HERE is an account from the blogger Bookwitch of all the festivities at the 2009 Lancashire Children's Book of the Year award. She has photographs on her blog, taken by her daughter, and I hope you'll all visit her site and read what she has to say.
For my part, I have had a wonderful time being involved with the prize over the last few months. The fun started last September when Jake Hope sent me a list of the 90 or so books on the longlist. In March, we unveiled the shortlist and met the young judges for the first time. They are Year 9 pupils from 12 schools in Lancashire and a livelier, more intelligent, and delightful group of young people you couldn't wish to meet. They were each given copies of the ten shortlisted books and between March and May they read them and then we came together to find a winner. That winner was Sophie McKenzie's BLOOD TIES but JUST HENRY by Michelle Magorian and THE TRAP by Sarah Wray came close too.
The award ceremony took place this past weekend. It's the culmination of a lot of work by a great many people in the Lancashire Library Service, most particularly Jean Wolstenholme and Jake Hope. Publishers have done their bit by contributing the books and the County Council has joined in by allowing the meetings to take place in the Cabinet Room of the County Hall.
Last Friday, Sophie McKenzie and three of the shortlisted authors (Tabitha Suzuma, Sarah Wray and Craig Simpson) arrived in Preston and had a session in which they spoke and answered questions from more than a hundred children from all the schools involved. On Friday night, the University of Central Lancashire, which generously sponsors the Award, gave us all a superb dinner. A string quartet played as we ate and the highlight of the meal was not the lemon syllabub (though that came a close second) but the speeches from the young people who'd been judges last year. They all said how much it had meant to them to be part of the process and how they were now enthusiastic readers and eager to go on trying books of all kinds. One of the features of this prize is that it gets everyone reading out of their comfort zone sometimes...including me.
This prize brings together the whole community. The Council, UCLAN, the library services, the teachers, the pupils, their parents and grandparents, their siblings: everyone was represented in the Council Chamber on Saturday morning. It's a very imposing and impressive space with rather luxurious leather seats. Sophie McKenzie took home a cheque and a decanter. I took home a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a a pretty brooch with the coat of arms of Lancashire County Council on it. The latter was a gift from the outgoing Leader of the Council, Alan Whittaker, who will be much missed. Yet again, the best speeches came from the young judges. The authors who were there signed copies of their own books after the ceremony and then we went for lunch in the Council Mess, as it's called.
I'm proud to be associated with this Award and I'm already looking forward to September when another longlist will appear as if by magic in my inbox.
Thanks to everyone involved, especially Jean and Jake.