Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Tower Hamlets Book Award 2013

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the finale of the Tower Hamlets Book Award at Swanlea School in East London. My book Sword of Light had been shortlisted, and I was one of three authors invited along to judge the book presentations performed by the children of eight local schools.

Tower Hamlets Book Award shortlist 2013

This event is organised annually by the Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service, and it's obvious a great deal of energy and enthusiasm had gone into the afternoon.

Gillian Harris, head of Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service, kicks things off

Meet the authors...

Sam Gayton and Katherine Roberts (me!) judging the presentations

Sarwat Chadda and Sam Gayton signing books
Then came the performances, which I had been looking forward to very much. Two schools performed my book Sword of Light - Swanlea Secondary and John Scurr Primary - taking quite different approaches to the story.

John Scurr's presentation was so enjoyable I took a video clip (which to protect the children taking part I am not allowed to publish here). But it was like a film, with three scenes, great costumes, and a perfect feisty, red-haired "Rhianna" - Hollywood, take note! The children performed the capture of Rhianna and her friends by Prince Mordred's Bloodbeards and their subsequent escape from the Saxon Camp (chapter 6 of the book), using a number of realistic props including some fearsome-looking slave collars and a magic harp complete with silver strings, which must have been great fun to make.

"This land belongs to King Arthur!"

We had special effects from Blue Gate Fields Junior School, who performed Frank Cotterell Boyce's The Unforgiven Coat, and rivers of blood (in the guise of red silk) from Cayley Primary, who gave a short but spirited presentation of Sarwat Chadda's Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress. The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brockett was a good excuse for some balloons and a cute black and white dog, and I am sure there must have been a few of Philip Reeve's Goblins lurking somewhere in the shadows grumbling about not being properly represented.

A perfomance of Wonder
RJ Palacio's Wonder was clearly a popular book, with two different schools presenting a version of the story. But it was St Pauls Primary School's performance of Wonder that really stood out, with impressive singing from the whole cast and its effective use of technology, where two of the characters sit with laptops and send each other messages after acting out the bullying scene. After much deliberation that took longer than our allotted time slot (sorry, Gillian!), the judges awarded St Pauls the prize.

There were drinks, delicious cakes and healthy grapes on offer, as well as quizzes and postcard and tweet competitions to break up the afternoon. All three of the authors were kept busy signing bookmarks and copies of their books for their fans and the school libraries.

Then it was the turn of the children to vote for the shortlisted books. All the votes disappeared into a big box and nobody knew the winner until they were counted up at the end.

Sword of Light came third (Muse: I demand a recount!)

Wonder was second, and the winner was...

Sam Gayton's book The Snow Merchant.

Which was lovely, since Sam was actually there in person to pick up his award (that's his hand in the picture), and although there can only be one prize, all three authors were given a lovely bunch of flowers to take home.

Sarwat Chadda - orange for the boys.

Me with my pink roses back in Devon (they survived the train home!)

Thank you to all the Tower Hamlets schools, children, and librarians for a very inspiring day.


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