The unique UKLA Book Awards are the only awards to be judged entirely by teachers who are looking for texts that can “enhance all aspects of literacy learning”. The process ensures they are able to share the books with their classes and discover what genuinely works with young readers in each of the three age categories and so their judgements are soundly based on pupil response.
The winning book in the 12 to 16+ category is Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds illustrated by Chris Priestley. Published by Faber & Faber
Written in free verse, this is the story of a 14-year-old boy whose brother has just been shot. The boy takes his brother’s revolver and makes his way down the lift shaft to seek vengeance. On every floor he is to experience ghosts of family members who tell their stories. Will he ’Follow the rules’? Haunting and utterly compelling. Judges found a “Powerful and brilliant narrative structure” that was yet “so simple and accessible” and a book that has “reached boys who never read.” A book that reflects young people's reality. “A book that can save lives.”
Highly Commended in the 12-16+ category is The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Published by Egmont, Electric Monkey
This poignant verse novel is told in the voice of Xiomara, a young girl trapped in a family controlled by a fierce, church-going mother afraid of her daughter’s growing sexuality. Xiomara is rescued by her brother, who gives her a notebook to write down her thinking, and her teacher who encourages her to join a slam poetry club. It’s through this club that Xiomara gradually finds her own voice. Judges found “Themes that are really relevant and applicable to all young people with redeemable, complex male characters as well as a powerful female role model.”
The winning book in the 7-11 category is The Explorer written by Katherine Rundell and illustrated by Hannah Horn. Published by Bloomsbury
A small plane crashes in the Amazon jungle and four very different children have to survive and find their way to people who can help them. When they see signs that someone has been there before them, they follow the clues and find something unexpected and wonderful. The unforgiving beauty of the Amazon is meticulously depicted in a way which augments the story. Readers will love the passion of the writing and the respect for childhood. Judges were impressed by the portrayal of the “group dynamics and sibling relationships of the children” and liked that they “are agents of their own success” and are particularly well evoked through dialogue which “shows rather than tells.”
Highly Commended in the 7-11 category Running on Empty written by S.E.Durrant. Published by Nosy Crow.
AJ doesn’t think he’s really a carer for his parents, both of whom have learning difficulties. The most important thing in his life is running and, living very close to the London Olympic Stadium, he dreams of emulating Usain Bolt. When his grandad dies, AJ has to takes more responsibilities and make some very difficult decisions. This entirely believable story of friendship grips readers from the first page right through to the inspiring conclusion. Judges commented that “boys were able to emotionally engage” with the character and situation. “An important empathetic read.”
The winning book for the 3 to 6 category I am Bat written and illustrated by Morag Hood. Published by Two Hoots
Bat loves cherries and warns all unseen potential thieves that they must not take them. When some cherries are stolen, Bat is bereft until friends provide a different fruit. Bat is a wonderful character in whom children will find some recognisable characteristics: but not their own, of course. What could be better than to see that others can be fickle, obsessive and foolish yet still lovable? I Am Bat gives more on each rereading and the judges delighted in the “cleverly written direct address to the reader” which “comes alive when read aloud and shared”. Enjoyed from Foundation to Year 6 and beyond!
Highly Commended in the 3-6 category After the Fall written and illustrated by Dan Santat. Published by Andersen Press
There are some things that all the King’s Men couldn’t mend for Humpty Dumpty. He is now terrified of heights, yet he misses the view from the top of the wall so much. Perhaps sending a paper plane flying over the wall might help? But the paper plane gets stuck and Humpty must decide whether he is brave enough to climb the wall to rescue it. This is a breathtakingly accomplished fusion of words and illustrations with plenty of humour and a huge impact. Judges appreciated how well it “Inspires inference and empathy” with an “important message of resilience and determination.”
Deborah McLaren, Director of Lovereading4kids and co-sponsor of the Awards said: ‘LoveReading4Schools and its sister site LoveReading4Kids are delighted to again support the UKLA Book Awards in 2019. In the 9 months we have re-launched both sites and they continue to go from strength to strength. Adding 100 schools a month as members to the LoveReading4Schools site, it’s exciting to see the impact we are having and support we are delivering to teachers and school librarians, helping them engender that lifelong love of reading in their students.
The fact that the teacher judges reflect on their students’ responses to the books gives these Awards huge credibility and trust so that schools know the books will be in turn loved by their own pupils. The awards are equally valuable for parents looking to support the school environment and further encourage a love of reading at home.’
The judges for these unique book awards, now in their 11th year and the only awards judged by active classroom teachers, enjoyed the challenge of reading a diverse range of exciting texts from debut authors and small imprints, as well as from more established authors and publishers, selected for them by an experienced panel of past teacher judges, ex-teachers, librarians and consultants.
This year the teacher judges came from the Midlands region around Sheffield, with the 2019 UKLA International Conference, at which the eventual winners were announced, being held at Sheffield Hallam University. There were 10 groups of judges in total covering the three age categories.
Headteachers welcomed the opportunity to receive new books for their schools and for their teachers to widen their knowledge of recent children’s titles. For UKLA, giving classroom practitioners the opportunity to read a number of 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.
UKLA are grateful for the continued support of the award sponsors, which help the awards to grow and develop each year. Capita Reading Cloud, Lovereading4schools and Lovereading4kids, recognise the value of the judging experience for schools and teachers.
Tracy Parvin, President of UKLA said ‘We know that literature broadens the reader’s experience and understanding of the world, it also enables children to walk in the shoes of others and to question and explore infinite possibilities. Reading should therefore have a central place in classrooms and in all educational contexts. Children need access to a rich range of high quality literature and our awards over the past ten years have highlighted some of the very best literature available to children and young people in the UK. We are proud to be celebrating all these truly outstanding winners at our International Conference.'
For more information on the UKLA Awards visit www.ukla.org/awards or @UKLA