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Winning ways with vampire tales

This year's Scottish Children's Book Awards unmasked a host of great stories for young readers to get their teeth into. Elizabeth Buie reports

This year's Scottish Children's Book Awards unmasked a host of great stories for young readers to get their teeth into. Elizabeth Buie reports

Vampires came out victorious in this year's Scottish Children's Book Awards - at least with the fearless voters in the youngest and middle groups.

Robyn, 8, of Castle Douglas Primary in Dumfries and Galloway, captured the essence of why so many children voted for Dear Vampa by Ross Collins to win the youngest Bookbugs category for 0-7 years: "It makes me go all tingly because it is so funny."

The winning author, Ross Collins, recalls his own first memories of books - his primary teacher reading a chapter of Fantastic Mr Fox or The Hobbit at the end of the school day and how much he looked forward to it.

"I soon started to write and illustrate my own stories and now people pay me to draw unhappy vampires. It's a funny way to make a living," he observes.

Another Ross - Mackenzie - is the winning author of the 8-11 category. He completed his first illustrated book, about a crocodile called Crunchy Colin, in a smuggled school jotter when he was seven. Zac and the Dream Pirates contains no crocodiles, however, but is populated instead by vampires, werewolves and dream pirates. His book caught the imaginations of thousands of children.

Fraser, 8, of Edinburgh Academy Junior School, was honest in his reaction to the book - he couldn't finish it because it gave him nightmares. "I wouldn't recommend this book if you are easily scared," he advised.

But many were not put off. Stan, 9, from St Mary's Primary in Largs, liked it because it "just let your mind go wild". He could, he says, have read it "a million times".

For the oldest age group, a book about a teenager's obsession with deciding his every move on the flip of a coin was the favourite - readers also loved the author's device of using chance to decide the direction of the storyline.

Nicola Morgan says she was "shocked" to have won the older readers category. "I thought Wasted was too strange, one of those books you love or hate, so I really never expected enough readers to love it for it to win an award like this," she said.

Now in their sixth year, the awards are going from strength to strength. What differentiates them from similar prizes is that it is children who have the final say. Every year, children read three shortlisted books for their age group and then vote online for their favourite.

This year, they voted in their droves. A grand total of 23,360 votes were cast in the 2012 Scottish Children's Books (formerly the Royal Mail Awards) - a staggering increase of 44.5 per cent on last year, which was itself a record year.

And the awards, managed by the Scottish Book Trust in partnership with Creative Scotland, and supported by TESS and Waterstones, have also seen increased participation levels, with 400 groups registering this year compared to last year's figure of 323. The organisers are particularly gratified that their push to engage nursery schools has paid off, with at least 2,000 votes registered from this sector.

Chris Newton, acting children's programme manager at the book trust, said the awards gave children of every age the chance to read the most exciting new children's fiction from across the country.

"With research into the awards showing a real improvement in participating children's interest in books, we know that the impact lasts long after the votes are cast," he said.

"Hundreds of schools and libraries from literally every corner of Scotland have involved tens of thousands of children in reading and reviewing the shortlisted books, proof of both the eagerness of Scottish young people to make their voice heard and the outstanding quality of the shortlisted books."

Teachers' resources linked to the shortlisted books in each category are also available: www.scottishbooktrust.comlearningscbaget- involved#resources


Bookbug readers (0-7 years)

Winner: Dear Vampa by Ross Collins (Hodder)

Runners-up: The Loon on the Moon by Chae Strathie and Emily Golden (Scholastic); and Apple Pie ABC by Alison Murray (Orchard).

Younger readers (8-11 years)

Winner: Zac and the Dream Pirates by Ross Mackenzie (Chicken House)

Runners-up: Slightly Jones and the Case of the London Dragonfish by Joan Lennon (Catnip); and There's a Hamster in my Pocket by Franzeska G Ewart (Frances Lincoln)

Older readers (12-16 years)

Winner: Wasted by Nicola Morgan (Walker)

Runners-up: Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin (Corgi); and The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin (Templar)


Winners of the review writing competition, run by the Scottish Book Trust, are:

Bookbug readers (0-7 years)

Winner: Sandy MacGregor, Tollcross Primary, Edinburgh

Second: Rosie Park, Sandford Primary, South Lanarkshire

Third: Kenzie Schofield, Lenzie Primary, East Dunbartonshire

Younger readers (8-11 years)

Winner: Sheena MacGregor, Tollcross Primary, Edinburgh

Second: Jack Harris, Edinburgh Academy Junior School

Third: Yik Yik Beh, Flora Stevenson Primary, Edinburgh

Older readers (12-16)

Winner: Abbie Dunn, Buckie High, Moray

Second: Fraser Noble, Woodfarm High, East Renfrewshire

Third: Amy McKeown, St Aloysius College, Glasgow.

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