Southern Schools Book Award 2015 Presentation Evening
The presentation ceremony for the 12th Southern Schools Book Award took place in Roedean’s theatre on Friday 15th January 2016. The evening, which was hosted by last year’s winner, Sophie McKenzie, was tremendously busy with 290 representative from 30 schools in Sussex and Kent attending the event. The SSBA is a real celebration of modern fiction writing for teenagers aged 13 to 14.
This year’s shortlisted novels were Bone Jack by Sara Crowe, Salvage by Keren David, Say Her Name by Juno Dawson, Hate by Alan Gibbons and Web of Darkness by Bali Rai. All the students had read and voted for the five titles on the shortlist and were eagerly waiting to find out who was this year’s winner.
Our guest this year was the Children’s Laureate, author and illustrator Chris Riddell, who talked about his work, including his arduous commute to his workplace -his garden shed! He explained that when he was appointed Children’s Laureate, his children misheard and thought he had started to take in washing as the new Children’s Launderette. He delighted the audience by drawing his impressions of the authors’ characters and settings from their novels as the authors spoke about their books.
Talking about their novels, Bali Rai and Alan Gibbons spoke passionately about reading and the need to support libraries, particularly public libraries. All the authors answered intriguing questions posed by the student audience. In response to a question from Moira House, Sara Crowe explained how the imagery in her book was inspired by her love of photography. Juno Dawson was asked if she had ever stood in front of a mirror and said “Bloody Mary” five times as this was the way in which the ghost was summoned in her book. Keren David was questioned about how she would feel if she discovered she had a long lost brother or sister to which she replied she would be very surprised as she knew her parents very well!
On stage, the student school representatives received book tokens from Chris Riddell to the enthusiastic cheers of their peers. Just before revealing the results, Sophie asked the students to perform the traditional foot drum roll resulting in a rising crescendo of stamping feet.
Finally the big moment arrived with the announcement that the winner of the SSBA 2015 was Bali Rai for his thriller Web of Darkness. The Highly Commended category was awarded to Say Her Name by Juno Dawson.
After the presentation, students crowded the back of the stage to buy the authors’ books. The authors spent over an hour signing books and Bali promised to return to host the SSBA in 2017.
The participating schools enjoyed the event enormously, paying tribute to Mandy Rutter, SSBA organisers, Roedean staff and girls.
Thanks also to Book Nook for supplying the books and to Shoreham Academy for the loan of their visualizer.