Reading Blue Coat School recently welcomed more than 80 pupils from eight schools to announce the Berkshire Book Award 2019 shortlist.

Guest speaker Imogen Russell Williams, a children's literature critic, reviews and writes on trends in children's and young adult publishing for The Times Literary supplement, The Guardian and The Metro.

She gave the assembled group at the Sonning school some insight into the art of reviewing books and emphasised that, in order to review a children’s book, you need to read as a child and 'plunge into the relationships and feelings of the book.'

She said: "You can always tell when a children’s book is just a lazy representation of something the author has no real experience of – and when they haven’t done their homework."

The critic revealed that her secret 'treasure' for reviewing is keeping them short and punchy, and thinking about what the reader would want to know.

She also highlighted the importance of using more descriptive words – such as 'belly-busting' instead of 'funny.'

She added: "It doesn’t matter what you read, whether it’s a picture book or a brick-thick book.

"It’s okay to re-read and it's okay not to finish a book - the most important thing is to read and read.

"The only bad reading is no reading."

When asked to recommend a good children’s read, Imogen suggested Sam Copeland's Charlie Changes into a Chicken and, for YA readers, On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, the author of The Hate U Give.

Following Imogen's talk, the Berkshire Book Award 2019 shortlist was announced.

This included: The Silver Mask bu Holly Black and Cassandra Clare; The Burning Maze (Trials of Apollo) by Rick Riordan; A Spoonful of Murder by Robin Stevens; The 1000 Year Old Boy by Ross Welford; Beyond the Odyssey by Maz Evans and The Book of Dust, Volume I by Philip Pullman.

After the announcement, the students and staff had an opportunity to discuss and debate the short-listed books – and then vote for their favourite.

The winner on the day was A Spoonful of Murder, with 25 votes – just one vote ahead of The 1000 Year Old Boy.

Voting for the eventual winner can take place on the Berkshire Book Award website ( or in school libraries.

The Berkshire Book Award for the best, recently published book written for young people, was launched in 2004.

The award is growing in popularity and, this year, the BBA long list garnered more than 1000 votes more than last year.