Author helps with judging for pupils’ own book awards at St Albans school

Author Nicky Singer with years 7, 8 and 9 pupils at Beaumont School. Picture: Danny Loo

Author Nicky Singer with years 7, 8 and 9 pupils at Beaumont School. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

A bestselling author came to a school in St Albans to help pupils judge their Children’s Book Awards.

The three books on the shortlist.

The three books on the shortlist. - Credit: Archant

Keen readers joined a group of Year 7s, 8s and 9s at Beaumont School in Oakwood Drive to discuss the books and to meet author Nicky Singer, who read from her latest book Island.

Beaumont librarian Karin Mayer-Khan and headteacher Elizabeth Hitch welcomed the visiting pupils, Sandringham librarians Jean Kirby and Graine Milner and Marlborough librarians Sue Baker and Sharon Nixon to the school. The pupils, divided into groups named after children’s authors, played a board game where they had to answer questions on the three books before they could vote for their favourite.

The pupils chosen to take part had to have read the three books on the shortlist in the ‘older readers’ category - One by Sarah Crossan, Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes, and Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens. Each child voted for their favourite, and Nicky Singer announced the winners. Car-Jacked, about a boy whose parents’ car is stolen with him inside, was the clear favourite, with One, the story of conjoined twins written entirely in verse, a close runner-up at only seven points behind.

Jean Kirby, from Sandringham School, explained: “Children are voting for this award, not librarians or teachers. Children from all across Britain voted for the shortlist from books out in 2016, with categories like ‘good’, ‘very good’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘rubbish, bury it in the garden’.”

A book was passed around for the pupils to each write down a favourite book they would recommend, which will be shared between the three schools. Meanwhile, the children made artwork or pieces of creative writing inspired by the books on the shortlist.

Afterwards, author Nicky Singer gave a talk about her bestselling 2002 book Feather Boy, which won Blue Peter Book of the Year, and which features St Albans as a plot point. In the book, the main character, Robert, is told he must walk to a mysterious abandoned house called Chance House in a road called St Aubyns, but mishears it as St Albans.

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Nicky talked about how her inspiration for the book came from discovering an abandoned house herself, showed clips from the BBC film of the book and gave advice for aspiring young writers.

She said: “Sometimes I lose confidence but you have to keep a core of self-belief.”

The final winner of the award will be announced on June 10.