Shortlists announced for the unique award from teachers

In the only national book awards which are judged by teachers, the choices reflect yet more evidence for the growing popularity of verse novels.

  • Verse novels dominate teachers’ choices too
  • Sarah Crossan up for a record breaking third win and Gill Lewis and Morag Hood could both snap up a second win in their categories
  • Books in translation, diverse authors and independent publishers feature strongly

@The_UKLA #UKLA19 #teachersbookawards

In the only national book awards which are judged by teachers, the choices reflect yet more evidence for the growing popularity of verse novels; with both UKLA and the CILIP Carnegie strongly featuring this genre on their shortlists, this is a trend that is not going away and will further boost the 12% increase in sales of poetry reported by Nielsen Bookscan earlier this year.

UKLA teachers once more demonstrated their keen appreciation of works in translation with the presence of two books published by Pushkin Press, who won the 2014 7-11 category with The Story of the Blue Planet, the title which launched their children’s list. Further preference for the diversity and quality offered by small independent publishers is shown by titles from Andersen Press, Two Hoots, Laurence King, Thames & Hudson, Faber & Faber and two titles from Nosy Crow featuring on these lists, which come with the unique guarantee from teachers that these are books which have been tried and tested in the classroom

Sarah Crossan, who won the 12-16 category in 2018 with We Come Apart, a verse novel co-authored with Brian Conaghan, won her first UKLA Book Award in 2013 with her debut novel Weight of Water; also written in verse, as is her current book Moonrise, which could make her the first triple winner in UKLA history. Joining her on the shortlist poetry battle are Mary’s Monster written and illustrated by Lita Judge and current Carnegie medal shortlistees Jason Reynolds with Long Way Down and Elizabeth Acevedo with The Poet X. Completing the list are two novels that could not be more different: Will Hill’s powerful After the Fire, previously shortlisted for the 2018 Carnegie medal and Clémentine Beauvais’ hilarious Piglettes written and translated from the French original by the author.

The 7-11 category features the second book in translation from Pushkin Press, The Murderer’s Ape by Swedish author Jakob Wegelius. He is up against past winner Gill Lewis’ Sky Dancer, looking to repeat the success of Sky Hawk, which won this category in 2012. Further stiff competition is found in the shape of Costa award- winning The Explorer by Katherine Rundell and Branford Boase winner Kick by Mitch Johnson. Previous UKLA shortlistee S.E Durrant with Running on Empty and picture book artist Peter Brown’s debut novel The Wild Robot complete this category.

Morag Hood is also looking to repeat her 2018 triumph in the 3-6 category. Can I am Bat match Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea or will the 2007 Kate Greenaway winner Mini Grey pip her at the post with The Last Wolf? Both face stiff competition from Dan Santat and his Newbery medal-winning After the Fall and from award-winning artist Marion Deuchars with Bob’s Blue Period and best-selling author Jeanne Willis’ collaboration with Bryony May Smith: Stardust. The final book in this category is also the only information book on this year’s lists: The Big Book of the Blue by previously shortlisted Yuval Zommer.

All three age categories continue to demonstrate the fresh perspective that teachers can bring from their classrooms to add to the judging process in their search for books which can “enhance all aspects of literacy learning”, as required by the criteria. This makes them particularly useful as co-sponsor Deborah McLaren, Director of Lovereading4kids said:

“What a gorgeous selection of books on the UKLA’s 2019 shortlist. The UKLA’s selection committees and teacher judges do it again. A perfect selection of quality texts and engaging reads to inspire students. LoveReading4Kids and LoveReading4Schools continue to be proud to partner with the UKLA in helping engender that lifelong love of reading in children”

The enthusiastic judging discussions revealed how much teachers welcomed the opportunity to widen their knowledge of recent children’s titles and enjoyed talking together in order to decide which books would best match the criteria for the award:

As a self-confessed bookworm, I loved having a hoard of new books to read and enjoy. What has been particularly rewarding has been seeing how sharing the books with the children in my Y6 class has sparked the inner bookworm in so many of them. They have read them excitedly, voraciously and enthusiastically and it has allowed them the opportunity to develop their sense of themselves as independent readers. Laurel Smith

For UKLA, giving classroom practitioners the opportunity to read a number of new quality children’s books is as important as finding an overall winner. 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. Chair of the Book Awards, Chris Lockwood, said, “It was a pleasure to work with such a committed, creative and insightful group of teacher judges. They have chosen some outstanding titles which will make the final selection in June extremely difficult, because all of these books are potential winners of our award

10 teachers nominated from the 58 involved in the shortlisting, who came from Midlands region around Sheffield, will now form the final judging panel and have the challenging task of reading all the shortlisted books in all three age categories, which will mean nursery teachers reading fiction for teenagers and secondary teachers reading picturebooks!

The winners will be announced on July 12th at the UKLA International Conference, Sheffield Institute of Education, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK S1 2LX

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

The Shortlists in full


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

The Last Wolf written and illustrated by Mini Grey (Jonathan Cape)

Bob’s Blue Period written and illustrated by Marion Deuchars (Laurence King)

Stardust written by Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Briony May Smith (Nosy Crow)

The Big Book of the Blue written and illustrated by Yuval Zommer (Thames & Hudson)

I Am Bat written and illustrated by Morag Hood (Two Hoots)


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

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

Sky Dancer written by Gill Lewis (Oxford)

The Wild Robot written and illustrated by Peter Brown (Piccadilly)

The Murderer’s Ape written and illustrated by Jakob Wegelius. Translated by Peter Graves (Pushkin Press)

Kick written by Mitch Johnson (Usborne Publishing)


Moonrise written by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)

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

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

Piglettes written and translated by Clémentine Beauvais (Pushkin Press)

After the Fire written by Will Hill (Usborne Publishing)

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness and How Mary ShelleyCreated Frankenstein written and illustrated by Lita Judge (Wren & Rook)

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