Wednesday, 10 June 2009

"It's the taking part that counts." (No, really.)

On Saturday, I accompanied the lovely Liz Pichon, author and illustrator of The Three Horrid Pigs and the Big Friendly Wolf, to the presentation ceremony for The Red House Children's Book Award - she was on the shortlist, you see. And what a lovely day it was too.

For those of you who don't know, The Red House Children's Book Award is owned/organised/administered/championed by the wonderful Federation of Children's Book Groups or, as they are affectionately abbreviated, FCBG. The FCBG is a marvellous network of, get this, volunteers, who devote their time to promoting books and reading by running Children's Book Groups in their respective localities. Many of the people who run these groups have a vested interest in promoting reading amongst children, being by turn, teachers, librarians, booksellers, parents or even authors. However, many of them are now retired but continue to give of their free time to introduce young people to the pleasures of reading. They really are a lovely bunch and as publishers their support and endorsement is always much appreciated. Anyway, enough of my ramblings, you can find out more about them here - (should you be that way inclined).

Anyway, Liz, her family, (see pic to the right, aren't they a lovely looking bunch?)my colleague (Liz's designer) Helen and I, all trundled (nervously) on up to the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham for the announcement of the winners of the Red House Children's Book Award. There really is nothing better than a room full of people cheering, and celebrating the excellent work that has been done across our wonderful industry over the past year. Of the ten books on the shortlist, it really would be impossible to pick a 'dog', as my colleagues delicately put it. Liz's refrain on the way up was "Don't be too disappointed when I don't win, I'm sure the frog book will get it." (But whilst winning would be nice, when you don't - "That's really not what it's about!")
It wasn't 'the frog book' but in fact 'the pencil book' what got it. ('It' being the winner of the Younger Children category) and you really can't feel too bitter about losing out to the picture book royalty that is the thoroughly nice Allan Ahlberg. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was a little star struck. When I was a little 'un my absolute favourite books were Peepo and The Baby's Catalogue. My parents must have each read each book at least a thousand times, and I must be close to that in how many times I have read them to my own nieces. So we'll let him have this one, shall we?

Once we had learned we hadn't won, we turned our focus to the "You're all winners!" mantra which was being drummed home, and you know what, I wholeheartedly agree. The shortlist was whittled down from some 838 titles and almost 150, 000 votes were cast by readers - how mega is that? Every author and illustrator received a beautiful book to take away with them which was filled with letters, pictures, poems etc. all inspired by their book and contributed by children who have voted. Tastes are of course totally subjective, and whilst we all revel in these wonderful accolades when we get them, sometimes (i.e. when you don't win!) it's important to put things into perspective. This is something the RHCBA really achieves through the involvement of their young judges, not just in the selection process, but in the award ceremony itself. Representatives from all the testing groups were present and it was an absolute pleasure speaking to them and hearing their thoughts on all the books. One of the most telling things was that every single child who presented an award when asked "Who do you want to win?" gave an alternative name to the one which turned out be inside the envelope. Now an adult would get terribly embarrassed if this happened, and therefore taking into consideration that the eventuality of them saying the wrong name was entirely possible would dare not venture a guess. I love this about kids, their honesty. It really did make the whole affair more authentic and meaningful for me.

So congratulations to Sophie McKenzie, the overall winner, who gave a very moving speech and definitely made me want to read her winning title, Blood Ties. But no less congratulations to every one else on the shortlist, you really are a talented and worthy bunch. And having published one of the four best picture books of 2008, in the eyes of 150, 000 children, really is good enough for me!

No comments:

Post a Comment