was to ask our readers to see each of those numbers as a human being with a favourite colour and a favourite football team just like them.”

A pane from Illegal

He added: “We knew straight away that we wanted to tell the story of Illegal as a graphic novel. Graphic novel just means a posh comic and it brings a wry smile to the faces of life-long comic readers who remember buying comics on grubby newsprint for five pence when they were a kid. We wanted to reach an audience that wouldn’t pick up a broadsheet newspaper.

“Eoin and I did more research for the writing of Illegal than for any other book. We read everything that we could find, attended conferences, and conducted interviews with people who had made the journey as well as aid workers.

“We were determined to get every detail as accurate as we possibly could. We worked closely with two fantastic charities: Women For Refugee Women and Migrant Voice. Hearing the stories of the people that they help was incredibly humbling and also a great motivator for the three of us.”

The book has already been translated into 10 different languages – and has also been a hit in France – and is due to be published in the US in August.

Illegal cover

The book is available from Ottie and the Bea on Old Dover Road, Blackheath, and online via and You can read more about Andrew Donkin’s work at (or @AndrewDonkin on Twitter).

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