Southern Schools Book Award 2019 Awards Ceremony

Friday 28 February 2020

Nearly 300 students from schools around East and West Sussex attended the event at St Paul’s Catholic College and the excitement was palpable!



Four of our shortlisted final five authors attended; M A Bennett (‘The Island’); Siobhan Curham (‘Don’t stop Thinking About Tomorrow’); Malcolm Duffy (‘Me Mam, Me Dad, Me’) and Nicky Singer (‘The Survival Game’) – Sarah Crossan (‘Moonrise’) was unable to come due to other engagements.





We were delighted too that Chris Riddell, local legend and a past Children’s Laureate came and entertained the audience throughout with his amazing on point drawing. Last year’s winning author, Will Hill kindly hosted the event for us.


All the participating schools had been reading the five books over the preceding months with a vote taking place in early February.

Will Hill introduced each of the finalists, then invited them to come to the stage and read a short excerpt from their book.


M A Bennett was first and read from the start of ‘The Island’ where the bullied main character Link finds himself alone (or so he thinks) on a desert island.


Siobhan Curham, whose book is set in Sussex, asked a member of the audience to call out a random page number: page 17 contained a paragraph encapsulating one of the main messages of her book. The father of Hafiz, a refugee from Syria, tells his son that each of us has our own story to tell and that when you find it you will know it.


Malcolm Duffy read his excerpt in a genuine Geordie accent; ‘Me Mam, Me Dad, Me’, a book about domestic violence has its serious side but Danny also has some comedy moments – some of our readers found the Geordie phrases in the book quite interesting.


Then Nicky Singer spoke about ‘The Survival Game’ which is set in 2050 and depicts a world much changed by climate refugees heading for the beleaguered north where you have to prove family connections in order to settle. All the while, Chris Riddell sketched on a desk next to the stage and his visualiser projected the images behind the authors so the audience could watch and react.


Students from different schools then asked each author in turn a question from the floor; M A Bennett was asked by Lizzie from Mayfield School which character she liked the least when she was writing the book. She replied that she actually grew to hate her main character as power corrupted him, but then she started to like him again as she neared the book’s completion.


Highly Commended was announced first – Siobhan Curham for ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow’.

Check out Siobhan’s lovely article on her website about her book and the Award, too!


MA Bennett won the award with ‘The Island’ – the applause was tumultuous!



Each school was presented with a set of book tokens so that each student could buy a ‘free’ book. Book Nook were in place at the back of the hall with books written by all the attending authors, including Will Hill and Chris Riddell, so our lovely readers were able to indulge their favourites.


After the ceremony there were drinks and SSBA themed cupcakes for everyone while they were waiting to meet the authors, and every student was given a Goody Bag for the books they had bought and had signed as well as having stationery with the SSBA logo to keep and remind them of the fun they’d had.



It was a fabulous end to a great evening.