It helps to have something to read while you're on the edge of your seat, waiting to hear what Madonna has to say about "the power of words and the importance of teachers" (the theme of her second picture book, to be published on Monday). There are eight reads for key stages 2 and 3 on the shortlist for the Torchlight Award, announced today: Hoot by thriller writer Carl Hiaasen (Macmillan); How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell (Hodder); Indigo's Star, a family drama by Hilary McKay (Hodder); The Silver Bead, the last of the wonderful Zillah stories by Helen Dunmore (Scholastic Press); The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird, the story of a homeless boy in Ethiopia (Macmillan); The Time Twister by Jenny Nimmo (Egmont); The Field Guide, the first of the ultra-gothic Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (Simon amp; Schuster, pictured); and the highly original Montmorency by Eleanor Updale (Scholastic Press).
Schools have until the end of March to encourage pupils to read the books and vote online for the winner. Askews, the library supplier behind the award, is offering a set of all eight books (total price pound;75) to a Friday reader: email enquiries@ askews.co.uk by November 21 to enter. See www.askews.co.uk for details.