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Winning reviews reveal a way with words

Reviewers, like policemen, seem to get younger and younger. Or so it would appear from the entries to a writing competition run alongside this year's Royal Mail Scottish Children's Book awards.

The winners of the new book awards, organised by Braw (the Scottish children's books, reading and writing network) and sponsored by The TESS, will be announced on November 27. In the meantime, Braw has named the winners of the children's review competition.

While thousands of pupils across the country formed judging panels to vote for winners from nine shortlisted books, they were also invited to submit short reviews of the books. Nearly 500 entries were received, from early primary through to upper secondary pupils, all showing enthusiasm for the picture books and novels on the list.

The winning review of books for younger readers was by Amy Coll of St Brigid's Primary in Glasgow, who wrote about The Sea Mice and the Stars by Kenneth Steven, illustrated by Louise Ho.

Amy, 10, showed a strong appreciation of the story about "sea mice who are on a mission to collect sparkly stars". She not only enjoyed the pictures and sparkly effects, but savoured the language used. She chose excellent quotations to illustrate her points, for example, "snow was falling as soft as petals".

"There was a bit that made me all cosy inside," she wrote. "It was when Ashenteen whispered to Willabee as they nibbled on special star-shaped biscuits 'still warm from the oven'."

Hayley Melville, 11, wrote the winning review of books for eight to 12-year-olds. Hayley, of Caldervale High in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, picked Joan Lingard's historical novel The Secrets of the Black Dagger.

She, too, enjoyed the author's use of language, praising descriptions such as "he looked as if he had been poured into his clothes". Most of all, she enjoyed the suspense when Will and Lucy read the diary and had to put it away. "You couldn't wait until they put the diary away to find out what happened to the modern Will and Lucy," she wrote.

Aidan Turner of Lenzie Academy, East Dunbartonshire, wrote the winning review of books for 13-16 years. His language conveyed the tension and excitement in Catherine Forde's The Drowning Pond. "This book, its characters and events pulled me in from the very first and only let me surface, gasping for air, when I had read the last few words," he wrote. He also appreciated the "well-crafted characters" and the intriguing beginning that "sent shivers - both of pleasure and apprehension - down my spine". He was clearly aware of how the writer manipulated language, dialogue, characterisation and plot to achieve the author's desired effect.

The winners of the review competition will also attend the book awards ceremony in Edinburgh at the end of the month and receive a selection of books by the authors they reviewed, and the authors will visit their schools to talk to them.

* See reviews at www.braw.org.uk

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