Hooray! Richard Byrne won the picture book category of the 2013 Oxfordshire Book Award for The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur. Richard’s editor, Helen Mortimer gives us a run-down of the award ceremony.
Although 360 children from 20 schools across the county were squeezed into the Amey Theatre at Abingdon School for the 2013 Oxfordshire Book Awards, when Richard Byrne picked up his marker pen to draw some instant dinosaur art, you could have heard that proverbial pin drop. Rather than make an acceptance speech, Richard chose to let his pictures do the talking. The whole audience was spellbound as the Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur took shape over four flip-chart sheets. First the tail, then the back end, the front end, and finally a smiling face with a ‘thank you’ speech bubble for all the children who voted Richard’s story about prehistoric friends, jellybeans, and sharing as their favourite picture book of 2013.
Richard’s hastilysketchedosaurus was then the subject of an on-the-spot raffle and was won by Burford Secondary School where it is destined to take pride of place on their library wall.
R.J. Palacio – who won the primary book category for Wonder – had recorded a heartfelt video message for the children of Oxfordshire from her New York home.
And Anne-Marie Conway who won the secondary book category with her novel Butterfly Summer gave an entertaining insight into her life as an author. When asked what had been her dream job as a child Anne-Marie revealed that she had always wanted to be on the stage but that now, actually being on a stage, was proving rather daunting. But if she was nervous, she really didn’t show it, and she engaged the audience in a fascinating question and answer session.
A warm tribute
The audience was also treated to a warm tribute given by Piers Ibbotson in memory of his mother, Eva. He talked about her book The Abominables and how the manuscript was discovered after her death in 2010. It was published last year. His words were utterly encouraging for any budding writers listening as he explained how his mother held a firm belief that children have a gift for telling stories and losing themselves in imaginative worlds. A gift that is all too often lost as we grow up. But not lost by Eva, who was writing up to the day she died and whose richly-imagined stories always recognize how brave, funny, and resourceful children are.
Pupils steal the show
But if I had to choose my favourite part of the afternoon it would be the pupil reviews for the winning books. Alex from Glory Farm School, Bicester loved the ‘bright pictures’ in The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur. He also liked the ‘way the words go with the pictures’ and said he would give this ‘funny book’ five stars. He ended his review with three well-chosen words: ‘laugh out loud’. And the audience did!
Looking forward to 2014
The ceremony finished with a now traditional mass countdown to launch the selection process for next year’s award and an invitation to ‘let the reading begin!’
And finally . . .
Everyone then left the auditorium and headed over to the dining hall where Richard and Anne-Marie signed for their fans.
Fuelled by coffee and chocolate cake, by the end of the afternoon Richard had doodled over 160 Finlays.
And he got to meet Lucy and Caitlin from Watlington Primary School who had earlier been on stage to introduce Richard to the audience.
The whole afternoon was a wonderful and celebratory event and thanks are due Lynne Cooper, Jacky Atkinson, and all the committee for making it happen.
The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur is out now.