Shortlists announced for the unique awards from teachers

The shortlists for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 are announced.

  • New criteria have immediate impact on judges’ choices
  • Diverse authors and debut publishers recognised
  • Sarah Crossan and Philip Reeve could both win for the third time

@The_UKLA #UKLA20 #teachersbookawards

2020 saw the introduction of new judging criteria in the only national book awards which are judged by teachers. Calling 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” the criteria reflect the strategic importance UKLA has given to diversity and inclusion in literacy education. The judges from Oxfordshire and Renfrewshire have risen to the challenge and produced UKLA’s most diverse lists ever, with small imprints dominating the selections in each of the four categories.

The judging process uniquely includes assessing the impact of the books within the classroom and the student’s response to them and it was very notable that it was books with themes of inclusion and empathy that were the most popular. This is perhaps most obviously apparent in the 3-6-year-old age group where both Chris Naylor- Ballesteros’ The Suitcase and Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egnéus, movingly explore the refugee situation. In a world where we are becoming more insular and remote in our contact with others the judges have selected a book in translation from the tiny Gecko Press. The Visitor by Antje Damm invites children to see a different perspective and to welcome new contacts. Arree Chung’s Children’s Book Award-winning Mixed also found favour for tackling challenging themes, such as racism and prejudice, in a way that does not scare or confuse children. Jessica Love’s Julian is a Mermaid inspired discussion of gender stereotypes and this together with the loving, inclusive family depicted in Jospeh Coehlo’s If All the World Were.. , reflected the reality of their lives for the BAME pupils who make up 33.1% of the school population in England as reported by CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education).

Previous category winners, Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, might prove difficult to beat in the 7-10-year-old category. This would be a third award for Philip and the chance to become the first triple winner in UKLA history, having won the inaugural award for Here Lies Arthur in 2008. The Legend of Kevin was praised for being wonderful at capturing reluctant readers and great fun for all, whilst not dumbing down and without patronising readers. But the judges in this category also selected books that dealt with powerful themes. In The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth, refugee Sami has to deal with the horrors he fled from and the barriers he faces in a “safe” country. Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer was praised for its sensitive handling of dementia as well as a vivid portrayal of World War One. In Catherine Johnson’s Race to the Frozen North children were able to appreciate Mathew Henson’s role in the famous expedition and understand a little-known aspect of black history. Thought provoking dystopian themes feature in both The Middler by Kirsty Applebaum and in Alma Books’ debut appearance in the lists with Slick by M.M.Vaughan, which explores what it is to be human as the main characters navigate life in both the ‘Real World’ and the ‘Virtual World’.

Sarah Crossan, now shortlisted for a record breaking fourth time, has her second chance to be the first to win the triple, following on the heels of her 2019 shortlisting with Moonrise. Sarah won this category in 2018 with We Come Apart, a verse novel co-authored with Brian Conaghan, and won her first UKLA Book Award in 2013 with her debut novel Weight of Water; also written in verse, as is her current book Toffee. However, she faces stiff competition from another previous winner, Susan Nielsen shortlisted with No Fixed Address and from Costa Award winning Hilary McKay with The Skylark’s War. Andersen Press have a second contender in this category with Gary Schmidt’s Pay Attention Carter Jones and Pushkin Press repeat their 2019 appearance in this category with Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee. Completing a shortlist which spans issues such as dementia, homelessness, disability and sexuality is Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina, which judges praised for looking sensitively at issues of cultural imperialism and abuse in the Aboriginal experience.

The criteria for the new category of Information Books 3- 14+, also sought creative non-fiction from a “diverse range of voices and perspectives” where issues and themes are represented “inter-culturally and with equality”. The judges for this category from multiple schools in Renfrewshire, were organised by St Anthony’s, UKLA’s 2018 Literacy School of the Year. Their selection spans the full age range and with subjects ranging from the Holocaust to the water cycle and delivering important messages about equality, racism and the environment, the shortlist demonstrates the depth and quality of informational publishing. Judges commented enthusiastically on the interest, engagement, curiosity and sheer enjoyment provoked by these titles both within the classroom and extending into the home.

The fact that these shortlists are judged by class teachers and can be heartily recommended to their peers makes them particularly useful as co-sponsor Deborah McLaren, Director of Lovereading4kids said:“What another beautiful selection of books on the UKLA’s 2020 shortlist. 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”

For UKLA, giving classroom practitioners the opportunity to read high quality new 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

12 teachers nominated from the 70 involved in the shortlisting will now form the final judging panel and have the challenging task of reading all the shortlisted books in all categories. Plans for the final judging meeting have had to adapt to the constraints imposed by the Covid-19 epidemic and similarly the winner’s announcement will be postponed until later in the year. A date and venue will be announced as soon as possible

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


Mixed written and illustrated by Arree Chung (Macmillan)

The Suitcase written and illustrated by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros (Nosy Crow)

Lubna and Pebble written by Wendy Meddour illustrated by Daniel Egnéus (OUP)

Julian is a Mermaid written and illustrated by Jessica Love (Walker Books)

If All the World Were.. written by Joseph Coelho illustrated by Allison Colpoys (Frances Lincoln)

The Visitor written and illustrated by Antje Damm translated by Sally-Anne Spencer (Gecko Press)



Slick written by M.M.Vaughan ( Alma Books)

The Eleventh Trade written by Alyssa Hollingsworth (Piccadilly Press)

Race to the Frozen North written by Catherine Johnson, illustrated by Katie Hickie (Barrington Stoke)

The Legend of Kevin written and illustrated by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre (OUP)

The Middler written by Kirsty Applebaum(Nosy Crow)

Armistice Runner written by Tom Palmer (Barrington Stoke)



No Fixed Address written by Susin Nielsen (Andersen Press)

Toffee written by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)

Catching Teller Crow written by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullin ( Penguin)

Lenny’s Book of Everything written by Karen Foxlee (Pushkin Press)

The Skylark’s War written by Hilary McKay (Macmillan)

Pay Attention Carter Jones written by Gary D. Schmidt (Andersen Press)


Information Books 3 -14+

Mary and Frankenstein written by Linda Bailey and illustrated by Jũlia Sardὰ, (Andersen Press)

A Book of Bears written and illustrated by Katie Viggers (Laurence King)

A Child of St. Kilda written and illustrated by Beth Waters (Child’s Play)

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

Questions I am asked about the Holocaust written by Heidi Fried ( Scribe)

Once Upon a Raindrop written by James Carter and illustrated by Nomoco(Caterpillar Books)


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

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.

Visit the websites, LoveReading4Kids and

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