The Northern Ireland Book Award is an annual event including around 35-40 Northern Ireland post-primary schools. Local book award schemes to encourage and develop a love of reading had been springing up in England and Scotland but no such award existed in Northern Ireland. In an attempt to rectify this, two school librarians, decided to introduce such a scheme to the Province in 2009.
Highs, lows, love and laughter - this big-hearted circus-set debut has it all. Siblings Finch and Birdie Franconi are high-flying trapeze artists in their family circus school. They’re fearless in flight, and also in fashion. Their no-nonsense attitude and endlessly inventive ensembles of bright blazers, tutus, paisley print, polka print and outlandish accessories certainly make them stand-out at school, and also attracts the attention of brainy new boy Hector. Reluctant at first, Finch agrees to teach seemingly hapless Hector circus skills, but when Birdie has an accident on the trapeze, his world begins to unravel. Finch feels fear for the first time, and it falls to Hector to show him that the show must go on.
Alongside the tension and turmoil around Birdie’s condition, and the radiant razzle-dazzle of the circus, there’s a magnificent (if rocky-roaded) romance, and many words of wisdom come courtesy of Birdie’s blog posts: “You can’t control everything. That’s where courage comes in; sometimes you have to just go for it”.
Complex questions are put under the spotlight as the main characters try to navigate their way in the world, wondering who they are, who they should be, how they fit in, and these big issues are all explored with clarity, humour and a whole of lot of heart beneath Franconi’s exhilarating Big Top.
- Joanne Owen (LoveReading Editorial Expert)
Children are the driving force behind the scheme and it is their suggestions which provide the foundation. All year 8-9 school pupils in Northern Ireland are invited to submit nominations which fit specified criteria. Booksellers, too, submit nominations according to sales figures, as a fair reflection of what young people are actually reading and again the nominations have to fit the specified criteria.