Essex by miles
Well, it was a long round-trip to Chelmsford for an Essex Book Award event this week . . . but a very enjoyable one. I spent a day at Great Baddow High School, sharing a stage with fellow shortlisted author Sara Crowe for a talk and Q&A session with more than 120 students from schools across the county, followed by writing workshops and a book-signing session.
The enthusiasm of those who attended was wonderful – the whole place was buzzing – and the staff from the schools and the Essex School Library Service did a brilliant job of making sure everything ran smoothly. It was also a real pleasure to meet and work with Sara, whose novel Bone Jack is excellent. And it turns out we’ve both lived in a caravan for a while. Not the same one, I hasten to add.
The EBA is well-established on the regional awards calendar for teenage fiction, with nearly thirty secondary schools in Essex, Thurrock and Southend taking part, with the aim of encouraging KS3 students to enjoy wider reading for pleasure and to foster a passion for fiction and provoke debate among young people. Participating schools are encouraged to read the books through reading groups, class work and other events, before voting for their favourite novel from those on the shortlist.
The students also post reviews and comments on the official EBA blog. It’s been fascinating to read some of the things they’ve been saying about Never Ending! From those who loved it – “This enchanting book was the best I have read in a long time, when you put it down it leaves you with nail-shaped marks in your palms (10 out of 10)” and “Never Ending should win, best by far. Left me on the edge of my seat” – to those who didn’t – “I did not enjoy this book because it was very dark and the subject was very traumatic. I would give this book a 5 out of 10 because it did not make me want to turn pages but shut the book all together.”
The winner of this year’s Essex Book Award will be announced at a special event in Chelmsford on March 25th. The other titles on the shortlist with Never Ending and Bone Jack are Catherine Bruton’s I Predict a Riot, Phil Earle’s The Bubble Wrap Boy, Geraldine McCaughrean’s The Middle of Nowhere and Marcus Sedgwick’s She is not Invisible.