Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Costa Children's Book Award

The short list has just been announced...several expected contenders have been left off, but then these prizes are always something of a lottery. The category winner will be announced in early January and the overall winner (this prize is unique in pitting novels against biographies against poetry and children's books) in late January.

Keith Gray - Ostrich Boys
Saci Lloyd - The Carbon Diaries 2015
Michelle Magorian - Just Henry
Jenny Valentine - Broken Soup

YoungMinds Book Award

Tabitha Suzuma’s From Where I Stand was crowned winner of the YoungMinds Book Award 2008 at the Unicorn Theatre.
The £2000 prize, presented by author, broadcaster and psychologist Dr Tanya Byron, was awarded to the book which most helps young people aged 12+ cope with the stresses and challenges of growing up.
From Where I Stand tells the story of Raven, a boy who has been placed in foster care after witnessing the death of his mum. He and his friend Lotte set out to track down his mum’s killer - but their careful plan goes dangerously wrong. Through his journey he experiences self harm and bullying, as well as the difficulties of family relationships.
Sarah Brennan, YoungMinds Chief Executive, said:
“From Where I Stand faced tough competition from five other excellent books, but its exploration of difficult issues and use of strong characters made it a deserving winner. Most young people will be able to identify with the situations in the story, at home or at school, which show how to deal with problems such bullying and not fitting in.
“This is the first year that we have awarded the YoungMinds prize to a book for young readers, and involving young people in the judging process has provided a real insight into the role books can play in a child’s life. They can help break the isolation experienced by many young people, demonstrating that their feelings and problems are not unique.
“Fiction can often be an easier way to explore mental health problems, providing detailed information in an accessible and engaging format for both teenagers and adults.”

BookTrust Teenage Prize

Patrick Ness, winner of the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2008 for his novel ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go,’ published by Walker.

The Booktrust Teenage Prize honours the best in contemporary writing for teenagers.

Royal Mail Scotland Awards

Winners of Royal Mail Awards Announced as Record Numbers of Children Vote for their Favourite Books
A record-breaking 9,541 young readers from across Scotland – over twice as many as last year – have voted for their favourite books as part of the 2008 Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children’s Books, making this year’s Royal Mail Awards the most successful to date.

Scotland’s largest children’s book award (each prize winner receives £3,000 and runners-up all get £500 each), the Royal Mail Awards recognise excellence in Scottish writing and illustration for children across three age categories with the winners decided by Scottish children themselves, who will have read and voted for their favourite books.

The 2008 winning books are:
Early years (age 0-7): Billy Monster’s Daymare by Alan Durant and Ross Collins (Published by Oxford University Press)
Younger readers (age 8-11): DarkIsle by D A Nelson (Published by Strident)
Older readers (age 12-16): Bunker 10 by J A Henderson (Published by Oxford University Press)

This year, a total of 9,541 votes were cast from all Scottish education authorities. Overall, and in all three age categories, voters were roughly 50% boys and 50% girls, a surprising figure which challenges the usual preconception that girls read more than boys!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blue Peter Exhibition

The National Media Museum in Bradford is a lively, unstuffy place where you can track the history of photography and television. It hosts a wide range of exhibitions and at present is celebrating 50 years of Blue Peter "Here's one we made earlier". The museum is open from 10.00-18.00 Tuesday - Sunday, car parks nearby, railway station an easy walk away. There is a relaxed cafe with hot and cold food and amazing cakes. There is TV Heaven where you can watch an extraordinary range of TV clips. And there are two cinemas showing a wide range of films plus Imax. The Blue Peter Exhibition opened in October and is on until January - stimulating for both children and adults.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Children's Laureate Competition

Children’s Laureate Competition
To vote for who you would like to be the next Children’s Laureate (2009 - 2011) log on to:

Children under 14 can win the chance to attend the announcement event of the next Children's Laureate in London in June 2009. Four lucky winners, one each from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, will have their entries read out on the day and published on the Children’s Laureate website. Ten others will receive book prizes. Adults are invited to nominate their choice for the Children's Laureate but are not eligible for the competition.

The competition

Children under 14 can suggest any living British writer or illustrator of children's books - someone who they think has made a real contribution to the development of children's books. They need to argue their case in up to 100 words. Entries that simply name someone will be disqualified from the competition. The winner will be the person under 14 who makes the best case for their choice - they do not need to choose the person who becomes the laureate. Authors of the four best entries will be invited to the announcement event in London, with a parent or carer.

The Children’s Laureate
The role of Children's Laureate, which has a bursary of £10,000, is awarded once every two years to an eminent writer or illustrator of children's books to celebrate outstanding achievement in their field. The appointment of a Children's Laureate acknowledges the importance of exceptional children's authors in creating the readers of tomorrow.

The idea for the Children's Laureate originated from a conversation between (the then) Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and children's writer Michael Morpurgo. The illustrator Quentin Blake was the first Children's Laureate (1999-2001), followed by the author Anne Fine (2001-2003), Michael Morpurgo (2003-2005), Jacqueline Wilson (2005-7) and Michael Rosen (2007-2009) is the current Children’s Laureate. The next Children's Laureate will be chosen by a selection panel and will be appointed for a two-year term.

A summary of the suggestions received via the online competition will be sent to the selection panel, including the number of entries for each individual.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Book Campaign widens aims

The Campaign for the Book, the initiative launched by author Alan Gibbons in support of school and public libraries, has broadened its aims to put children's reading for pleasure at the core of its activities.

The campaign was conceived to establish a regional network of authors, illustrators, teachers and librarians who could campaign locally against library cuts and closures. While that is still planned, Gibbons said: "We believe that the campaign can also have a more generalised impact on reading for pleasure."

The Campaign for the Book will focus on establishing national guidelines for best practice in areas such as teacher training in children's literature and reading workshops for children. A summer conference for 2009 is also planned to bring together educators, authors and government spokespeople.

"There are many good things happening around the country, but there are also regions where nothing is happening," said Gibbons. "We want to encourage government to be more energetic about best practice by showing how much difference it can make for children to actually meet authors and read books they enjoy, rather than this focus on tracking and testing their reading in schools." The campaign aims to encourage every major urban area to have a reading and writing roadshow where children can meet authors and illustrators.

Another key area for the campaign will be to increase the amount that local authorities dedicate to children's book ­budgets in libraries. "Any librarian or teacher will tell you that reading for pleasure starts with children choosing books for themselves," said Gibbons. Currently, just 2.5% of library budgets is dedicated to children's books with 25 local authorities spending 1% or less of their ­budget on children's books.

The Museums, Libraries & Archives Council and Campaign for the Book are in discussion to formulate a statement to put forward to culture secretary Andy Burnham to con­sider as part of the government's library review, stating that reading books should be a key element of the review. "Statements from ministers that describe libraries as ‘cultural marketplaces' or tell library users to ‘look beyond the book' are diluting the place of the book and I am very suspicious of that," Gibbons added.

Caroline Horn, The Bookseller 13.11.08

Friday, November 14, 2008

Skellig at the Sage Gateshead 24-29 November

24 November 2008 - 29 November 2008

Skellig is an enchanting contemporary opera of David Almond’s award-winning novel of the same name, commissioned by The Sage Gateshead. With music by innovative composer Tod Machover and libretto by David Almond himself, Skellig is directed by Braham Murray, designed by Rae Smith with choreography by Mark Bruce. It is performed by a stellar cast including Omar Ebrahim, Paul Keohone and Sophie Daneman, with Northern Sinfonia conducted by Garry Walker.

Mysterious, eerie and enthralling, Skellig leads audiences of all ages into the coarse world of an ambiguous angel and transcends all preconceptions of traditional opera. It’s the story of Michael who is desperately worried about his premature baby sister: between anxiety about her and the move to a new house, Michael’s parents don’t have much time for him. Exploring the condemned garage at the end of the new garden, Michael finds a half-dead, spiteful old tramp. Skellig is a filthy, smelly, ungrateful old man, who feeds off dead bluebottles, Chinese takeaway, Newcastle Brown Ale and the dead mice that the owls bring him. However, Michael and his new friend Mina look after him, wondering about the bumps where his shoulder blades are and why he has such an affinity with owls…

Composer: Tod Machover
Librettist: David Almond
Conductor/Music Director: Garry Walker
Director: Braham Murray
Designer: Rae Smith
Choreographer: Mark Bruce
Northern Sinfonia

Don't miss your chance to be one of the first to see this electrifying opera before it becomes a worldwide hit.

Tickets £19.50, under 19s only £5, other concessions available

Ticket Office: Telephone 0191 443 4661

Roald Dahl Funny Prize

Michael Rosen announced the winners of the inaugural Roald Dahl Funny Prize, which honours the funniest books for children.

 For children aged six and under, the winning book was The Witch’s Children Go to School by Ursula Jones, Illus. Russell Ayto (Orchard Books).

 For children aged seven to fourteen, the winning book was Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton, Illus. David Tazzyman (Egmont Press).

Presenting the awards, Michael Rosen said:

“The Witch's Children Go to School is a rumbustious tale in the tradition of mischievous spirits causing mayhem and disorder where it's least wanted. Every page shouts with the sound of chaos and surprise: we are told that a school is turned into a storybook, the class teacher into the Mad Hatter and the school inspector is turned into a big smelly cheese. And that's not even half of it.

“Andy Stanton has developed a comic style all of his own, full of ludicrous similes, uproarious bathos, absurdity and grossness. Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear fulfils the requirement that a truly funny novel should have at least a laugh a page and a gasp-making denouement.”

Sophie Dahl commented:

"Chaos, pandemonium and a cursory tiger–all these things and more when The Witches Children Go to School. Between them Ursula Jones and Russell Ayto have created a comic caper that guarantees giggles and a general bewitching of all who read it. Hurray for Polly and Padlock the Dancing Bear, and down with revolting Mr Gum! Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton is quirky, odd, and deliciously funny. It is everything the Roald Dahl Funny Prize was invented for; outstanding, original, ageless and irreverent fiction married with the madcap illustrations of David Tazzyman. Unanimously funny and brilliant."

The winners were presented with a cheque for £2,500 at a ceremony at the Unicorn Theatre, London.

The judging panel comprised the author Sophie Dahl, the comedian Dara O’Briain, author Kaye Umansky and author, illustrator and political cartoonist Chris Riddell. The panel was chaired by the Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen.

There was an interview with Chris Riddell and Andy Stanton on the Today programme 14 November where it sounded as though there was only one winner - no mention of the younger prize winner The Witches Children - unless I was entirely distracted by breakfast...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shortlist revealed for the Blue Peter Book Awards

The shortlist is:

Best Book With Facts:

Archaeology Detectives - by Simon Adams (Oxford University Press)
100 Most Dangerous Things on the Planet - by Anna Claybourne (A&C Black)
Horrible Geography Handbooks: Planet in Peril - by Anita Ganeri, illustrated by Mike Phillips (Scholastic)

Book I Couldn't Put Down:

Abela - by Berlie Doherty (Andersen Press)
Shadow Forest - by Matt Haig (Corgi)
Foul Play - by Tom Palmer (Puffin)

Most Fun Story with Pictures:

Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear - by Andy Stanton, illustrated by David Tazzyman (Egmont)
Fleabag - by Helen Stephens (Alison Green Books)
Lost! The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog - by Jeremy Strong (Puffin Books)

Tim Levell, Editor of Blue Peter comments:

"I've laughed, cried, and bitten my nails through this year's crop of children's books. The standard was incredibly high, particularly in the Book I Couldn't Put Down category, and finding just nine books for our young judges to read was very tough. But this is a very varied and inspirational shortlist, and the real excitement now is in seeing what our young judges will choose as winners. The adult judges can only ever second-guess what children will like most, and every year, once the children make their decision, their choices always seem absolutely spot-on."

The panel of adult judges comprises author Anthony McGowan, school librarian Karen Bhatti and Blue Peter Editor Tim Levell to judge the three categories: Book I Couldn’t Put Down, Best Book with Facts and Most Fun Story with Pictures.

The final nine books will then be judged by a selection of young Blue Peter viewers, who will decide the winners in each category and the overall winner which deserves the ultimate accolade, Blue Peter Book of the Year. Their judging meeting will be broadcast on Blue Peter in March 2009.

The winning author and/or illustrator in each category will be awarded a special Blue Peter Book Award Trophy on screen. In addition, an extract from each of the nine shortlisted titles will be dramatised on the programme.

The winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards will be announced in the spring of 2009, to coincide with World Book Day. Booktrust was awarded administration for the Blue Peter Book Awards in May 2008.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Horrid Henry - live and horrid!

HORRID HENRY - LIVE AND HORRID! will play at the Trafalgar Studios in London between 21st November and 11th January.

For the first time ever on stage, Henry takes his rightful place in the spotlight. Along with Mum, Dad, Perfect Peter, Moody Margaret, Rude Ralph and all your favourite characters. Only they're not going to be in the spotlight, of course, not if Henry's got anything to do with it... And if you're not a boring grown-up, you can see the show for half price!

To book tickets go to, where you can also see a sneak preview of the show!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Scarecrow and his Servant

Southwark Playhouse
Philip Pullman’s
The Scarecrow and his Servant
10 December 2008 to 10 January 2009

For those families living in and around London a trip to Southwark this Christmas promises to be a real treat.

To find out about ticket prices and availability ring 020 7407 0234 or visit the website

Sunday, November 02, 2008

BBC TV "Picture This"

A series about children's books begins on Wednesday 5 November, BBC4 at 9pm Sounds interesting.