Thursday, 06 July 2017
Over 200 pupils from 14 schools joined the whole of Year 7 from both Divisions at Bolton School for the Bolton Children’s Fiction Award Ceremony and a morning of activities themed around reading. Over the past six months, excitement has steadily mounted as children have read the six books on the shortlist, leaving their comments on the Award website and finally, in May, voting for the story they think should be the winner.
The Bolton Children’s Fiction Award is decided complete by young readers. After Bolton School’s library staff select the shortlist, adults have no say in the voting and everything is in the hands of the readers, making this a particularly exciting award for authors!
The six shortlisted books this year were a diverse list:
- The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
- Beetle Boy by M G Leonard
- The Last Immortal by Alex Marlowe
- Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norris
- My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons
- Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford
Further details about all of the shortlisted books can be found here.
To open the day, Bolton School’s Head Librarian, Mrs Maria Howarth, welcomed everyone to the Girls’ Division Great Hall and gave a brief introduction to the library staff. Then John Kirk took to the stage as the day’s master of ceremonies. John is a professional storyteller who has works with primary schools, libraries, museums and poets such as Michael Morpurgo and Terry Deary to bring stories to life. He introduced the three authors who were able to visit Bolton School for the day, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Maya Leonard and Ross Welford, and talked about some of the activities that the pupils involved with the Award had enjoyed based on the different books, from beetle workshops to map-making.
The audience also enjoyed a wonderful series of book trailers to introduce each of the shortlisted novels. These had been created by pupils from St James’s CE High School, and afterwards they presented Kiran, Maya and Ross with copies of the trailer for their book.
There followed a question and answer session, led by John and based around some of the questions sent in by pupils. The visiting authors talked about whether they had always wanted to be a writer and where they get their ideas, and revealed a little about their other books and current projects. There were some fascinating and even surprising answers. Ross admitted that he tried to avoid becoming a writer because of the difficulties of writing a book and getting published, but eventually he couldn’t put it off any longer and had to write: luckily for all his fans in the audience! Related to this, Kiran discussed the “fear” that most writers have about their work, which was very interesting. Maya, author of Beetle Boy, revealed a phobia of insects and how she used the hyper-awareness that comes with fear to add to the descriptions of her beetle-characters in a positive way.
Afterwards, it was time for the pupils to disperse into separate workshops led by each of the visiting authors. They enjoyed a worldbuilding session with Kiran, learned lots of facts about beetles from Maya, and had fun with storytelling memory techniques with Ross.
Meanwhile, pupils from Beaumont Primary School were joined by the Bolton School Junior Girls for a special storytelling session from John. He gave a dramatic retelling of Roald Dahl’s The Twits, and the Arts Centre was filled with the sounds of laughter as everyone enjoyed his energetic performance.
Throughout the day, there were opportunities for pupils to buy books and get them signed by the visiting authors. Readers who bought copies of Jessica’s Ghost or My Brother is a Superhero on the day also received bookplates signed by the authors along with their copies.
Over lunch in the School Library, the special guests enjoyed cupcakes themed around each of the books on the shortlist which had been baked and decorated by Girls’ Division teacher Mrs Ball.
After lunch, the time finally arrived for the Bolton Children’s Fiction Award Ceremony itself. There was a buzz as everyone congregated once again in the Girls’ Division Great Hall to find out who the winner would be.
John Kirk welcomed everyone back for the ceremony. He reminded the assembled pupils of the six shortlisted books and read some of the excellent reviews they had received from pupils on the Bolton Children’s Fiction Award website. Each of the books had clearly found readers who thoroughly enjoyed the stories within.
Each of the authors was given the opportunity to say a few words, and they all took the time to thank all of the avid readers in the audience for their enthusiasm and for taking part. Kiran offered her advice to the aspiring writers in the audience, saying that the imagination can be used to ‘travel’ to faraway places with help from Google Maps and reading lots of books about those places. Maya gave a wonderful reading from Beetle Boy: the dramatic moment when the main character, Darkus, meets the beetle Baxter for the first time. Finally, Ross, talked about how there is no limit to storytelling, and offered his tip to young writers: that they should imagine what would really happen, even in the most fantastical situation. The Boys’ Division School Captain, Tom Paterson, also read a statement from the author of Jessica’s Ghost, Andrew Norriss, who was unable to attend the Ceremony, which apologised for his absence, talked of how pleased he was to be shortlisted, and congratulated everyone on taking part in judging the Award.
Finally, the time came for the winner to be announce. John opened the envelope and announced at the winner of the Bolton Children’s Fiction Award 2017 is Andrew Norriss with Jessica’s Ghost.
In his statement, Andrew had said, “I was so pleased to hear that my book Jessica’s Ghost had been shortlisted for the Award. It’s an odd short of book, and I wasn’t at all sure while I was writing it that anyone would want to read it. But looking at the reviews you left on the website, I was delighted to see that most of you realised that, as well as being about how difficult life can be, it was really a story about kindness and about friendship. And the older I get, the more I realise that those two things matter more than almost anything else.”
Andrew will receive a fully leather-bound copy of Jessica’s Ghost in his favourite colour, blue. The cover reads ‘Winner – Bolton Children’s Fiction Award 2017’ in gold lettering, while the spine bears the title and his name. Each of the visiting authors also received a partly leather-bound copy of their books in their favourite colours, with gold lettering on the spines.
The announcement was followed by a series of video reviews of Jessica’s Ghost from pupils at St Wilfrid’s.
Mrs Howarth closed the Award Ceremony by thanking all of the visiting authors and John for coming to Bolton School, the Prefects and Monitors for helping out on the day, and all of the visiting schools for coming along. She said that the day had been not only a celebration of the six books, but also a celebration of storytelling in all its forms, including video, film, drama, narration, and more.
The Bolton Children’s Fiction Award will return again next year, and the Shortlist will be announced at Bolton School on 29 September 2017.
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