Tag Archives: Red House Children’s Book Award

Red House Children’s Book Award Ceremony 2013

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On Saturday I was delighted to go to the Red House Children’s Book Award Ceremony for the first time, representing Oxford Children’s Book Group. I joined the group (and committee) thanks to the encouragement of Zoe from Playing by the Book and Mélanie from Library Mice who are both on the national executive of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups. This is a personal account of MG and my experience of the day, 23rd February 2013.

The Red House Children’s Book Award is owned and coordinated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups and is the only award where all the books are nominated and voted for by children. This blog was part of this year’s blog tour, hosting Caryl Hart who I’ve got to know on Twitter as a wonderful person as well as talented author so MG and I were beyond happy to be sitting on her table for lunch.

I didn’t realise that we’d get to have lunch as well as go to the awards, so that was an added bonus to a wonderful experience. Originally I was taking both MG and DG but was then advised that the day was really for children aged seven and up. MG is a bright and (generally) patient child so the fact it was one day after her sixth birthday wasn’t a problem but I am glad I didn’t take DG because she would have been bored and grotty as there was a lot of waiting around which MG only just managed.

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A trip to London is a special treat for MG and something we’d only done once before. I’m glad we had that trip because we went to South Bank which is where the Awards were based so we were both familiar with how to get there. On arriving, my anxiety hit because my phone decided to stop working. I have a basic android smart phone but I rely on it far too much it seems: it is my clock, my alarm, my communication, my train timetable… Without it I felt somewhat lost, because I didn’t even know what the time was. Plucking up courage, I asked several people and managed to end up in the right place at the right time and once in the building at 11am knowing the time didn’t matter because everything was run beautifully.

I spied Caryl fairly quickly and we made our way to say hello. MG was instantly smitten, and Caryl is as lovely in real life as she appears. Despite her nerves, she treated us like old friends and during dinner she was sat next to MG engaging with her. Thank-you, Caryl! In the pre-dinner reception we also found Zoe and Mélanie to talk to, despite them both also being incredibly busy. Before the meal all the authors and illustrators were pulled off to signing tables and the children from around the country were excitedly meeting their heroes and getting books signed. It was a lovely sight to see. I would have loved to have brought my copy of A Monster Calls and met Patrick Ness in person but the day was about the children, so we bought new copies of Can You See Sassoon? and Spooky, Spooky House and lined up to get those signed along with the copy of Welcome to Alien School that we already owned.

Sam Usher signing

I love Dog Loves Drawing, but it wasn’t such a hit with my daughters sadly, so we didn’t buy that one or get it signed. To be honest, by the second queue MG was fed up and wanted to sit down again but I was a mean mummy and we lined up to meet the authors and illustrators for the three books we’d chosen. Sam Usher and Louise Yates had the longest queues because they drew fairly complex doodles in each book they signed and therefore took longer for each book. I hadn’t been sent with any requests from my group so we just had books signed for us, but some people had four or five copies of each book. All the authors and illustrators were fantastic for the time they put in, not to mention the organisers!

There were two authors missing. Pittacus Lore, on account of being an alien on the run, and David Walliams, on account of being a ‘sleb. David Walliams did turn up to the ceremony for his part of the awards and I’m glad to see the behind-the-scenes pictures on the FCBG website where the children who should have presented to him during the dinner did get to meet him and present his portfolio in person.

Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves recieving portfolios

Before the meal, every author and illustrator was presented with a portfolio of drawings and writing from various school children. MG got to sneakily look through Caryl Hart’s because she was sitting next to her! I thought this was a lovely thing, and really added to the child-centred aim of the awards. Every child who was attending from a local book group was involved in the ceremony in some way. Groups of three or four children presented the portfolios at the meal, and groups of children also presented the awards for each category. As MG was the only person for Oxford, she ended up with a different surprise…

Welcome to Alien School portfolio

The meal was very well organised. Every table had at least one author or illustrator plus representatives from FCBG, Red House, or a publisher as well as the adults and children from local book groups. Every child got a teddy and a goody bag with things to keep them amused like book samples and colouring. The event was all about the children and they could all happily mill with the authors and illustrators, chat and get books signed. Being at the younger end, MG stuck with me, but the delight on the faces of children meeting their favourite authors and illustrators was lovely to see. The food itself came in child-sized portions served on long wooden trays for everyone to help themselves. This was an excellent idea, as the food just kept coming so the adults could eat whatever they needed and the children had a good choice from a healthy and varied selection including the ever-popular mini burgers and ice cream cones!

After the meal, we went into the venue for the ceremony. The various VIPs from the meal (and their parents or carers in the case of the children) were in the front rows getting a great view of everything. The Awards were hosted by James Campbell who also hosts Red House’s Big Book Babble so he’s both very familiar with the authors and illustrators, and with keeping children amused. The event consisted of introductions, interviews, children from Stagecoach performing, and the winner announcements. I could write more, but there’s good write-ups at Red House and FCBG already!

Look at the crowds, no wonder MG was shy! Image (c) Dominic Turner from FCBG

From a personal viewpoint, the main part of the ceremony for us was during the interviews of the Younger Children shortlisted authors and illustrators where everyone was invited to try to find Sassoon under their seat. It was under MG’s seat. We’d actually had a bit of a head’s up on this and when I saw it was there when we sat down I talked to MG about going onto the stage and whether she wanted to do it. This is the girl who refused to have her picture taken at the table, but she said she would go up and when the time came she held up Sassoon, smiled excitedly and ran to the stage.

I found Sassoon! Image (c) Dominic Turner from FCBG

Image (c) Dominic Turner from FCBG

At this point, she realised how big the place was and how many people were there and became very, very shy. I probably should have gone down and held her hand but I was stuck to my seat with nerves too. Here James Campbell showed how good he is with children. He spoke to her on her own level at all times; he found her name tag so she didn’t have to say her name out loud; he tried to get a smile out of her; he didn’t force the Sassoon model on her (we got it after the ceremony!); and he carried her back to her seat! She was in tears so we had a huge snuggle and she asked to leave but she only cried for a minute because it was a huge thing for her and then she was happy again. She stole my camera and started to film the end of the ceremony, her favourite part being this tiny snippet where James Campbell asks after her:

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdCKYYoJ23I”]

Sadly we don’t have too much of the ceremony filmed, my camera stops filming at ten minutes so we completely missed the part where Patrick Ness repeatedly used the work b*ll**ks in order to avoid using the word b*ll**ks. I did find this amusing, especially when MG said to her dad: “I’ve learnt a new rude word. But it’s not from mummy, it’s from an author.” I have a different opinion on swear words than my husband 😉

Here is some near the end. Patrick Ness does say the b-word: it’s so noisy you don’t really hear it, but I feel I should add that warning! Bear in mind all of this was filmed by a newly minted six-year old, it isn’t great footage.

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRZuqo3mWVE”]

The memory card in the camera ran out too, and after I deleted some pictures to make space MG didn’t press the record button hard enough. But she loves the part she did record, and watches it to remind herself of the day out. As soon as the awards were finished, we rushed off to catch a train because MG was feeling very worn out by this point. Looking at the pictures on the FCBG site, it seems that most of the book group children got their pictures with Andrew Weale and Lee Wildish, the overall winners, but we didn’t stay to congratulate them sadly. MG did drag me to say goodbye to Caryl, who lifted her up for a big goodbye hug. We also went to ask for Sassoon but just missed Sam Usher to thank him in person.

In summary, it was a wonderful experience and MG enjoyed it thoroughly. It was a little too much for her at six but she did really well and I’ll hopefully take her again next year; and DG in a couple of years’ time. We may not be representing Oxford CBG for a few years, as other children will get a turn, but the ceremony alone was good fun too.

Both MG and DG chose Spooky, Spooky House as their first choice so they’re very happy about the winner. As I said in my summary review of the four picture books, it was so hard to choose between them myself but I had a feeling Spooky, Spooky House would at least win the Younger Children’s category given the reaction of the children we tested on locally. Congratulations Andrew and Lee, and to all the other winners, shortlisted authors and illustrators, organisers and children. Well done all.

Overall Winners, Andrew Weale and Lee Wildish. Image (c) Dominic Turner, from FCBG website

The top five photos and two video clips were taken by myself or MG; the bottom four photos are from FCBG, copyright Dominic Turner.

Red House Childrens Book Award 2013 Younger Children Short List

Welcome to Alien School: Caryl Hart & Ed Eaves (Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, 2012)Welcome to Alien School: Caryl Hart & Ed Eaves (Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, 2012)
We’re fans of Caryl Hart in the Chaos household, and bought Welcome to Alien School when it was first published. It’s the third in a series following a boy called Albie and the strange things that seem to happen to him – I’m not quite sure if it’s all in his imagination or not. He’s been to a supermarket that sells zoo animals, planted dinosaurs in the garden and here he ends up on another planet for school. It’s a very fun story with much appeal to small children who may feel that going to school is an alien experience in itself.

Can You See Sassoon?: Samuel Usher (Little Tiger Press, 2012)Can You See Sassoon?: Samuel Usher (Little Tiger Press, 2011)
The bright primary colours and packed illustrations make this a lovely book to curl up with and try to spot all the things in the pictures. I struggled to find Sassoon, the striped snake, in some of the double page spreads but MG’s beady eyes spotted him quickly! There are various scenes that he is hiding in, including food, toys, a bookcase and outer space. DG found the search more challenging but still enjoyed looking and was very excited when she first spotted him without assistance! Great fun and beautifully illustrated.

Spooky, Spooky House: Andrew Weare & Lee Wildish (Picture Corgi, 2011)Spooky, Spooky House: Andrew Weare & Lee Wildish (Picture Corgi, 2011)
This book has flaps to open, pop ups and a heat-sensitive picture on the last page. In a similar vein to Jan Pienkowski’s Haunted House, an unseen narrator tells the reader to keep away from the house because it’s full of so many terrifying monsters. But children, peeking through their hands, insist on each flap being opened and each page being turned before discovering the scariest spook of all on the last page – under a heat sensitive patch which adds another element of exciting discovery, and a twist to the tale…

Dog Loves Drawing: Louise Yates (Red Fox Picture Books, 2012)Dog Loves Drawing: Louise Yates (Red Fox Picture Books, 2012)
If you’ve already read Louise Yates’ Dog Loves Books, you’ll know that Dog loves books so much that he’s opened a bookshop. In this tale, he received a sketchbook from an aunt, and somewhat daunted at first he starts an exciting adventure through the pages joined by a host of friends. This may appeal to fans of Harold and the Purple Crayon and is a clever and fun journey through the world that books and drawing can open up to small children. Plus it has a monster in, which always appeals. Beautifully illustrated and a fun tale of trying out new things even when you’re not sure.

Who do I think will win? They are all brilliant books and well deserving of their nominations, but based on the reactions of children I’ve tested with I think I can guess which might win… I don’t know which one I’d choose as my favourite to be honest, we’ve loved Welcome to Alien School for some time; but Dog Loves Drawing is such a fun idea; but Can You See Sassoon is brightly coloured and challenging; but Spooky, Spooky House has great monsters and cute twist… They should all win!

Voting is open until 27th January, you can vote online as an individual or as a school / library. The books can be purchased from Red House for £2.99 or £3.49 each, click on the images above for the direct link to Red House. The winners will be announced on 23rd February.

Disclaimer: I am on the committee for Oxford Children’s Book Group, part of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups who run the award, and have been test reading the younger children short-list to various children. My opinions are my own and I receive no financial reward for supporting FCBG.

Red House Children’s Book Award Blog Tour: Caryl Hart

Welcome to Child-Led Chaos and the fifth day of the Red House Children’s Book Award blog tour! I have a sneaky feeling you might find a closely related post at Babbleabout, as well as the list of the whole tour in my earlier post.

I’m delighted to be hosting Caryl Hart for her nomination in the Younger Children category for Welcome to Alien School. I ‘met’ Caryl on Twitter. Before that, the Chaos household hadn’t read any of her books (although I didn’t realise Rhino, What Rhino? that we’d heard and loved was one of hers.) I’d won copies of Supermarket Zoo and How to Grow a Dinosaur which she signed for MG & DG. Shortly after this Welcome to Alien School, the third in the series, was published and I bought it straight away (not to mention several others!)

Later today I have the honour of meeting Caryl in person so it’s even more special to me that she’s guest posting here for her Children’s Book Award nomination. I am so pleased that Welcome to Alien School has been shortlisted, and thrilled to welcome Caryl to Child-Led Chaos:

A Life in the Day of a Children’s Author

Before I became a full time writer, I found mornings unbearably stressful. I hated nagging the kids to get ready for school and would often end up shouting. Not a good way to start the day.  Now, six years after leaving work, the mornings are almost pleasant. The kids get themselves ready, my husband does the school run and I set my own agenda.  Amazingly, I earn more now than I did working three days a week, and I’m much, MUCH happier.

If I’m doing a school visit or library workshop, I usually head off early, having coerced various friends into walking the dog and collecting the kids from school.  Luckily, my valiant husband is an expert at getting the kids up and out in the morning.

Writing Day

If I’m having a writing day, I take the dog for a good stomp along the river.  It’s a national nature reserve and very, very beautiful. Even if I start the morning feeling glum, walking the dog always puts me in a good mood and I have written many a rhyme in my head whilst pounding along the footpath.

Then it’s down to work. On a good day, I can write three or four picture book spreads.  That’s about 200 words. It doesn’t sound like much, but for me this is REALLY good going!  Most days, I don’t write anything comprehensible, just lots and lots of notes.  More like verbal sketches than text. And then suddenly part of the story will come together and I’ll write it down properly. I spend a lot of time thinking out the details of a story, and then editing and re-editing to make the text as tight as possible.

I absolutely love the discipline of writing picture books.  With only around 800 words to play with, it’s a real challenge to make my stories exciting, meaningful, funny, believable, sell-able and to my editors’ liking.  Trying to do all this in rhyming verse can leave me ready to hurl the computer out of the window!  But when it works, it’s SO satisfying that I instantly forget the hours of frustration I’ve been through.  Rather like giving birth, actually.

Caryl Hart

At precisely 3.00 pm the Air Raid Siren goes off.  This is my phone telling me to wrench myself away, often mid-flow, and collect the kids from school.  Then I’m on Mum duty, though I do sometimes sneak back to the computer for a bit of extra work if I’m buzzing with ideas.

Evening meals around the table are usually dominated by the children telling funny stories about their day. And even if we don’t manage to eat together, we always end up in a pile on the sofa for a bit of telly and a snuggle before bed.

It’s a good life. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone.

Welcome to Alien School: Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves (Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, 2012)Welcome to Alien School has been shortlisted in the Younger Children category of the Red House Children’s Book Award 2013. The Red House Children’s Book Award is the only national children’s book award voted for entirely by children. It is owned and co-ordinated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups, and sponsored by Red House.

Useful links:
http://www.fcbg.org.uk/
http://www.redhousechildrensbookaward.co.uk/
http://www.carylhart.com/

Red House Children’s Book Award 2013

I am utterly delighted to be part of the Red House Children’s Book Award blog tour, which commences when the short-list is announced on Monday 29th October. I’m looking forward to seeing all the books on the short-list myself.

I’ve been a fan of Red House Books for quite some time, and already spend far too many of my spare pennies with them. The Red House Children’s Book Award is a wonderful concept – books voted for by children themselves. The shortlisted books will be available to buy as sets in the three categories (Younger Children, Younger Readers and Older Readers) once the shortlist is announced.

For the 2012 award, I was in the Hugless Douglas camp on behalf of my daughters, but every book short-listed is of exceptional quality. The overall winner of 2012 was A Monster Calls, a book which brought me to tears so deep was its emotional impact. Too good for children? Of course not! Children deserve the best, and they’re too often sidelined with the “it’s only for kids” line.

I’ll be reading every post on the tour with interest – I’ve received my guest post and can’t wait to share it! But we’re all sworn to secrecy until the shortlist is announced on Monday and you’ll have to wait a week from now to read what [censored] has to say about [censored]

Blogs included in the tour:

FCBG Blog Twitter | Blog | Facebook | 2013 Shortlist

The Book Sniffer Twitter | Blog | Facebook | Louise Yates

5minutespeace Twitter | Blog | Sam Usher

Book Reviews for Mums Twitter | Blog | Facebook | Lee Wildish

Read it Daddy! Twitter | Blog | Facebook | Andrew Weale

Babbleabout Twitter | Blog | Facebook | Ed Eaves

Child-Led Chaos Twitter | Blog | Facebook | Caryl Hart

Library Mice Twitter | Blog | Facebook | David Walliams

Playing by the Book Twitter | Blog | Elen Caldecott

The Little Wooden Horse Twitter | Blog | Facebook | Jonathan Meres

Girls Heart Books Twitter | Blog | Facebook | Suzanne La Fleur

Mr Ripley’s Enchanted Books Twitter | Blog | Sophie McKenzie

Red House Blog Twitter | Blog | Facebook |

Vote Douglas! (Or not…)

It’s the final week of voting for the Red House Children’s Book Awards and one of my favourite author/illustrators, David Melling, is up for the younger children’s award. What sort of a rabid fan would I be without trying to influence your (child’s) vote? 😆

Don’t Worry Douglas (Hodder, 2011) is a gentle tale of the very huggable bear who makes a mistake and is scared to tell his dad. Of course it all ends well when he does tell the truth. A lovely story to read to young children to show that parents understand accidents and will love them just the same. This is a sequel to Hugless Douglas (2010); there’s a third in the series out this year (Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleep); and Mr Melling is working on a fourth one – hurray! 🙂

I have a soft spot for Douglas for several reasons:

1) My father-in-law and my youngest nephew both have Douglas as one of their first names!

2) There is a double page spread at the end of each of these books of ‘hugs’ and ‘hats’ which is like seeing into an artist’s ideas book.

3) I took Mighty Girl to a ‘How to Draw a Hug’ event at Mostly Books bookshop in 2010 and I was so proud of how my only-just-three year old concentrated so hard and really enjoyed the drawing tutorial (and I was star-struck and didn’t say much but all (two of, outside Twitter) the children’s writers and illustrators I’ve met have been lovely and very approachable, they’re a fantastic bunch!)

4) Who couldn’t love this bear:
(Picture credit: Mostly Books)

I haven’t read any of the other books in the Younger Children shortlist but Mick Inkpen is always worth a look; we’ve enjoyed One Smart Fish by Chris Wormell and like his art; and I really love the front cover of Peely Wally and definitely want to read it to my girls at some point. You can vote for your favourite at the Red House Children’s Book Award website. Last day to vote is Friday 20th January.
There are also Younger Readers and Older Readers categories but they’re not applicable to my daughters yet and we’ve not read any of the entries so I’ll not be writing about them but if you have the right aged children, they might like to vote on their favourite.