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Journalist and writer

Archive for June 2009

Red House Book Award winners 2009

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Former journalist and editor Sophie McKenzie has scooped the overall prize in the prestigious Red House Children’s Book Award 2009 for her thrilling teen novel, Blood Ties.

The award is regarded as the most important children’s prize for literature because it is the only award voted for solely by young readers.

It is second time lucky for McKenzie, as her novel, Girl, Missing, won the older readers’ category in 2007.

Blood Ties (Simon and Schuster) won both the older readers’ category and overall prizes in the award, which is owned and co-ordinated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.

The winning novel is a gripping thriller that explores issues of genetic engineering and personal identity.

Tightly plotted, readers said they empathised with the teenage characters Rachel and Theo who struggle with their sense of identity.

The fast-paced novel keeps readers on the edge of their seats as the protagonists race to survive against the odds.

McKenzie learned of her win at a glittering awards luncheon at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens yesterday (Saturday) which was attended by more than 200 people, including 80 children from across the country, all of whom were involved in the voting.

Stunned McKenzie, who won a silver trophy, said she was honoured to win this unique literary prize.

Blood Ties is my favourite book so I am completely overwhelmed that the readers have chosen it as theirs, too,” she said.

“I am delighted and it is a huge honour, but this isn’t really about an award, fantastic though it is to have won it, it is a celebration of reading. It’s stories above everything.

“I passionately love stories as they help us understand the world around us and the work the Federation of Children’s Book Groups does in getting children to love books and reading cannot be underestimated.”

Two other category winners in the 29th annual award were also announced at the event: Allan Ahlberg’s beautiful picture book The Pencil (Walker), illustrated by Bruce Ingman, has taken the younger children category, while Kes Gray’s fun story, Daisy and the Trouble with Zoos (Random House) has clinched the younger readers’ category.

An incredible 143,295 votes were cast by children and young adults all over the UK both online and through ballots collated by regional co-ordinators of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups.

Thousands of children from schools, libraries and nurseries spent 18 months devouring 838 titles to find the shortlistedten books, four in the category for books for younger children, and three each in the younger readers’ and older readers’ categories.                                                                


Announcing the winners, Sinead Kromer, national co-ordinator for the RHCBA, said: “The Red House Children’s Book Award is the only award that truly values the opinion of children and empowers them to make the decisions that collectively decide the winners.

“If you look back over the winners of the past 28 years most of them have become bestsellers and even modern classics.

“The children know what they like and know what they want to read. And it is children who have chosen the winners.

“The names of the winners are a closely guarded secret until the envelope is opened, the winners announced, the whistles blown, the poppers explode and the hall bursts into applause. It is an experience the children will remember for a very long time!”

Seni Glaister, CEO of Red House, said: “Congratulations to all the winners of the award, especially overall winner Sophie McKenzie whose exciting thriller Blood Ties has gripped children around the UK.”

This week I am letting go of my baby

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Today is the day my daughter has been waiting for for the past four years. It is the day that she and the rest of her school year go off away for four nights on their first school residential trip.
For her – and most of her friends – it is the first time she’ll have been away from home (staying away at grandparents’ for a night doesn’t count) for any length of time.
We parents had been to meetings galore, signed pages of permission forms, health and safety forms and medical papers, read letters and online communications about the trip.
With each extra piece of information, my daughter became more excited about spending four nights with her friends in the Lake District with teachers and a handful of parent helpers.
The preparation by the school, which has visited the same site and used the same adventure company for years, was faultless.
And although I couldn’t help but have a few pangs that I was cutting the cord a little more, I was happy for her to go.
The purpose of the trip is commendable: to develop independence and teach the children to work together. In just a few days, they will be ghyll scrambling, abseiling, canoeing, carrying out team-building competitions, taking part in quizzes. They are bonding, growing. They are starting to find out who they are, and who they could be.
There will be born leaders and those who are natural followers, but all will be pushed to find their potential. They are all nine and ten years old and are preparing for life beyond the cosseted world of primary school.
As they approach their final year in juniors, they will look like big fish in a tiny pond; they will outgrow their surroundings and will need to spread their wings.
My little girl and her friends are growing up. Fast.
Inevitably, there were nerves and all looked nervous as the coach pulled away from the school gates and parents waved them off. Amazingly, there were no tears from neither children nor adults. Not in public, anyway.
Of course, I miss her already. But I’m looking forward to her return. And I’m expecting many changes.

Written by CommonPeople

June 2, 2009 at 6:40 pm