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Redbridge Children’s Book Award 2017

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On the last Thursday of June, Redbridge Town Hall was crowded with excited, enthusiastic readers and budding writers along with their school librarians and teachers to celebrate the 2017 Redbridge Children’s Book Awards.  A panel of five of the shortlisted authors – Peter Bunzl, Anne Cassidy, Christopher Edge, Kathryn Evans and Teri Terry – talked about their reading journeys and how authors, Neil Gaiman, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl and books, Watership Down and Wuthering Heights inspired them to become writers. I won’t mention the author who skipped school to meet Neil Gaiman.  They also answered questions on topics ranging from where they like to write – which varied  from on the train, in a shed, any quiet space to thinking story plots while walking round Ilford shopping – to which character they would choose to be from their books.

RCBA_ICHSStudents from 17 secondary schools and 9 primary schools across Redbridge, Havering and Newham voted for their favourite children’s and teenage book published in 2016 and they eagerly awaited the results.

The Many Worlds by Albie Bright by Christopher Edge, won the Children’s category and Flawed by Cecilia Ahern won the Teenage category.   We were delighted that Christopher was able to attend to receive his award.  Cecilia sent a video acceptance speech.

It was also a chance for the winners of the writing and poetry competitions to be presented with their prizes.  The poetry competition was judged by David Fulton, lecturer in Creative Writing at Brunel University and the short story competition was judged by author and Head of Bancrofts Prep School, Joe Layburn.

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Time by Amber Kwong from Woodford County High School won the junior poetry competition and I See a Lily on the Breeze by Naomi Blakely from Trinity Catholic High School won the teenage category.

The Astounding Story of Salt Bae by Theo Newton from Wanstead High School won the junior short story competition and No Going Back by Jessica Johnson from Wanstead High School won the teenage  category.  Winners were presented with a book token, a fiction book and a copy of this year’s anthology of all shortlisted poems and stories.

Guest Author: Nina Simon

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The Mad Hatter: an iconic character in popular culture

mad hatter blog

The character Mad Hatter originated in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The character, famous for wearing a large top hat and having an eccentric personality has appeared in media spanning more than a hundred years! Since the birth of the Mad Hatter as seen in Carroll’s novel, the character has appeared in movies, television shows, on stage and even video games!

The versatile personality of the character means that he has been cast as the leading man, funny sidekick or in some darker adaptations, a villain. Whether you love him or hate him, the Mad Hatter sure knows how to throw a memorable party! On Sunday 9 April, the Mad Hatter is coming to Redbridge to host one of his famous tea parties at Valentines Mansion. The day promises lots of activities for children, fun for the family and an afternoon to remember.

To find out more or to book, visit the Redbridge website.

Check out some memorable Mad Hatter performances below!

1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (Novel, 1865)
Chapter Seven: A Mad Tea Party

Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he SAID was, ‘Why is a raven like a writing-desk?’

‘Come, we shall have some fun now!’ thought Alice. ‘I’m glad they’ve begun asking riddles.–I believe I can guess that,’ she added aloud.

‘Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?’ said the March Hare.

‘Exactly so,’ said Alice.

‘Then you should say what you mean,’ the March Hare went on.

‘I do,’ Alice hastily replied; ‘at least–at least I mean what I say–that’s the same thing, you know.’

‘Not the same thing a bit!’ said the Hatter. ‘You might just as well say that “I see what I eat” is the same thing as “I eat what I see”!’

‘You might just as well say,’ added the March Hare, ‘that “I like what I get” is the same thing as “I get what I like”!’

‘You might just as well say,’ added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, ‘that “I breathe when I sleep” is the same thing as “I sleep when I breathe”!’

‘It IS the same thing with you,’ said the Hatter, and here the conversation dropped, and the party sat silent for a minute, while Alice thought over all she could remember about ravens and writing-desks, which wasn’t much.

2. Alice in Wonderland (Film, 1951)
Mad Hatter voiced by Ed Wynn

Most people associate the Mad Hatter with this eccentric animation and extremely distinct voice. This version was based off early illustration work and was hand drawn, frame by frame.

3. Alice (Mini Series, 2009)
Hatter portrayed by Andrew Lee Potts

This unique portrayal of the character depicts the Hatter as a sophisticated and smart (black market) businessman who ultimately becomes the hero and falls in love with Alice.

4. Alice in Wonderland (Film, 2010)
Mad Hatter portrayed by Johnny Depp

One of the most widely known portrayals, Johnny Depp takes this interpretation to a new level – with incredible makeup and special effects that astound!

5. Once Upon a Time (TV Series, 2012)
Jefferson/The Mad Hatter portrayed by Sebastian Stan

This version of the character possesses a magical hat that allows him to travel through portals, but gets trapped in a world with no magic and no way back home.

6. Gotham (TV Series, 2016)
Jervis Tetch portrayed by Benedict Samuel

This quirky version of the Mad Hatter is an infamous Batman villain, one not many know! In this series he arrives in Gotham in search of his sister Alice.

So which version of the Mad Hatter is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below!

Don’t forget to book your tickets to our very own Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Visit the Redbridge website for more information.

Post Author: Nida Hussain


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Redbridge Children’s Book Award 2016

On Thursday 7 July 2016, over 230 enthusiastic readers, budding writers along with their school librarians and teachers celebrated this year’s Redbridge Children’s Book Awards in a buzzing, exciting ceremony at Redbridge Town Hall.

Students from seventeen secondary schools and eight primary schools across Redbridge, Havering and Newham voted for their favourite children’s and teenage book published in 2015.

With such a vast and amazing selection of books voted upon, the final winners were announced. Car-jacked by Ali Sparkes, won the Children’s category and One by Sarah Crossan won the Teenage Category.

Ali Sparkes

We were delighted to have three of the shortlisted authors present at the awards ceremony – Ali Sparkes, Holly Bourne and Teri Terry.  Unfortunately Sarah Crossan, winner of the teenage award, was unable to attend but sent a lovely message.

I’m so delighted to have won The Redbridge Children’s Book Award 2016. Regional awards are so important in inspiring young people to try new books, and I’m just so sad I can’t be there to celebrate the shortlisted titles. I really hope you’ve all enjoyed reading the books and I do hope to meet some of you soon for book chats. Lots of love, Sarah.

The event was also an opportunity for the winners of the writing and poetry competitions that took place across the schools to be presented with their prizes. The poetry competition was judged by David Fulton, lecturer in Creative Writing at Brunel University and the short story competition was judged by author and Head of Bancrofts Prep School, Joe Layburn.

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It was a tough decision for the judges, as there were so many great entries to choose from! Mia Thomas from Fairlop Primary won the junior poetry competition with her poem, 5 SensesAyesha Ahmed from Woodford County High School won the teenage category with the poem Am I Invisible. Suamaya Zanab from Wanstead High School won the junior short story competition with her story, ChangeAnnie Walker from Wanstead High School won the teenage category with her story, The Miserable Life of Ernie Thomas.  Winners were presented with a book token, a fiction book and a copy of this year’s anthology of all shortlisted poems and stories.

Many thanks to everyone who attended the event, especially the authors who gave up their time to be present, students and teachers who participated so enthusiastically and a very special thank you to my team in the Redbridge Schools’ Library Service who worked very hard behind the scenes to ensure the afternoon was such a success.

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The book award is organised by Redbridge Schools’ Library Service and sponsored by MLS (Micro Librarian Systems).

Nina Simon, Redbridge Schools’ Library Service


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Holly Black and Emily Lockhart get the kids votes in the Redbridge Children’s Book Awards 2015

Reading for pleasure and creative writing is thriving in Redbridge schools.  On Thursday 25 June 2015, around 200 young readers, budding writers and their school librarians and teachers celebrated this year’s Redbridge Children’s Book Awards in a vibrant, exciting ceremony at Redbridge Town Hall.

Students from 14 secondary schools and 9 primary schools across Redbridge and Newham voted for their favourite children’s and teenage book published in 2014.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra, won the Children’s category and We Were Liars by E Lockhart won the Teenage Category.

          RCBA 2015 Authors and children               RBA 2015 Authors

We were delighted to have six of the shortlisted authors, Sita Brahmachri, Kevin Brooks, Keren David, A.F. Harrold, Polly Ho-Yen and Bali Rai, attend.  They answered varied questions from eager students and signed copies of their books.  Emily Lockhart, who was unable to attend, sent a message saying “I am honoured and happy.  Libraries have been my home since childhood and they are home to so many children and teens.  Long may we all read and share and celebrate books.”

It was also a chance for the winners of the writing and poetry competitions to be presented with their prizes by the Mayor, Cllr Barbara White.  The poetry competition was judged by David Fulton, lecturer in Creative Writing at Brunel University and the short story competition was judged by author and Head of Bancrofts Prep School, Joe Layburn.

Esther Ukhueleigbe from Ray Lodge Primary School won the years 6 and 7 poetry competition with her poem, Make it GreenKanishk Panchal from The Palmer Academy, Ilford  won the year 8 and above category with the poem Our Cursed Elements.

Jessica Johnson from Wanstead High School won the years 6 and 7 short story competition with her story, My Father, The WomanFreddie Cochran from Wanstead High School won year 8 and above  category  with his story, The Shirt.  Winners were presented with a book token, a fiction book and a copy of this year’s anthology of all shortlisted poems and stories.

Our thanks to everyone who attended, especially the authors who gave up their time to be present and who made the afternoon so special, students and teachers who participated so enthusiastically and most of all, the Redbridge Schools’ Library Service team who worked  very hard behind the scenes to ensure the afternoon was such a success.

The book award is organised by Redbridge Schools’ Library Service and sponsored by MLS (Micro Librarian Systems).

Nina Simon
Manager Redbridge Schools’ Library Service


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National Libraries Day: Users Reveal What the Library Means to Them

Every year, libraries everywhere provide joy, help and knowledge to their community. From their countless shelves lined with books waiting to be read, to the fantastic staff who help organise all the activities, there’s always something to gain from spending time at the library. That is why on Saturday 7 February National Libraries Day was celebrated, to appreciate all the wonderful things that the library does for its users. I went to Redbridge Central Library to see what was going on to mark the occasion.

It was very fitting to mark the whole occasion on the birthday of one of the most widely read and loved authors, Charles Dickens. So it only seemed right to have a Victorian theme running through the celebrations on the day. Nick Dobson was on hand to provide an insight into the life and career of Charles Dickens through pictures and readings from actor Allan Yeoman. Something a little bit more creative for the children was the crafts session where you could make your very own Victorian set of accessories including hats and fans. Seeing all the finished products almost transported you right back to the 1800s!

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I was very lucky to have been given the task of finding out what the library really means to the community. Armed with a camera, clipboard and coloured pens I asked children, students and adults to complete the sentence ‘to me, the library is…’ to understand what it is that they will be celebrating about the library. I had some fantastic responses. Some people had so many answers they had to write them all down. Many of the students seemed to mainly appreciate the peaceful surroundings in the study areas, allowing them the right environment to succeed in their studies. The younger library-goers seemed to love the books and the activities on offer at the library. Other people wanted to celebrate specific services of Redbridge Central Library, including Redbridge Museum and the fantastic Heritage Services.

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Being at the library on any day is always a great experience, but being there on National Libraries Day really makes you truly appreciate everything that the library is and does. Without the library, where would we be? I asked myself this as I walked away from the studying students, the cheerful children and all the other people enjoying what the library has to offer. I realised just how fortunate I am to have such a great facility on my doorstep.

Visit the website for more information on your local library

Post Author: Raeesa Mukhtar


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A celebration of libraries and the Arts: Fabula Festival is a true success!

After hearing about the library being jam-packed on Saturday, for the first full day of the Fabula Festival, I did not want to miss out. So, I went to along on Sunday to enjoy the talks, stalls and the company!

There’s something about being in the library on a Sunday, when it’s not usually open, that makes it feel all the more exciting. The doors opened at 11am and the library was ready to welcome everyone and anyone who wanted to enjoy the various authors coming to discuss their books and the creative workshops to get those creative juices flowing!

Fabula Festival is all about celebrating libraries and the arts, so it was really great to see people of all ages walk through those doors as it proved that there really is something for everyone at the library. A personal favourite of mine was the Ubuntu Arts workshop that had a glorious array of colourful beads, paper and decorations to create your own greetings card – be it for a birthday or a wedding, there was a chance to make any card you could think of.

Even I got stuck in with this one and was delighted to hear that everyone was enjoying themselves. There was a gentle buzz of children whizzing around the library for the treasure hunt and excited murmuring of the crowds waiting to see their favourite author. It really was the perfect way to relax on a Sunday afternoon, I thought to myself as I reached over for the box that overflowed with sequins and ribbons.

Fabula butterfly girlFabula boys cards

Not far away from the greetings card stall was Knitters which also attracted young children, parents and grandparents. One little girl beamed with excitement as she exclaimed her intent on making a woolly hat – yes, what a smart and convenient idea for this chilly time of year!

Just behind the Ubuntu Arts stall was a heart drawn on the window and in the heart were all these fingerprints of people who had visited the festival. Not only was it pretty to look at because of all the different colours people had chosen for their fingerprints, but it was a way of physically capturing the wonder of the Fabula Festival.

Fabula heart

There was also a very important guest at the festival. The Deputy Mayor of Redbridge popped by and perused the goings-on and she even left her fingerprint on the window display! 

I peeped around to see what else was going on and found the ‘Restart Party’ which was offering help and advice about maintaining and repairing technology – something that we can all benefit from these days! There was also a cake decorating workshop that got everyone’s mouths watering. All the author events were extremely popular which was more than understandable as they included: Clive Bloom, Khalil Ali and Claudia Lord-Lynch.

You could just tell that the day would be a successful one. As big groups left the library all in a good mood after the events, more people entered, ready to experience the Fabula Festival!

Post Author: Raeesa Mukhtar


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The Summer Reading Challenge Proves To Be A Rewarding Experience For Both Young Readers And Volunteers

My name is Simi and I am currently volunteering as a Summer Reading Challenge volunteer at Redbridge Central Library. I wanted to become a volunteer because I see it as a good opportunity for me to work with children and young people as I want to work with children in the future. As an avid reader myself, I also wanted to encourage reading amongst children.

At the start, I was provided with my own name tag and Mythical Maze t-shirt (which I must say, is pretty comfortable!) I particularly enjoy having conversations with the children about what they love about reading their favourite book. From what I’ve seen, some young children love it when they are asked even the simplest questions about the books they read such as their favourite characters and favourite part of the book.

What I find challenging is communicating with young people around the age of 7-9 years because they often lose interest in reading. I found that children below the age of 6 are more engaged in reading books, maybe because the books they read have pictures that relate to the story whereas older children read books that have less illustrations. So the challenge for me is to get them to maintain their interest in their books.

Working at the library provides me with a safe and quiet working environment and also a chance to persuade parents to encourage their children to join the Reading Challenge as often, the parents approach me and ask me to suggest books for their children.

This year’s Summer Reading Challenge is based on a “Mythical Maze” – and what a wonderful theme it is! Children love to explore and that is exactly what the word mythical suggests. It promises magical things for them to discover and enjoy. The great thing about volunteering as a reading activist is giving out prizes, often the final prize which is the medal, certificate and the last sticker for their maze. Some of the younger kids enjoy receiving their prizes which also acts as an incentive for them to read more books and get more prizes.

It’s always fun talking to children and young people and interacting with the other volunteers. The staff are also very helpful and encouraging. It can also boost your confidence and improve interpersonal skills. I would definitely recommend volunteering at your local library for the 2015 Summer Reading Challenge. As for me, I will definitely be looking forward to volunteering again next year.

For more information on volunteering visit the Libraries page on the Redbridge-i

Guest Author: Simi Menon