This year, our theme is all about what it means to be human in this strange new reality of ours
The 2020 Trinity Schools Book Award was awarded on Thursday 12 March to Penny Joelson for her debut novel I Have No Secrets before an audience of around 200 pupils from schools across London and the South East and fellow authors Tanya Landman, Andrew Norriss and Nicky Singer. Students from 30 schools took part this year, voting for their favourite book from a shortlist of six with the theme Stand Up, Speak Out. Unusually, I Have No Secrets is narrated by a teenage girl with severe cerebral palsy, who is incapable of speech or independent movement, but nevertheless uses intelligence, courage and determination to expose a crime and apprehend its perpetrator. Penny Joelson herself was not able to attend the Ceremony at the last minute due to illness, but the Award was accepted on her behalf by one of her editors.
The Trinity Schools Book Award not only encourages young people to read and discuss good quality contemporary literature, but also asks them to review and, uniquely, to respond creatively to the shortlisted books. The creative responses received this year – ranging from 3D models, poetry, paintings, cakes and songs to both computer and board games, puppets and films –demonstrated incredible imagination and inventiveness. Many of the contributions were showcased at Thursday’s Award Ceremony, hosted by City of London School in the heart of the City. David Rose, Senior Librarian at CLS, said: “It is often said that young people no longer read, but the enthusiasm with which students have engaged with this year’s shortlisted books and the many ways that they have been inspired to respond to them gives the lie to that statement. The books on the shortlist encouraged debate about the importance of speaking out, through historical, contemporary and futuristic plots.”
Now in its sixth year, the TSBA was launched by librarians from 22 independent senior schools in the Trinity group, with the 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. Participation now extends beyond the group to any interested secondary school. Children from the ages of 11 to 14 read the shortlisted books through the Autumn and Spring terms and cast their votes in February to determine the winner. The student competitions for the best book reviews and best creative response run alongside the main book awards.
The full shortlist was:
The Ones That Disappeared – Zana Fraillon (Orion Children’s)
I Have No Secrets – Penny Joelson (Egmont)
Beyond the Wall – Tanya Landman (Walker)
Mike – Andrew Norriss (David Fickling)
Ghost Boys – Jewell Parker Rhodes (Orion Children’s)
The Survival Game – Nicky Singer (Hodder Children’s)
Next year’s theme and shortlist will be announced in June.
Only a week to go to the Ceremony in the beautiful hall at City of London School. Only a week until we find out which of the six wonderful books has won the Award! Which did you vote for? We are all also very excited that four out of our six authors will be with us at the Ceremony, and you will all have the chance to grab a signature afterwards. They are (from left to right): Nicky Singer, Tanya Landman, Andrew Norriss and Penny Joelson. See you there!
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!