Meeting in real life for the first time in the process, because of the ongoing impact of COVID 19, the current teacher judges relished the challenge of whittling down the longlists to find the very best books for their category and revealed that they now looked at books in ‘a completely different way’. As Chris Lockwood, Awards Chair said “In such a difficult year for schools, it was wonderful to see first-hand and in person the commitment and passion of our teacher judges. At the beginning of the day, every teacher commented on the richness of the four excellent longlists and the difficulty of their task of whittling them down to six books in each category. They have done a brilliant job.”
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 range is certainly demonstrated in all four categories. It is notable that once again it is small publishers such as Andersen Press, Flying Eye, Knights Of, Guppy Books, Pushkin, Faber and Thames & Hudson who dominate the lists.
In the 3-6 age category we have this year’s one and only author to have been a previous winner. Nadia Shireen won with her debut picturebook, Good Little Wolf in 2013 and now appears again with Barbara Throws a Wobbler, an empathetic tale which helps us to reflect on the universal impact of a bad day. Anna Milbourne’s I’m (Almost) Always Kind follows immediately upon her 2021 shortlisting success with I am not (very) afraid of the Dark and similarly successfully relays an important message to young readers. In this case about the necessity to see things from another’s perspective which is a strong theme across this list. In Tom Percival’s haunting tale, The Invisible, he sensitively confronts the issue of being excluded by poverty, while James Catchpole and Karen George’s What Happened to You? gives us the positive viewpoint of a child with a missing limb but no shortage of imagination. Alex Latimer and David Litchfield’s Pip and Egg is a gentle story of friendship, nature and the circle of life and the final book in this group is the inspiring Freedom we Sing by Amyra and Molly Mendoza, published by Flying Eye, which poetically explores what freedom really means and looks like.
The 7-10+ category features no less than four exciting debut authors and for the very first time a graphic novel. When Stars are Scattered written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson with Omar Mohamed, tells the story of Omar and his brother Hassan and topically depicts the harsh reality faced by refugees. When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten , a stunning debut from Pushkin, tells an evocative tale of memory loss, family and friendships. Bloomsbury have two titles on the list. Lesley Parr’s debut novel, The Valley of Lost Secrets, a powerful story of wartime evacuation to Wales, and the Carnegie shortlisted October October by Katya Balen. Knights Of also have two books in this category. Front Desk the debut novel from Kelly Yang which draws on her own experiences of moving from China to America, and the Blue Peter and Waterstones award winning debut from Elle McNicholl, A Kind of Spark.
Three Carnegie shortlisted titles go head-to-head in the 11-14+ category. Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick and Chie Kutsuwada, from small press Guppy, found favour for its prose and manga mash-up, telling the tale of the 2011 Japanese Tsunami. The verse novel Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam also relates a powerful true story of wrongful imprisonment and Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle is another story based on a real event; the slave uprising led by Tacky against British slavers in Jamacia 1760. Three unique teacher choices complete this category. The Short Knife by Ellen Caldecott is the second title from Andersen Press and tells how two sisters fight against the patriarchy in post Roman Britain. The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud was relished for its skilful genre blending mix of dystopian fantasy and western adventure. When the World was Ours by Liz Kessler also had its roots in a true family history powerfully telling three intertwined stories of World War 2.
Judges of the category of Information Books 3- 14 particularly seek creative non-fiction from a “diverse range of voices and perspectives” which “emanates from the writer’s passion about a subject rather than an obvious curriculum objective”. The judges’ selections span a range of subjects from Catherine Barr’s stunning story of rewilding in Fourteen Wolves; to life on The Great Barrier Reef explored by Helen Scale; to life in miniature skilfully explained by Dr Jess Wade in Nano. Modern Art Explorer by Alice Harman can genuinely help a reader move from confusion and scepticism to understanding and appreciation and Ultimate Gamer- Career Mode by Craig Steele offers inspiration to both aspiring gamers and participants. What’s the T? written by Juno Dawson offers really well reasoned advice and defines a myriad of labels and identities to make this important book as inclusive as possible.
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: “Wow, what a stunning selection of books. Some of my personal faves from my recent reads and many sit on our LoveReading4Kids Star Books list. This is a cracking shortlist of children’s books that deserve to be celebrated. The only awards to be judged entirely by teachers, the UKLA Awards are a special thing, ensuring that the teacher judges can share the books first-hand with their students, all with the aim of encouraging reading for pleasure. We are excited to see which books shine through this year, but they are all stars!”
Co- sponsor Reading Cloud are “really delighted to support these worthwhile and unique children’s book awards as co-sponsors again this year. We are always heartened to see so many dedicated teacher judges all over the UK working with the longlisted, shortlisted and winning books to inspire a love of reading in their pupil groups and beyond. Encouraging reading for enjoyment and improving literacy are very much at the heart of Reading Cloud and through our platform, pupils can review and recommend books, sharing their enthusiasm for reading through a variety of accessible and engaging tools and features.”
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.
12 teachers nominated from the 85 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. The winner’s announcement will take place at the UKLA International Conference in Birmingham on July 1st
For further information and to request an interview with the shortlisted authors and illustrators, or for images, please contact fao Chris Lockwood email@example.com
The Shortlists in full
3 to 6+
Freedom We Sing written by Amyra León, illustrated by Molly Mendoza (Flying Eye)
What Happened to You? written by James Catchpole, illustrated by Karen George (Faber)
Pip and Egg written by Alex Latimer, illustrated by David Litchfield (Scholastic)
I’m (Almost) Always Kind written by Anna Milbourne illustrated by Asa Gilland, (Usborne)
The Invisible written and illustrated by Tom Percival (Simon & Schuster)
Barbara Throws a Wobbler written and illustrated by Nadia Shireen, (Puffin)
7 to 10+
October, October written by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding (Bloomsbury)
When Life Gives You Mangoes written by Kereen Getten (Pushkin Press)
When Stars are Scattered written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson, with Omar Mohamed (Faber)
A Kind of Spark written by Elle McNicholl (Knights Of)
The Valley of Lost Secrets written by Lesley Parr (Bloomsbury)
Front Desk written by Kelly Yang (Knights Of)
11 to 14+
The Short Knife written by Elen Caldecott (Andersen)
When the World Was Ours written by Liz Kessler (Simon & Schuster)
Tsunami Girl written by Julian Sedgwick, illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada (Guppy Books)
The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne written by Jonathan Stroud (Walker)
Cane Warriors written by Alex Wheatle (Andersen)
Punching The Air written by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (HarperCollins)
Information Books 3-14+
Fourteen Wolves written by Catherine Barr, illustrated by Jenni Desmond (Bloomsbury)
What’s the T? written by Juno Dawson, illustrated by soofiya (Wren & Rook)
Modern Art Explorer written by Alice Harman, illustrated by Serge Bloch (Thames and Hudson)
The Great Barrier Reef written by Helen Scales, illustrated by Lisk Feng, (Flying Eye)
Ultimate Gamer- Career Mode written by Craig Steele, illustrated by Berat Pekmezci (Kingfisher)
Nano written by Dr Jess Wade, illustrated by Melissa Castrillon (Walker)