Tower Hamlets Book Award 2019

Well done to Onjali Rauf!

The Boy at the Back of the Class has been voted the winner of the Tower Hamlets Book Award by pupils from over 40 schools!

Onjali Tweeted a lovely video message which we’ll share here:

Thank you to all of the schools who attendedthe finale and to the staff at East Wintergarden.

We’ll be updating this page soon with more details about the finale!


About the Book Award

The annual Tower Hamlets Book Award is just one of the exciting events made possible by subscriptions to the Tower Hamlets Schools Library Services, and is a free event for subscribing schools.

The Book Award is for pupils aged 10 to 13. The aim is to encourage children to read, to bring children together to enable debate and discussion about books and to encourage children to share the pleasure of reading.

Download the book award guidelines and timeline 2019

The shortlisted books!

  • The Boy at the back of the class by Onjali Rauf :There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy, Ahmet, is sitting in it. He’s nine years old and very strange. He never talks, never smiles and doesn’t like sweets. But then I learned the truth: He isn’t strange at all. He’s a refugee who’s run away from a War. With bombs and fires and bullets that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to help.
  • The Train to impossible places by P G Bell : Disturbed by a noise in the middle of the night, Suzy wakes to find that someone’s run a railway track through her house. When the train arrives, she finds herself whisked away to work for an interdimensional post office…
  • Now or never by Bali Rai : Private Fazal Khan, from India, is proud to be in the British Army in World War Two, but is that pride misplaced when his comrades turn on him during the frightening evacuation at Dunkirk
  • Freedom by Catherine Johnson : Nathaniel doesn’t want to move to England with his master’s family and leave behind his mother and sister on the Jamaican plantation. But then he remembers what his mother told him: once a slave sets foot on English soil, they’re free…
  • The Wild robot by Peter Brown : Robot Roz finds herself alone on a remote island, with only animals for company.  She has no idea how she got there, but in her programming is knowledge of what she ought to need to survive.  But then her programming was not designed for dealing with storms and vicious, unwelcoming animals….
  • Running on empty by S E Durrant : AJ’s parents both have learning difficulties. His Grandfather helped out with things like bills, money for the electricity meter and parents’ evening. But after he dies, AJ has to take on a lot more responsibilities and his ambition to be a runner suffers.

Canary Wharf Group will once again be kindly providing each subscribing school with a free set of the shortlist, as well as hosting the grand finale on 22nd November.

Why join in?

Because the award bridges primary and secondary schools, it encourages pupils from different phases to share in reading events and work together.

Schools who have taken part in the award have found it to be highly beneficial in encouraging children to broaden their reading range and develop their literacy – not just in reading but also in speaking and listening, as a core part of any book award is discussion and debate.

The award, and the primary and secondary book lists, encourage pupils to make their own choices about what they read, and to discover new and exciting authors and stories.

Schools have the opportunity to attend the grand finale, meet authors and generally have a great time.

Grand Finale

East Wintergarden

43 Bank St, Canary Wharf, London E14 5NX

Friday 22nd November

  • Meet the authors : S.E. Durrant, Catherine Johnson and P. G. Bell
  • Enter the presentation competition
  • Quizzes and competitions
  • Cast your votes for the winning book!

Timetable (tbc)

  • 12:15pm : Schools can arrive, browse the bookstall, meet the authors and eat their packed lunch.
  • 1pm : Event begins (please arrive no later than this time!)
  • 2.20pm : Announcement of the winner of the presentation competition
  • 2.25pm : Announcement of the winning book
  • 2.30 – 3pm : Schools depart/ meet the authors

For more info, email


Presentation Competition

Every year 8 schools put on performances at the grand finale to be judged by our guest authors!

If you wish to present a book at the finale, tick the appropriate box on the finale booking form above.

  • There is time for eight schools to present a book at the finale
  • As usual, schools will be allocated slots in the competition on a first come-first served basis as they confirm which book they are presenting, and as long as this book has not already been chosen by too many other schools (all 6 books should have at least 1 presentation each).
  • let the Schools Library Service know which book you’re championing by Friday 1st November (preferably earlier to ensure your choice of book!). If your book is already fully booked (pun intended), you’ll be asked to choose an alternative, so it’s good to have a reserve title in mind.
  • Presentations will be judged on the group’s ability to deliver their presentation in an entertaining, interesting and exciting way that will appeal to a pupil audience and inspire pupils to read their chosen book. Time limit: 3 minutes.
  • You could:
    • Perform a play about the book or perform an extract from the book
    • Dress up and role play as characters from the book
    • Show video footage of what pupils in their school think or video footage of pupils voting
    • Show an author interview (real or made up with pupil dressed up as author)

Even if your club does not get to present a book at the Finale, they can perform for a school assembly!

Notes for participating schools...
  • Please let us know whether photos can be taken of your groups
  • Be prepared to be using a raised stage on the day (approx. area 3m x 8m)
  • Radio microphones will be provided on the day and are not optional! The venue is very large and pupils won’t be heard without using mics. Pupils may wish to rehearse with prop microphones.
  • Presentations may include audio, video, still images and PP slides as backgrounds.
  • The sound/ video desk is upstairs from the stage on a mezzanine – if you have sound and video playback, one person will need to be upstairs during the performance to work with the technician
  • To ensure we can play back your AV files, you’ll need to provide them (or a sample file in the same format) before November 22nd.
  • You may bring as many props and costumes as you require to the finale, but please take them with you when you leave! Costumes and other items may be borrowed from the Schools Library Services
  • We can provide chairs to use on the stage.

Art Competition

Every year we run an art competition based on the shortlist books.

Pupils are challenged to create an artistic response of their choice to any of the 6 Book Award books.

Previous competition entries have included…

  • Drawings/ paintings of scenes from the books
  • Poems inspired by the stories
  • Alternative endings/ scenes
  • Comic strips based on the books
  • Character portraits
  • Book cover designs
  • Bookmark designs
  • Models of scenes from the books

Winners will be awarded a prize at the finale where shortlisted work will be on display (guest authors have been known to request competition entries to put on their websites!).

Competition deadline

ALL entries must arrive at the Schools Library Services (PDC, 229 Bethnal Green Road) by the morning of Monday 18th November for judging. Any entries submitted after this date will not be judged!

Opening Times

Opening times

Term time Monday – Thursday: 9am to 5pm

Fridays and holidays: 9am to 4:30pm

Christmas holiday

23rd December to 1st January : CLOSED