Which OHS event sees 60 schools participating, 400 young readers attending and a royal flush of award-winning authors and illustrators regaling the crowd with readings, jokes and anecdotes? It could only be the Oxfordshire Book Awards, which occurred this Wednesday 13th November.
Our award-winning authors delighted the audience with storytelling at its finest. First up, we had ‘Sally-Pomme Clayton’, discussing her winning picture book The King With Dirty Feet, accompanied by live sketches from illustrator Rhiannon Sanderson, which warmed the crowd up magnificently.
Following that was Zeb Soanes, ‘the voice of Radio 4’. Zeb’s Gaspard the Fox series is inspired by the urban fox which used to visit the park near Zeb’s London home and whom Zeb subsequently befriended. The latest Gaspard instalment, Best In Show, sees the eponymous hero venturing interpidly into the human world, encountering difference and then acceptance within his community.
Next up, Adam Baron tackled difficult themes of mental health and bullying brilliantly in his laugh-out-loud-then-burst-into-tears novel, Boy Underwater, winner of the Junior category. Adam’s first memory, he told us, is of falling into a swimming pool aged two and a half and sitting on the bottom for a few seconds before someone thought to rescue him – a story which is recreated on the book’s cover!
The middle section of Wednesday’s ceremony was devoted to ‘Talking with Tom’, a chat show scenario devised by the OHS Book Club. This gave the girls an opportunity to ask Tom all the unanswered they had from reading his Secondary-winning novel White Rabbit, Red Wolf. The chat neatly led into Tom talking about Heartstream, his new book. The concept for this story was based on social media ‘friending’ together with media coverage of ‘fandom’, highlighting the dangers from thinking you have a ‘real friend’ in the virtual world. In the story, ‘Heartstream’ is a social media app that allows others to feel your emotions by posting feelings online. Sharing so much in this way clearly leads to danger, and we can’t wait to read this rollercoaster ride through obsession, fame and betrayal as soon as it comes out!
Two of our ‘highly commended’ secondary authors, Matt Killeen and Sally Nicholls, represented historical struggles both at home and abroad. Matt spent a great deal of his childhood holidays visiting Germany and was fascinated by how this beautiful nation both its countryside and people could have carried out such atrocities. Violette Szabo a member of The Special Operations Executive dropped behind enemy lines in the 2nd World War, inspired the espionage element to ‘Orphan Monster Spy’ an edge of your seat 2nd World War thriller.
Finally, Sally Nicholls concluded the awards with a discussion of her new book Things A Bright Girl Can Do. Touching on the perilous plight of the suffragette and drawing parallels with our present day political issues, this seemed a fitting end to a day of literary exploration all of which seemed to tell our young readers and aspiring authors that ‘taking reality and running with it’ is the secret to writing gripping and award-winning fiction.