Sunday, 24 February 2013

Red House Award Winners

Saturday 23rd February 2013, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London - this was the setting for the 6th annual Red House Children's Book Award Ceremony.

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.

Taking our seats in a packed auditorium the air of expectant anticipation was full of excitement, the buzz of happy children and the noise of party blowers!  We were all watching and waiting for James Campbell, our host, to begin the ceremony.  As the lights when down a hush descended and James Campbell began a short sketch all about the joys of halloumi cheese and squeaky mice - it was very funny!

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 true Blind Date style the authors and illustrators sat on their chairs in a line and James posed to them questions, submitted by their readers, to answer.  Making everyone feel at ease and providing plenty of humour for the assembled audience James was a great host.

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!

The winner, announced by Korky Paul and children from the Plymouth Children's Book Group, was Spooky Spooky House by Andrew Weale and Lee Wildish.

Onto 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!

Presented by Elizabeth Laird and the children of Airdale Children's Book Group the award was given to David Walliams for Gangsta Granny.  David explained that he was thrilled his books had caught on and that he wanted to keep writing children's books as they are so special.

The last category was for 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.

Having celebrated all the authors and illustrators for each category of award it was time for Patrick Ness and some children from the Birmingham Children's Book Group to reveal the overall winner of the 2013 Red House Children's Book Award and for Patrick to hand over the trophy to the new incumbent... a drum roll, of feet, plenty of loud blowing - it took three practises to get it right - the winner was announced as Spooky Spooky House by Andrew Weale and Lee Wildish.

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!


  1. Slight correction to the assertion "James went on to introduce the award and explain why it is so significant - a fact echoes by each of the shortlisted authors - that is is about books read by and voted for by children, the only one of its kind." The Doncaster Book Award is also a award in which the longlist and shortlist are books read by and judged by children, and has been sinces its inception. See
    Lovely article though.

    1. Thank you Lynne, I'll correct the typo that I have just noticed. I am glad that you enjoyed the article and apologies for making the assertion that it is the only one of its kind, perhaps the implication was it is the only national rather than regional award of its kind.

  2. Yes, it is the only national award of its kind :0)