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Southern School Book Award

On Friday 19th January, a group of Year 9 students went to Roedean School in Brighton for the Southern School Book Awards. This evening was the culmination of a four month book club; the group had met every few weeks to discuss views and ideas surrounding each novel on the shortlist before finally voting for their favourite. These books tackled all sorts of issues from feeling shunted aside by siblings, to abusive relationships. All were thought-provoking, very powerful novels that carried relatable stories for many people - even those who perhaps do not have to deal with some of the most obvious issues raised in these stories.

The event was hosted by Holly Bourne, author of Am I Normal Yet? and winner of last year’s award. She introduced the authors shortlisted for the prize: Juno Dawson (author of Margot and Me), Alan Gibbons (The Trap), Lisa Heathfield (Paper Butterflies), Tamsyn Murray (Instructions for a Second-hand Heart) and Laurence Anholt (The Hypnotist).

Throughout the evening, each author gave a short speech about the ideas behind their book and also read an excerpt from their book. Simultaneously, illustrations were drawn by well-known illustrator Chris Riddell (the current children’s laureate and a truly amazing artist). After the presentation, there was a chance to purchase some of the nominated authors’ books with a free book token and this was followed by a book signing with all the authors.

First prize was awarded to Lisa Heathfield for her book Paper Butterflies. Molly Baker-Brown and Amber Wise, both Year 9 students, commented that the novel ‘was definitely the most thought provoking, and perhaps the most moving of the shortlisted novels’. This award was followed by Juno Dawson, who received a highly commended award for Margot and Me.

Molly also shared her perspective on The Hypnotist – ‘It was my personal favourite; a book set in 1960s America about a young boy called Pip, whose story follows encounters with the Ku Klux Klan and how an Irish hypnotist could transform his life for the better – I loved it!’

Overall, we thought it was really inspiring to be able to meet so many authors that were clearly extremely passionate about their work, and we strongly recommend reading all their books (which are available now in our school library). They were not only some of the most gripping novels we’ve ever read, but also some of the most memorable too.

by Molly Baker-Brown and Amber Wise

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