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UKLA Book Awards 2020 shortlist announced

6th Apr 20

The shortlist for this year's UKLA Book Awards reflects the group's new judging criteria, to include books from a 'wide and inclusive range' of publishers and recognising a 'broad range of perspectives, experiences and voices'.

The judges from Oxfordshire and Renfrewshire have, says UKLA in a statement, "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 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, for example Chris Naylor-Ballesteros' The Suitcase and Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egneus, which both movingly explore the refugee situation.

Other books in the 3-6 age range include a book in translation from the tiny Gecko Press, The Visitor by Antje Damm, which invites children to see a different perspective and to welcome new contacts. Arree Chung's Mixed tackles challenging themes, such as racism and prejudice, for young children, while Jessica Love's Julian is a Mermaid inspires discussion of gender stereotypes and Jospeh Coehlo's If All the World Were.., with its inclusive family, reflects the reality of their lives for BAME pupils.

Previous category winners, Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, are again shortlisted in the 7-10-year-old category for The Legend of Kevin alongside books dealing with powerful themes. In The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth follows the story of refugee Sami; Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer explores dementia as well and gives a vivid portrayal of World War One; and Catherine Johnson's Race to the Frozen North follows 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 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'.

In the 11-14+ age range, Sarah Crossan is shortlisted for a fourth time with Toffee alongside Susan Nielsen's No Fixed Address and Costa Award winning Hilary McKay with The Skylark's War. Less well known books shortlisted include Gary Schmidt's Pay Attention Carter Jones and Lenny's Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee, together with 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.

A new category of Information Books 3- 14+ also sought creative non-fiction from a 'diverse range of voices and perspectives' and the judges for this category came from multiple schools in Renfrewshire and subjects included in the shortlist range from the Holocaust to the water cycle and delivering important messages about equality, racism and the environment,

The award also celebrates teacher's knowledge of books. Research carried out by members of UKLA (Cremin et al 2008) has demonstrated the links between teachers' knowledge of children's books and the likelihood of pupils becoming successful readers.

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 will be announced.

The Shortlists in full


Mixed written and illus by Arree Chung (Macmillan)

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

Lubna and Pebble written by Wendy Meddour, illus by Daniel Egneus (OUP)

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

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

The Visitor written and illus 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 by Linda Bailey, illus by Jũlia Sarda, (Andersen Press)

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

A Child of St. Kilda written and illus by Beth Waters (Child's Play)

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

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

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

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