This year I was delighted to be invited to act as one of the judges at this event. While there are many local book awards around the country, the Lewisham event is perhaps rather different.
The shortlist for the Lewisham Book Award is drawn up by the school librarians of the schools which take part (not all Lewisham schools, unfortunately). Over the years there have been different kinds of lists, sometimes just for Years 7 and 8, and sometimes with an additional list drawn up with the older students in mind.
This year there were two lists. For Years 7 and 8 the titles chosen were: Rebound by Kwame Alexander; The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy; Boy Underwater by Adam Baron; Refugee by Alan Gratz; The Uncracked Code by Tamara MacFarlane.
For Year 9 the titles chosen were: Tender by Eve Ainsworth; I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan; Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw; Dear Martin by Nic Stone; This Mortal Coil by Emily Surada.
To participate, students can pick up the books from their school libraries or in the public library’s digital library, Overdrive.
But whatever the titles or the lists, each year around May there has been the event, in which we have invited Year 7 and 8 students from the schools who have read all the books on their list to take part. The students are put into mixed teams from the various schools, and allocated one book from the list. They then create a presentation designed to sell their title to a bookshop. They are expected to have 4 slides as detailed below : to introduce themselves, to introduce the book, to explain how the cover and the blurb will help sell the book and the sales terms and incentives which they offer to the bookseller.
Aim: To persuade the bookshop buyers to order 100 copies of your book.
Your Role: As members of the Publisher’s marketing team, you must create a presentation that outlines the best features of your book, for example, the cover, the blurb, the characters.
The buyers can only afford one book order but will it be yours?
Double Challenge: You are all being observed individually and as a team during the morning. It is therefore essential that:
- When your book is revealed you quickly identify its positive points, and
- Ensure that everyone in the team has a task and is able to contribute.
Slide 1: The title of your book, the author and the names of your team members
Slide 2: No more than 5 bullet points to describe why the front cover and the blurb will attract readers to buy your book. Don’t forget to include the age range your book is aimed at.
Slide 3: Explain why your story stands out and will be popular with readers. Consider the setting, the characters, the hook or one particular event (no more than 4 bullet points).
Slide 4: The bookseller will be looking to buy 100 copies of your book for their stores. The cover price for your book is £6.99. What incentives and/or discounts could you offer to the bookseller to secure a sale?‘
The students are assessed on their ability to collaborate and involve everyone in their group, which as they may have met for the first time that afternoon is in itself an achievement. The judges circulate among them and chat and then sit as a panel to listen to all the presentations – 11 this year. This year the judges included a publisher, an author (Adam Baron, author of one of the books), the host school’s deputy head and myself. We were able to put questions to the various teams.
Then while Adam entertained the teams, the rest of us went off, armed with his notes, and chose the winner. Inevitably this was far from easy. There were gold, silver and bronze medals, and then all the students were able to choose a book to take home with them, from a selection provided by the different schools.
This has proved a very effective way of getting more value out of the Award, and I hope it will continue, alongside the more wide-ranging Lewisham Book Quiz which the school librarians run in March, based loosely on the KIdsLitQuiz, but with the librarians setting the questions appropriate to our students.
You can see a short film made at the Lewisham Book Awards here.
Nowadays, students do not vote for an overall winner of the Book Award – all the shortlisted books are effectively winners.