Awards 2017

The North Somerset Teachers' Book Awards

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On Saturday, we announced the short lists for the six categories of our awards. The response this year has been amazing and we have had lots of queries so we thought a post was the best way  to answer them all!

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We held the first North Somerset Teachers' Book Awards in 2015. Our teachers' reading group (JAB) had been running for about six years and was really flourishing and we had decided to form a Federation of Children' Book Groups group. 'Reading for Pleasure' was at the heart of what we were doing before we were told we had to do it!

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So when it was suggested we start our own award, everyone was keen to get involved! All the team work full time in education- most as teachers- and we all really want to encourage our colleagues to have an awareness of what is on offer for their children and introduce them to a wide range of 'reading matter'.

We decided on five categories which we thought would be most useful- Picture Book, Quality Fiction, Read Aloud, Information and Poetry. We then set about visiting as many bookshops and Literary Festivals as possible to seek out books which we felt offered something special for teachers. We looked for lesser known publishers, authors and illustrators as well as those everyone has heard of to try to bring as wide a range as possible to everyone's attention. We then read, shared, discussed, debated, argued and ate plenty of cake and lots of biscuits whilst whittling each category long list down to the short list! 

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Our first awards were lovely! Hosted by Bournville Primary School, we asked children of friends and family to announce the awards and were delighted that some authors and illustrators did actually come - and really enjoyed themselves!

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So we thought we'd do it again! In 2016, we added an extra category- Moving On- to help with finding books for those children who are competent readers, but perhaps not ready for the subject matter of books aimed at an older audience. Once again, we spent lots of time exploring bookshops, spending a small fortune and choosing our long list.

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Each book on our long list is carefully reviewed by one of the team and we have many meetings to select the shortlisted titles. Cake is now a very important part of all our book shopping trips, meetings and awards- particularly Mars Bar Crispie Cake!

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Last year's awards were our biggest yet with almost all the short listed authors and illustrators attending or sending video messages for the occasion and past winners also coming back to join us. We are hoping that this year will be the same as we have already had a very positive response.

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Several people have asked about tickets for the event and how much they cost. Our awards are completely free to those who attend. We have no funding, but pay for the awards ourselves as we feel really strongly about what we do. Recently, publishers and authors have been submitting copies of books for consideration, but we still buy most of the books we look at ourselves as well. We like our short listers to bring family with them to celebrate in their achievements. We do like to know how many people are coming to make sure there is enough cake, however!

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Each winner is given an award as shown in the pictures above and will be invited back to awards ceremonies in the future. They do not, however, win the pooch pictured in the shortlist photo- these are much loved members of JAB and no amount of bribery or begging will persuade Torie to part with them!

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Everything we do for the awards- reading, reviewing, posting, tweeting, meetings, etc- is done around teaching full time and juggling family life so if we are a little late in answering an email or something, please bear with us!

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We were also delighted to be included on the list of Top 500 Children's Book Influencers this summer. We also love it when authors, illustrators and publishers acknowledge our reviews as much time and effort is spent on them!

Please contact us if there is anything else you would like to know or if you would like to submit something for next year's awards- our 5th. We're already looking...

LONGLIST REVIEW: Superbat

Pat the Bat, tired of hanging around all day, dreams of being special – like the superheroes in his favourite comics. With the help of his mum’s trusty sewing machine he fashions a rather fetching costume and – TA DA! – Superbat is born. When they wake from their daytime slumbers, the other bats are all surprised to see their bat-friend dressed as a caped crusader. Eagerly, they ask Pat what his superpowers are: super-hearing! Flight! Echolocation!

The other bats were not impressed by Superbat’s ‘superpowers’.  All of the bats had super hearing.  They could all fly. And, every bat had the ability to find its way in the dark. Pat could not use his muscles to lift a car or shoot laser-beams from his eyes – he was nothing special.

Pat was trudging home, ears flopped and wings drooped.  He did not feel special.  He was just a normal bat in a silly costume. All of a sudden, his super-hearing picked up a faint cry: a cry of help. A bag, bad cat had trapped a family of mice! Like lightning, Superbat flew through the sky. In a blur of fur, and a flap of wings, he scared the mean moggy away. Superbat did have a superpower after all: courage!

Superbat would be an excellent launch-pad to discussing values and how these can be superpowers in themselves. It was the values Superbat already had inside, that helped him to achieve great things and made him truly special and truly super. Children can look at which values are their superpowers and which ‘superpowers’ their role models have. Children can also look at ‘everyday heroes’ and what makes them special, thinking about what makes a hero. Could Pat be a hero without his cape?

At the back of ‘Superbat’ there is a ‘Batty Facts!’ section that reveals even more about the skills, talents and habits of bats. But, there are many other animals with superpowers that could rival the bats’ – from super strength and super speed, to super vision and super camouflage. Children could explore other superheroes of the natural world.

This Bat-tastic book is fun, charming and filled with energy.  Bold and bright, the illustrations are simple and the mix of black against the vibrant palette of primary colours makes them pop off the page. These striking illustrations have a comic-book feel to them. This wonderful story would be perfect for bedtime or to share in class and belongs on every school library or classroom shelf.

Matt Carr

Scholastic    ISBN: 978 1 407172 82 8

LONG LIST 2017

So, today is the day and we have revealed our long list for this year! It has been SUCH hard work, trying to whittle the lists down.

This year, we had a record number of nominations from publishers and group members and have been frantically reading. We have also had a record number of meetings to discuss the books and debate which ones we could bear to not put on the list! It's a good thing we all get on so well...

The next step is for those who wish to be involved at this stage to read everything. Each book will be reviewed in detail. As we try to constantly review books we enjoy as we are reading, some titles have already been reviewed, but will be reviewed again by another member of the team to offer a different perspective. We will also continue to review other books that we enjoy and events we attend!

The short list will be announced at the beginning of September and this is where we really battle it out, deciding which of the wonderful books we have chosen will make the short list. We think about more detailed teaching sequences and ideas for their use in classrooms and try a few things out on our children! Again, anyone who has read all the titles in a category can vote. (Details of how to do this will be posted nearer the time)

The awards are held in November. All our past winners and nominees are welcome to join us again! The ceremonies of the last two years have been lovely- due to the warmth and enthusiasm of those who come. You can read Henry's post about last year here. Henry's the son of one of our group members and he presented one of the awards for us.

So- a huge thank you to everyone who suggested books- publishers and group members. Thank you to all the authors and illustrators whose wonderful books we've been enjoying.

Let's get reading!