Red House Children's Book Award

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Picture Book beats Laureate

Children have voted Simon James the outright winner of the 2005 Red House Children's Book Awards, with Jacqueline Wilson and Robert Muchamore the two other category winners...

Engineering works on the Circle & District line at Victoria delayed my arrival at the 2005 Red House Children's Book Awards. A 10 minute trip across to the Roof Gardens at Kensington High Street turned into a 60-minute heavy-traffic bus trip. I guess, in retrospect, the C in the bus number C1 stands for circular or circuitous, and had I had my wits about me I might have jumped off halfway round the circuit and arrived more quickly on foot.

Jacquline Wilson's rings and bangles shimmer as ashe addresses guests at the start of the prizegiving

As it was, I got there just as everyone was being asked to take their places for lunch, and missed the author & illustrator book signings, which previously has always delivered the best photo opportunities of the event. Hence, in comparison with ACHUKA's previous reports from the CBA event, there is a paucity of photos this year.

The Laureate wore glittery shoes for the 25th anniversary of the Award

I had lunch on a table with a party of children from York. I asked Liam, on my left, what he would normally be doing on a Saturday. Either going to Gardening Club at the allotments or meeting friends down the shops.

Liam, after presenting an award to Simon James

Liam with other members of his York Book Group

On my right was a young man from Year 10 [far right in the photo above], dressed in suit and tie. What are your interests? he was asked by someone else on the table. Scouts, history, church. He was a fan of The Recruit and had brought copies to be signed. On the opposite side of the table, two girls and their librarian chatted away with Bob and Brenda Swindells.

Robert Muchamore and his Award presenters

Behind me, Jacqueline Wilson shared a table with lucky members of a book group from another region. And so it was at table after table, with shortlisted authors/illustrators and other regular supporters of the award, such as the Swindells and Jeremy Strong, along with the great & good of children's publishing (Kate Wilson, Philippa Dickinson, editors, agents, movers&shakers), all giving up a Saturday in midsummer to attend this unique gathering.

A CBBC researcher taking notes

Liam, like me, is vegetarian. Unlike me, he doesn't care for mushrooms. Which was a shame, because the main course was tortilla filled with garlic flavoured mushrooms. He was anxious about his role as prize presenter. Chris Meade of Booktrust, sitting the other side of Liam, joined me in assuring him that he wouldn't be called on to make a speech.

Lauren Child

Liam hadn't heard of ACHUKA. I gave him a card and he took out a small notebook, turned to a page headed Websites, and added the website address in hand. I liked Liam a lot. I liked the fact that he was there. I liked the fact that he had been chosen to come. I also liked the unpretentiously natural comments by children in the video extracts. Yes, some of them were a bit feeble in terms of critical acumen, but for those of us who work in schools they were far more typical of children's verbal responses than the pretentiously articulate contributions offered last year.

Eva Ibbotson on video

Last year, Michael Morpurgo spoke via video. This year a number of shortlisted authors couldn't be present, and it was good to hear from them (Julia Donaldson, Eva Ibbotson, Eoin Colfer) via vide.

Julia Donaldoson on video

Eoin Colfer on video

Not only was The Recruit by Robert Muchamore the biggest suprise on the shortlist, it went on to win the Books for Older Readers category, which made me wonder why none of Darren Shan's titles have ever made it on to the CBA shortlist. The Cherub series, of which The Recruit was the first title, is picking up an avid following, with a website - - that is a model of how a site can be used to nurture and sustain a readership. Muchamore was there, enjoying the limelight, as well he might, in a Cherub T-shirt, thanking his mum for bringing him doughnuts while he worked, and thanking everyone else for coming.

Chris Paolini on video

The two other category winners were Baby Brains by Simon James and Best Friends by Jacqueline Wilson. I think everyone was expecting the Laureate to win. In a brief launch address she had promised that during her Laureateship she would do everything she could to get the 'entire nation hooked on books' and said that she would welcome ideas on how to do this. (She has two big ideas of her own.) Later, when accepting the category winner award, she paid tribute to Nick Sharratt her collaborator for some 14 years, saying she liked to think that they were indeed now 'best friends'.

Jacqueline Wilson & Nick Sharratt with their presenters

Simon James giving his 'acceptance speech'

When Simon James was declared the outright winner, he seemed genuinely overcome, in the manner of a Hollywood actor accepting an Oscar, which helped give the whole occasion a glitzy showbizzy climax, worthy of it being the 25th anniversary of the award.

Pat Thompson, the Award founder, summarising the shortlisted titles and presenting reader comments in her inimitable style

Its founder Pat Thompson revealed that this year a total of 128,000 votes had been cast - 30,000 more than last year. The two prime aims of the award remain what they have always been - to support publishers and authors, and to involve as many children as possibile in reading for pleasure and give them a voice.

Jackie Morris, just one of the many other illustrators and authors at the event, besides the shortlisted ones


About the Award and the Federation

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on June 12, 2005 7:30 PM.

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