Redbridge Children’s Book Awards: 2021 Winners Announced
By Caitlin Evans and Emma Carey
What does September mean to you? For some people, it might mean the beginning of a new season, welcoming Autumn’s cooler days as the leaves fall. But for children and teens in the London Borough of Redbridge, September is a time of waiting with bated breath for the annual kick-off of the Redbridge Children's Book Awards. For eighteen years, the Redbridge Children's Book Awards has been open to all schools in the borough of Redbridge to vote for their favourite stand-alone children’s and teen books published in the UK in the last year. Over the years, the award has developed and reached audiences far and wide. Initially, only four schools took part, whereas today a whopping twenty-five schools get involved.
So, how does it work? The award is split into two categories: Children's Book (ages ten to twelve years old) and Teen Category (ages thirteen to sixteen years old). In September, the Redbridge School Library Association invites all schools in the borough to take part. From there, school librarians, teachers and library staff put together a longlist of fifteen titles for each category. Pupils are encouraged to read the books on the longlist and discuss which ones were their favourites among their peers. In March, each school selects their top eight titles in both categories – say hello to the shortlist!
After the final votes of the shortlist, all the schools are invited to an award ceremony that takes place in June. Attendees can expect a pop quiz based on the shortlisted titles and an opportunity to meet the authors. Signed copies of the winning books are also up for grabs. Previous category winners saw some renowned titles – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Boys Don't Cry by Malorie Blackman. The youth of Redbridge certainly have good taste. So without further ado, let's check out their picks for the 2021 winners.
Taking home the Children's Book category is The Star Outside My Window by Onjali Q. Rauf. It follows the story of ten-year-old Aniyah and her younger brother Noah as they try to navigate their life in foster care after losing their mother. Aniyah knows in her heart that her mother is still close by and is watching over them. This tale that celebrates the power of hope and resilience is not to be missed. The book was published by Orion Children’s Books in 2019 and is just one of Rauf’s successful children’s books. Rauf is also the founder of Making Herstory, a charity fighting for women’s rights against abuse, and her children’s novels are an extension of her passion to connect with and help children suffering through difficult times.
Winning the Teen Category is Holly Jackson’s debut novel A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. Published by Electric Monkey in 2019, this popular murder mystery flew off the shelves and has since become a favourite of readers of all ages. What begins as a closed-cased small town murder slowly unravels as Pippa undertakes her final school project and begins to uncover the secrets that someone wants to keep buried forever. This twisted Young Adult thriller is the first in a New York Times best-selling series, followed by Good Girl, Bad Blood and As Good As Dead. The success of each novel is an indication of their popularity among the target market, as is the receipt of the Redbridge Children’s Book Award.
The announcement event was a big success, as one Year 7 attendee described to Woodford County High School: “On 28 June, we went to the Redbridge Children’s Book Awards at Redbridge Town Hall. When we got there, there was an opportunity to buy the shortlisted books, which I personally thought were amazing. Afterwards, we had an author panel, and we got the chance to ask questions. We also had a quiz on the shortlisted books, which I thought went quite well. Overall, it was a fun and amazing experience that I would gladly want to have again.”
The chance for children to engage with the literary prizes industry is exciting and enjoyed by many. In a society where children’s voices are often overlooked or underrepresented, it’s important to give them an opportunity for their opinions to be heard in every area of life. Literature is so integral to a child’s development and daily life, we must in turn hear and listen to what the children have to say about their readership experience and favourite novels. As we have seen, the Redbridge Children’s Book Awards gives children this opportunity, involving them in the thriving literary scene like never before.