Outstanding Winners announced for the unique Awards from teachers!

The 2021 UKLA Awards, the only national awards judged by class teachers, will always be remembered as the year when the entire judging process had to be conducted online, with the judging panel only meeting and discussing the titles virtually. Yet despite this the impassioned discussions demonstrated yet again the impact that quality texts can have upon the teacher judges and the students in their classes.

UKLA Book Awards Shortlists Twitter 2021 site news image
  • The first ever joint winners for the 11-14+ category
  •  UK #OwnVoices debut authors win two categories
  • First category wins for Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Hot Key
  •  The entire judging process, including the winning ceremony, conducted virtually

@The_UKLA  #UKLA21   #teachersbookawards

The 2021 UKLA Awards, the only national awards judged by class teachers, will always be remembered as the year when the entire judging process had to be conducted online, with the judging panel only meeting and discussing the titles virtually. Yet despite this the impassioned discussions demonstrated yet again the impact that quality texts can have upon the teacher judges and the students in their classes.

For UKLA, giving classroom practitioners the opportunity to read high quality new children’s books is as important as finding winning books. Research carried out by members of UKLA (Cremin et al 2008) clearly demonstrated the links between teachers’ knowledge of children’s books and the likelihood of pupils becoming successful readers. Despite this evidence, teachers are seldom given time to read new books or funding to purchase them when they do. 

I have found that being involved in the UKLA judging process has reignited my enthusiasm and I have been so impressed by the diversity and richness of what is being written for young people. I have found powerful texts which really resonate and encourage the students I teach to explore new texts, or perhaps to rediscover the joy of reading”. Ruth Kidman Teacher Judge

As Chris Lockwood, Chair of the Book Awards, said “The UKLA is enormously proud of the commitment and resilience shown by our teacher judges for the 2021 Book Awards and of the stunningly diverse books which they have chosen as their winners. The quality of the judge’s discussions were a privilege to witness” 

The judging criteria call for the selection to be from a “wide and inclusive range” of publishers and for books which “recognise a broad range of perspectives, experiences and voices” and this is reflected in all four categories with themes of diversity, inclusion, empathy, inspiration  and own voices all represented amongst books which have proved  so effective in engaging readers.

The 3-6+ category has been won by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola’s debut title Look Up! (Puffin).This was praised by judges for its ambitious, intelligent and inspiring female lead and as a story which sparked recognition for its relatable message and prompted intense discussion amongst the children who selected it to be read on a daily basis in classrooms. The judges also wished to Highly Commend Tibble and Grandpa by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egnéus (Oxford) to reflect how moved children and adults were by this touching intergenerational tale of loss and resilience.

The 7-10+ category winner is Check Mates by Stewart Foster (Simon & Schuster), which the judges praised as a beautifully crafted and empathetic tale, and one which showed deep perception of characters and relationships and gave a sensitive portrayal of ADHD. It made complex ideas accessible, challenged stereotypes and was entirely unsentimental. Once again in a tightly contested category the judges also wished to Highly Commend Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson (Barrington Stoke) , which deals so movingly with grief, remembrance and mental health in such a short and highly accessible format. 

For the first time in the 11-14+ category the judges felt compelled to award Joint winners. Both Run Rebel by Manjeet Mann (Penguin) and The Last Paper Crane  by Kerry Drewery (Hot Key) were considered so exceptional that both deserved the highest accolade. The extraordinary verse novel, Run Rebel, by debut British author Manjeet Mann, was praised for its complex representation, universal themes, and visceral emotional impact.  The powerful Hiroshima survivor story, The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery was praised for its sensitive and compassionate handling of history, the enriching discussion that it provoked and for the fact that it was so cleverly constructed with the use of different text formats and with  the illustration by Natsuo Seki enriching the emotional impact.

The judges were unanimous in their choice of winner for the category of Information Books 3- 14+. The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson ( Andersen) , uniquely could be creatively used across the whole age range and provide multiple impetus for further study. A book that is both beautiful and important, delivering universal messages with such powerful impact.

The fact that these shortlists are judged by class teachers and can be heartily recommended to their peersmakes them particularly useful as co-sponsor Deborah McLaren, Director of Lovereading4kids said: “What a beautiful selection of winning books! Some of our absolute faves of the year; the UKLA committees and teacher judges have done a wonderful job of curating a stunning selection of quality texts and great reads to engage every age range. LoveReading4Kids and LoveReading4Schools are delighted to again partner with the UKLA to help encourage reading for pleasure and engender a lifelong love of reading in children”.

Once again teachers, student teachers and schools across the UK have been shadowing the final judging and are currently involved in voting for their favourites. Their winners were announced live at the virtual awards ceremony on July 1st. It is also hoped that restrictions will permit a live celebration and presentation of the trophies later in the year

For further information and to request an interview with the shortlisted authors and illustrators, or for images, please contact fao Chris Lockwood awards@ukla.org 

The Shortlists in full


Look Up! Written by Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeola, Dapo (Puffin)

Brenda is a Sheep written and illustrated by Morag Hood (Two Hoots)

Tibble and Grandpa written by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Daniel Egnéus (Oxford)

I’m Not (Very) Afraid of the Dark written by Anna Milbourne, illustrated by Daniel Riley (Usborne)

It’s a No Money Day   written and illustrated by Kate Milner (Barrington Stoke)

One Fox: a Counting Thriller written and illustrated by Kate Read (Two Hoots)


The Highland Falcon Thief written by M.G.Leonard and  Sam Sedgeman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli(Macmillan)         

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates written by Jenny  Pearson, illustrated by Rob Biddulph (Usborne)        

Owen and the Soldier written by Lisa Thompson, illustrated by Mark Lowery (Barrington Stoke)

Check Mates   written by Stewart Foster (Simon & Schuster)          

The Girl Who Stole an Elephant written by Nizrana Farook (Nosy Crow)    

Lori and Max  written by Catherine O’Flynn (Firefly Press)  


Run Rebel written by Manjeet Mann (Penguin)

Burn written by Patrick Ness  (Walker)

Clap When You Land  written by Elizabeth Acevedo (Hot Key)

The Last Paper Crane written by Kerry Drewery, illustrated by Natsko Seki (Hot Key)

Bearmouth written by Liz Hyder(Pushkin) 

The Enigma Game written by Elizabeth Wein (Bloomsbury)

Information Books 3 -14+

Big Ideas for Young Thinkers written by Jamia Wilson, illustrated by AndreaPippins (Wide Eyed Editions)

The Missing written by Michael Rosen (Walker)       

The Apartment written by Alexandra Litvina, translated by Antonia Bouis and illustrated by Anna Desnitskaya (Abrams Books for Young Readers)            

Exquisite: The Life and Poetry of Gwendoline Brooks written by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Cozbi Cabrera (Abrams Books for Young Readers)            

The Undefeated written by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Andersen Press)

Hidden Planet written and illustrated by Ben Rothery (Ladybird)

 Notes to Editors

About UKLA

 UKLA is a registered charity, which has as its sole object the advancement of education in literacy. UKLA is committed to promoting good practice nationally and internationally in literacy and language teaching and research. The Association was founded in 1963 as the United Kingdom Reading Association. In 2003 it changed its name to the United Kingdom Literacy Association, to reflect more accurately its wider range of focus and interest.

UKLA especially supports the development of approaches to literacy learning and teaching which underpin these understandings. The Association recognises the significance for effective language and communication learning of literature, drama, the visual media, non-fiction texts and information technology, as well as welcoming approaches to teaching which draw on the resources of a wide range of cultures and which are informed by a detailed understanding of how literacy and language work.

About Capita Reading Cloud

Sponsors Capita Reading Cloud have over 30 years’ experience providing innovative software for schools and colleges. Today they support thousands of schools worldwide with managing their libraries, engaging their students and promoting reading for pleasure.

Reading Cloud provides all the features and functionality needed for day to day school library management as well as a safe online student engagement community and a new innovative literacy tool to ensure all students are able to develop long lasting positive attitudes to reading. To find out more visit www.capita-readingcloud.co.uk.

About LoveReading4Schools and LoveReading4Kids

We all know that reading is fundamental to the development of children. Countless research shows the links between good reading skills from an early age and future success in life. However we also know it can be hard to get children really excited by books given the many other exciting leisure time activities fighting for their attention.

Finding books to inspire children or finding authors that excite them, can be difficult; the choice is daunting and guidance rather thin on the ground. That’s where LoveReading4Kids and its sister site LoveReading4Schools can help.

LoveReading4Kids is the UK’s biggest and best recommendation site for children’s books. Their passion for children’s books ranges from toddlers to teens and ensures that whatever the age, whatever the interest, that they provide a steady stream of brilliant book recommendations for every child. 

Unique features and services help parents and anyone who likes to buy books for children choose the best books for boys and girls of all ages … and best of all, it is free to use.  You can

•           Download and print off the opening extract of over 10,000 children’s books.

•           Read exclusive online book reviews by children’s book experts including Julia Eccleshare (author and ex-children’s books editor at the Guardian).

•           Explore reviews by members of our children’s reader review panel.

•           Dive into the Kids Zone, an area designed specifically for children, with competitions, quizzes and additional book related content. 

At LoveReading it’s all about sharing book love and LoveReading4Schools is a critical part of this and one we take very seriously. As a community we believe we have a social responsibility to support time-strapped teachers and librarians in schools to help engender a lifelong love of reading in their students.

The site has tons of functionality to encourage a reading for pleasure culture in schools and homes across the country. The website offers schools an easy, impartial and free way to create and share either our recommended reading lists or the school’s own tailored lists with their parents and pupils, offering age appropriate books as well as themed collections of titles. This includes a fully updated set of reading recommendation lists for every year group from Early Years to Year 11. 

There are also specialist categories for Reluctant and Dyslexic Readers that can make a real difference to those who struggle with their reading.

This March the LoveReading team launched this year’s LoveReading4Kids #PoetryPrize with an extra-special poetry workshop by award-winning poet Joshua Seigal. If you have a creative 7-11 year old or a class of aspiring poets, find out more about this year’s prize   https://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/blog/book-award-news/calling-all-aspiring-young-poets-6071

Visit the websites LoveReading.co.uk, LoveReading4Kids and LoveReading4Schools.co.uk

 Past Winners



Mixed written and illustrated by Aree Chung (Macmillan)


The Eleventh Trade written by Alyssa Hollingsworth (Piccadilly Press)


No Fixed Address written by Susin Nielsen (Andersen Press)

 Information 3-14+

Counting on Katherine written by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk (Macmillan)

Highly Commended. 

Child of St Kilda written and illustrated by Beth Waters (Childs Play)



After the Fall written and illustrated by Dan Santat  (Andersen Press)


The Explorer written by Katherine Rundell illustrated by Hannah Horn (Bloomsbury)

Highly Commended

Running on Empty written by S. E. Durrant   illustrated by Rob Biddulph (Nosy Crow)


Long Way Down written by Jason Reynolds and illustrated by Chris Priestly (Faber)

Highly Commended

The Poet X written by Elizabeth Acevedo (Egmont Electric Monkey)


 3-6:  Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea written and illustrated by Morag Hood (Two Hoots)

 7-11: (Joint Winners) Lesser Spotted Animals written and illustrated by Martin Brown (David Fickling Books)

Welcome to Nowhere written by Elizabeth Laird and illustrated by Lucy Eldridge (Macmillan)

12-16: Come Apart written by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan (Bloomsbury)


3-6:  There’s a Bear on MY Chair written and illustrated by Ross Collins (Nosy Crow)

7-11: The Journey written and illustrated by Francesca Sanna (Flying Eye Books)

12-16: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen written by Susin Nielsen (Andersen Press)

Highly Commended: The Marvels by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)


3-6: Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex.T. Smith, (Scholastic)

Highly Commended: On Sudden Hill by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies(illustrator), (Simon & Schuster)

7-11: The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold and Emily Gravett (illustrator), (Bloomsbury)

Highly Commended: The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel, (David Fickling)

12-16+ : The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge( Macmillan)


3-6: The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalt , Oliver Jeffers (illustrator)( HarperCollins)

7-11: Oliver and the Seawigs, Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, (Oxford University Press)

Highly Commended 7-11 Award: Us Minus Mum, Heather Butler, (Little,Brown)

12-16: Every Day by David Levithan, published by Egmont


3-6:  This is not my Hat, Jon Klassen (Walker Books)

Highly Commended 3-6 Award: Open Very Carefully, Nick Bromley, Nicola O’Byrne (Illustrator), (Nosy Crow)

7- 11: The Story of the Blue Planet, Andri Snær Magnason, Julian Meldon D’Arcy, (translator), Áslaug Jónsdóttir (Illustrator), (Pushkin Press)

12- 16:  Now is the Time for Running, Michael Williams, (Tamarind Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)


3 – 6: Good Little Wolf, Nadia Shireen Rayner (Jonathan Cape)

7 – 11: The Weight of Water, Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)

12- 16:  Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein (Electric Monkey)


3 – 6: Iris and Isaac, Catherine Rayner (Little Tiger Press)

7 – 11: Sky Hawk, Gill Lewis (Oxford University Press)

12 – 16: A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay (Walker)


3-11:   Birdsong, Ellie Sandall (Egmont)

12-16: Out of Shadows, Jason Wallace (Andersen Press) 


3-11:  Then, Morris Gleitzman (Puffin) 

12-16: The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell (illustrator) (Bloomsbury)

Special commendation: Tales from Outer Suburbia, Shaun Tan, (Templar)


3-11: Archie’s War, Marcia Williams (Walker)

Highly commended 3-11: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick  (Scholastic)

12-16: Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd  (David Fickling – Random House Children’s Books)


Picture book category: Penguin, Polly Dunbar (Walker )

Here lies Arthur, Philip Reeve, (Scholastic)

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