Pupils pick Smartiest volume

Geraldine Brennan

It's decision day today for the Smarties Book Prize children's judging panel, set to award Pounds 6,000 to the overall winner.

Year 6 pupils at Burscough county primary in Lancashire, who won the Smarties Young Judges competition in September, are considering 18 shortlisted books in three age groups for Britain's most lucrative children's book award.

Andrew Kidd, deputy head and the children's teacher, said the judging process had brought "tremendous benefits in terms of teamwork, creativity and brainstorming" and the project embraced the whole school, with the pupil-judges collecting feedback from other classes. "The children appreciate that they have been given a big responsibility and that each book must be considered for its intended audience," said Mr Kidd.

To be selected as judges, the pupils packaged book reviews in a Lycra Greater Spotted Bookworm (Smartius wormerus). The shortlisted authors waiting for the Burscough team's decision include Roger McGough, Jill Paton Walsh and Lesley Howarth. The winner will be announced next week.

* The winner of the Earthworm Children's Book Award for books about the environment is The Living Forests, an interactive guide from Kingfisher Kaleidoscope. The award, sponsored by Friends of the Earth Trust, also uses child judges.

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Geraldine Brennan

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