Southern Schools Book Award 2016 Presentation Evening
The Southern Schools Book Award (SSBA) was held at Roedean on Friday 3rd February, having been rearranged following cancellation on the inauspicious Friday 13th January due to inclement weather. Fortunately most of the authors were able to make the new date and thanks go to Bali Rai, last year’s winner, for hosting the evening, particularly as he was travelling to Manchester for a reading festival the following morning. Most of the thirty-plus SSBA schools were able to attend, having made a stirling effort to reorganise school commitments, student permission slips, and minibus bookings.
On the short list this year were Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne, One by Sarah Crossan, Seed by Lisa Heathfield, Bomb by Sarah Mussi and The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson. The themes of the books this year were wide ranging, covering topics such as OCD and feminism, conjoined twins, a cult, terrorism and LGBTQ+ characters. The short list had been very popular with the SSBA readers this year, many of whom had read all five books in record time.
We were thrilled to welcome back Chris Riddell, the Children’s Laureate, who delighted all with his quick-thinking drawing of the authors and his impressions of their books. One of the schools asked what his favourite word was and had he used it in a book. Chris promptly wrote the word ‘hug’, illustrating his answer with a picture of a bear hugging a child which had featured in his latest book, 100 Hugs. The author Lisa Heathfield whose book was based on a cult called Seed was asked ‘If you were to start a cult yourself, what kind of cult would it be?’ While she answered the question, Chris was busily drawing a self-portrait with the caption “middle-aged man cult”.
Later on stage, the student school representatives received book tokens from Chris Riddell and then tension mounted as the SSBA readers waited excitedly to find out who had won the SSBA 2016. Bali asked the students to perform the traditional foot drum roll and revealed the winner was Holly Bourne with Am I Normal Yet? and the highly-commended runner-up was Lisa Williamson with The Art of Being Normal.
After the presentation, students stormed the back of the stage to buy the authors’ books from Book Nook. The authors spent over an hour signing books and chatting to the students. Bali later commented that it was an absolute pleasure to take part and the students were amazing.
The participating schools enjoyed the event enormously, volunteering their thanks to the SSBA organisers, Roedean staff and girls:
“Thank you for arranging tonight’s Southern School Book Award presentation. I had been looking forward to get my favourite book signed by the author for many years. I also got a photo with Lisa Williamson and her book ‘the Art of Being Normal’. It was such a great time, and I cherish the memories we had. P.S. We all love the cookies!”
Sarah (Zhiqing Xia) pupil at Brighton College New House
“We all had a great time. The Head of English, who has never attended before, thought it was fantastic! Really pleased that the winner was one of those attending and Chris Riddell was brilliant. Gets better every year!”
Gina Pellett, Librarian, Willingdon School
“Wow what an amazing evening, I had a great time and a lots of fun. I was not sure what to expected as being a newbie. It was incredible watching Chris Riddell do his drawings; I was transfixed.”
Lucy Nunn, Librarian, Hailsham Community College
“I had a really wonderful evening and was thrilled TAOBN won the highly commended prize. Thank you for inviting me and for looking after us all so well.”
Lisa Williamson, Highly Commended author for The Art of Being Normal
With thanks to Sue Blood (librarian) and Ndali (pupil) of Roedean School for the pictures.