Teachers’ highest accolade also goes to Carnegie winner Katya Balen

First ever joint winners in 3-6+ category

Diverse and inclusive choices celebrated

Three judges from each of the four category panels are nominated by their colleagues to go on to form the final judging panel to decide the UKLA 2022 winners. They read the shortlists from all four categories regardless of the age group they teach. This was the first time such a panel had been able to meet in person for two years and it produced the passionate debate that characterises the impact of these awards. As judge Theresa Gooda said “It was a privilege to be able to read so many high quality books one after another, and it made for agonising decisions. The rare opportunity for such reflective book talk with colleagues, which then translated into rich classroom conversations with students, has been invaluable professional development.”

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 with four category winners who stretch from Guppy Books to the giant Puffin.

For the first time in the history of the awards the judges felt compelled to award joint winners In the 3-6+ age category. Both Barbara Throws a Wobbler by Nadia Shireen and The Invisible by Tom Percival were considered so exceptional in very different ways that both deserved the highest accolade. Nadia Shireen was a previous winner with her debut picturebook, Good Little Wolf in 2013 and now joins the eminent ranks of double winners. Judges said Barbara Throws a Wobbler was a “joy” A very funny tale which “delivers on reading for pleasure as well as helping us all to reflect on the universal impact of a bad day, teaching valuable lessons in empathy and allowing children to talk about and understand their feelings”. Tom Percival’s haunting tale, The Invisible, beautifully and sensitively confronts the issue of being excluded by poverty. Judges felt this was an “important story which packs a real emotional punch” and should be “in every classroom”

The 7-10+ category winner, October, October by Katya Balen also won this year’s Carnegie medal – a feat which has not been repeated in these awards since A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness in 2012. Praised by judges for the” beautiful use of language” which “really sounds like a child and yet is so poetic and complex” and provokes a “strong emotional response” in all readers. The judges also wished to Highly Commend Front Desk, the debut novel from Kelly Yang which draws on her own experience of moving from China to America and yet this “positive story of making new lives” clearly resonates with the lived experience of many children in the UK and provides a “really powerful message about resilience” in an accessible and entertaining package.

Carnegie shortlisted titles also went head-to-head in the 11-14+ category and after intense debate the judges chose Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam as their winner. This “breathtaking” verse novel “ where every word is so carefully chosen and laid out on the page”, relates a powerful and important true story of wrongful imprisonment which ‘”reduced students to tears.” The judges also wished to Highly Commend Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick and Chie Kutsuwada, for its “innovative” prose and manga structure which added depth to a story blending global and personal tragedy and ancient and modern cultures in a “very powerful” way.

Judges of the category of Information Books 3- 14+ also had difficult choices to make but selected the “accessible and beautiful” Nano where life in miniature is so skilfully explained by Dr Jess Wade and stunningly illustrated by Melissa Castrillon. With “so much learning in so few words”, powerfully representing for young readers “a truly diverse and gender positive look at the way the global community of scientists really works” , this was truly “ unique”.

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. The final panel of teacher judges spent a day in joyful and detailed debate about our four shortlists and have come up with some worthy winners. “

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 Maclaren, Director of LoveReading4Kids said: “Yet again the UKLA produces an incredible selection of children’s books for the 2022 Awards. Many sit on our LoveReading4Kids Star Books list and I have enjoyed many personally; what a brilliant time for children’s literature. The only national awards to be judged entirely by teachers, the UKLA Awards are a special thing and we are delighted to be involved. Knowing how critical reading is to the outcomes of our children and understanding that it’s the key to unlocking the rest of the curriculum,makes these awards more important than ever. Thank you to the teacher judges who share the books first-hand with their students, all with the aim of encouraging reading for pleasure. Bravo to everyone involved and long live the UKLA…thanks to all you do for reading for pleasure”

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.

You can find all of the longlisted and shortlisted titles, as well as the winners, on the UKLA Book Awards 2022 awards page.