From humble beginnings in a tent at the Hay Festival to the heady heights of London's Southbank Centre this award has grown in popularity and stature of the years. It now begins with a lunch for authors, publishers and children from various Book Groups around the country and culminates in a noisy ceremony awarding prizes in three categories and to an overall winner also.
James went on to introduce the award and explain why it is so significant - a fact echoed by each of the shortlisted authors - that is is about books read by and voted for by children, the only national award of its kind.
To make this years ceremony different to the last the children of Dulwich Stagecoach had been given copies of the shortlisted books and asked to interpret them through short dramatic pieces. The end result was a brilliant insight into the way in which the children saw the stories. They introduced each of the three categories with their presentations before the authors and illustrators took to the stage.
In the Younger Fiction category he asked each author to describe their book in just five words, not many could, then each illustrator to show a picture of their favourite moment in the story. As well as this specific questions included, to Andrew Weale, author of Spooky Spooky House, have you ever seen a ghost to which he answered by telling us a story about a poodle under a lamppost! Louise Yates showed us a picture of her latest character, a toad, Ed Vere explained how his favourite word was Cake(!) and Lee Wildish how he would turn Charlie and the Chocolate Factory into a pop-up book so he could have all the sweets!
Younger Readers where the nominees were David Walliams for Gangsta Granny, Elen Caldecott for Operation Eiffel Tower, Jonathan Meres and Donough O'Malley for The World of Norm. David read, with great pleasure, an extract from his shortlisted book and told us how he wants nothing more than to carry on writing for children oh and his favourite word which is 'elbow'(!). When asked who she would take to Paris Elen Caldecott declared it would definitely be her other half and the five words about her book? Sad, funny, sad, funny again! Her tip for aspiring writers - read books you love, then read some more and more, then try writing just like that for yourself. Jonathan Meres explained that the World of Norm was about the normal world and the world in which a boy called Norm lived and that his three sons were definitely the inspiration! Donough O'Malley told us how much he loved the drawing and as a child was forever doing random drawings and getting into trouble at school!
Older Readers and the nominees here were Sophie McKenzie for The Hit List, Suzanne La Fleur for Eight Keys and Pittacus Lore for The Power of Four. Unfortunately, for reasons of security Pittacus Lore could not be present but he did submit a recorded question and answer session to the joy of the audience! Sophie Mckenzie was on the shortlist for the fourth occasion and on this occasion James asked both she and Suzanne what their superpower of choice would be. For Sophie it was flying over and above mind-reading as it would be more useful whilst for Suzanne it was difficult to choose therefore she was asked her favourite word. Unable to name on for fear of upsetting all the other words we soon discovered that both authors had a brilliant sense of humour! But onto the award which was presented by Patrick Ness and children from the Harrogate Children's Book group to Sophie McKenzie for The Hit List.
They both felt that to win was a real honour as the award, voted for by children, is such an honest reflection of their feelings and opinions. Their message? Love books. Books are joyous, they are made to share and there are so many that it is important not to get stuck on one. If you don't like it move on and find another - we must all learn to love reading - that is the most important message of all.
Thank you to Red House and the Federation of Children's Book Groups as well as all the book groups and children from around the country for helping to make this wonderful and important award such a success. I can't wait for next year!