On behalf of the TSBA Committee of librarians, we are so sad to learn of the death of Judith Kerr; an author we somehow thought would outlast us all. We were fortunate enough to meet Judith at the inaugural TSBA award ceremony in March 2015; her novel When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (based on her own childhood experiences of the family fleeing Nazi Germany) was shortlisted for our first ever award. Judith was one of six shortlisted children’s authors represented on the night at Latymer Upper School, and her presence was definitely a draw for the others: novelist Elizabeth Wein came all the way from Scotland, tweeting:
Michael Morpurgo also turned up as a last-minute surprise to accept the Award for his novel Private Peaceful. The pair had long shared a publicist and publisher; they were thrilled to see each other and catch up in our makeshift “green room” before the ceremony.
Judith was keen to revisit Latymer; her son Matthew (novelist Matthew Kneale) is an alumnus and had “such fond memories”, she told me, citing some of his favourite teachers, including Mr Orme, who had only recently retired. When she arrived, she was delighted to be reacquainted with Mr Orme. She was a petite woman with a warm, ready smile that lit up the room.
Knowing that we had a star in our midst, we’d asked Judith to present our student competition winners with their prizes. On the day I started to panic about the arrangements: the portable steps leading to our stage were somewhat dilapidated and had no handrail. I took great care on them in my unfamiliar heels; Judith was 91 and we would be asking her to mount these wobbly steps a few times… Philippa Perry, Judith’s publicist, was not worried. “She’ll be fine,” she said, waving dismissively. And she was – practically skipping onto the stage without hesitation.
One of the winning creative responses was a musical composition for piano and violin, written by Nikolas (then in Year 7) at Latymer Upper in response to When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Nik performed the piece at the Ceremony, accompanied by his friend Tianrun on violin – with his muse sitting in the front row. So the prize-giving became another lovely moment, when Judith congratulated the boys, saying how special it had been for her to hear them play.
After the ceremony, the authors stayed on to sign books and chat with students for another half an hour. My colleague, Mrs Griffiths, eager to do some fan-girling herself, volunteered to stay with Judith; all were touched by her warmth – she listened intently to everyone and made you feel special. Judith Kerr brought so much stardust to our fledgling award that evening.
A few months later I was invited to a glamorous birthday party thrown for her at HarperCollins’ swanky London offices near the Shard. The publisher contacted me for help: could I supply some children for a photo op with Judith and the Tiger (from The Tiger Who Came to Tea) at Imperial Wharf before Judith was whisked off to her party by riverboat? Colleagues and friends with young children were only too happy to oblige.
That evening, at the party, I was star-struck by the celebrated authors and illustrators in the room. In the centre of it all was Judith in a bright pink dress, sipping champagne and surrounded by well-wishers. I wasn’t sure she would remember me out of context but when she saw me pass, she pulled me into the conversation, introducing me and telling her guests of the marvellous time she’d had at the TSBA Ceremony at her son’s old school. She later spoke of her long and happy history with HarperCollins, and how she loved her work. She told some funny stories of bad advice she’d received and ignored in her early career – she was an excellent raconteur, her words witty and sharp, her face gentle and sweet.
We are so grateful for her support and for the wonderful legacy she leaves in her books for children of all ages. Having seen her zest for life at close range, it is no surprise to us that she was still writing and illustrating new books until the end, with her most recent book published just last week. She will be missed.
–Terri McCargar, Librarian at Latymer Upper School
Head over to the Creative Responses tab to see the wonderful responses the TSBA readers had to the books. Some amazing, creative talent from our students. This part of the Award is one of our strengths and something that makes our Awards unique. Enjoy!
For the first time, we have joint winners of the Trinity Schools Book Award! Students in over 20 schools took part in TSBA this year, and their votes have resulted in a tie for Ausländer by Paul Dowswell and Ink by Alice Broadway. Ausländer is a historical novel about a Polish boy in Nazi Germany; whilst Ink is a fantasy set in a world where your life story is tattooed on your skin. Although completely different genres, both books fit this year’s theme of “Secrets and Lies” and captured students’ imagination.
Congratulations also to our other four shortlisted authors, Nicholas Bowling, Frances Hardinge, Muhammad Khan and Kim Slater. We know all of your books were devoured and enjoyed, judging by the wonderful book reviews and truly creative responses they inspired for our student competitions.
We hope that all schools enjoyed taking part, and we hope that you join us again next year!
This year’s ceremony is going to be held at Caterham School on March 15th 2019.
All of these four authors – Nicholas Bowling, Alice Broadway, Paul Dowswell and Muhammad Khan have confirmed that they will be attending the Ceremony.
The Ceremony is a fantastic opportunity to see what other schools have been working on in their Creative Responses, and also to get the live results of our 2019 winner!
See you there!
The TSBA 2019 shortlist has been chosen by the Award’s committee of school librarians, following nominations from the schools which took part last year, and what a great list it is! All chosen around the theme of Secrets and Lies, the books range from historical fiction (Ausländer, The Lie Tree and Witchborn), to the modern day (The Boy Who Lied, I Am Thunder) and fantasy (Ink). In all of these books you will find someone who is forced to live a lie, and has to confront it before they can live fully.
We also have a great mix of authors this year, from debut novelists Muhammad Khan and Alice Broadway to the award-winning Paul Dowswell and Frances Hardinge. As always, all of these authors will be invited to the final Ceremony next March, and it will be exciting to see how many of them we will get to meet!
The Trinity Plus list, which are the books we recommend on the same theme for extension and/or for older readers, is also very diverse. Featured authors include Will Hill, whose After the Fire was shortlisted for a Carnegie Medal and won the YA Book Prize 2018 and Tom Pollock who has appeared on Trinity Plus before, as well as six thrilling titles by other accomplished authors.
We hope you enjoy reading this selection of books as much as we did!
This year we had a very strong response to our Best Creative Response category, as well as Best Book Reviews.
If you haven’t had a look at the Creative Responses yet, do have a look now!
Our winners for the TSBA 2018 Creative Responses are:
- Our winner is Henry H from Kingston Grammar School for his response to The Arrival – look at his Wildlife Identification Guide
- Second is Thomas C from Emanuel School for his response to Welcome to Nowhere – look at his Escape from Syria model
- Third is Joe D from Kingston Grammar School for his response to The Arrival – look at his Suitcase Scene
Our winners for the TSBA 2018 Book Reviews of our shortlists are:
- Our winner is Josh McG from Royal Grammar School, Guildford, for his review of The Arrival
- Second is Freya M from Emanuel School for her review of Welcome to Nowhere
- Third is Hilla S from Emanuel School for her review of Welcome to Nowhere
Congratulations to all of these wonderful student winners. Their prizes will be with them via their librarians soon. We are really disappointed not to have been able to award these in person, but the weather was against us this year.
Up-and-coming YA author Sarah Govett has grabbed the 2018 Trinity Schools Book Award (TSBA) for the first novel in her critically acclaimed trilogy, The Territory. The Award was meant to be handed to her at the Ceremony at Emanuel School, but this had to be cancelled due to the poor weather conditions.
The Territory, the first in Govett’s dystopian series published by Cardiff-based Firefly Press, beat strong contenders including The Weight of Water (Sarah Crossan), Welcome to Nowhere (Elizabeth Laird) and Railhead (Philip Reeve) to claim the top prize.
Govett said: ‘I’m very honoured to have been chosen for the TSBA amongst such brilliant authors and thrilled that my writing resonates with my readers. I wanted to tell the story of The Territory to highlight the environmental and socio-economic challenges that our teens are likely to face in the future, so I’m delighted that the series is gaining recognition.’
Now in its fourth year, the TSBA was launched in 2014 by librarians from 22 independent senior schools in the Trinity group, with an aim to celebrate quality writing in both new and older fiction. The TSBA Committee determines a theme each year and shortlists books nominated by librarians in the Trinity group. The theme for the 2017-18 TSBA was ‘A New World’ and this year 24 schools signed up to take part, including nine from outside the Trinity group.
Tony Jones, Librarian at Emanuel School and TSBA Committee member, said: ‘We congratulate Sarah Govett on the achievement. Given the current political climate it is not surprising that The Territory, a dystopian thriller, clearly resonated with our students who chose it as their winner. Sarah’s vision of a future in which most of the country is under water is a powerful call to arms to tackle climate change. The brutal, unfair education system takes the intensity of exam pressure to terrifying new levels; this is a world where creativity is not valued, where failure of the dreaded TAA at age 15 results in almost-certain death.’
Secondary school children between the ages of 11 and 14 read the nominated books through the autumn and spring terms and cast their votes in February to determine the winner. Student competitions also run alongside the main book awards for the best book reviews and best creative response to a book, which included original animations, paintings, poetry, sculpture and models. The winners were announced on the blog instead of the Ceremony this year. The Ceremony is a celebration of the shortlisted books, as well as the students’ work, attended by the authors and student groups from the participating schools and was sadly missed this year.
Jones continued: ‘With more than 20 schools taking part this year, the TSBA is helping to nurture the next generation of book lovers and offers vital space for young people to celebrate and engage with their reading, beyond the demands of the curriculum.’
Hailed by a Guardian’s children’s book site critic as ‘the 1984 of our time’, The Territory was shortlisted in the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2014 and named one of The Telegraph’s Best YA Novels of 2015. The Territory and the sequel Escape (2016) are both recommended Book Trust reads. The TSBA accolade follows Govett’s win of the Gateshead Book Award in January 2017.
The much-anticipated finale in The Territory trilogy, Truth, is published on 29 March.