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UKLA Book Awards 2023

Judged entirely by teachers, the UKLA Book Awards are a celebration of children’s books which seeks to encourage teachers to increase their knowledge of newly published, high quality children’s books, and to promote the place of books in educational settings at all levels.

A total of 87 teachers were involved in shortlisting for the 2023 awards, and here at BooksForTopics HQ, we were delighted to see so many of our favourite titles and authors featured among the shortlists for these awards.

The Age 3-6 list features Who Are You? and The Comet, which both appear on our Recommended Reads lists, and we were excited to see Malorie Blackman – whose titles more usually feature in our lists for older children – represented in this list too, with We’re Going to Find the Monster! The winner of the Age 3-6 category, Flooded, was previously one of our Books of the Month picks, along with The Lion Above the Door and The Chime Seekers which both appear in the Age 7-10 shortlist. The Light in Everything was the winner in the Age 7-10 category.

More of our Recommended Reads and Books of the Month picks are to be found in the Information Books shortlist, including Amazon RiverBandoola: The Great Elephant Rescue and I am the Subway.

12 of the shortlisting panel went on to form the final judging panel, and the winners were announced on 23rd June at the UKLA International Conference at the University of Exeter.

Although the UKLA Book Awards celebrate books for children from nursery up to KS4, here we focus on the titles suited to readers of primary school age. The full shortlists, including the titles for older readers, can be found here.

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3-6+ Shortlist

Helen Stephens
Picturebook
This is the picture book for every little one's shelf, about how sometimes the smallest people make the biggest difference.A beautiful owl lives in the tree outside Ben’s house. Ben calls him Mr Hoot. When grown-ups want to chop down Mr Hoot’s tree, Ben has to act fast to save him. This warm, funny and inspiring story shows how we can all protect the wildlife that lives all around us.With characteristic warmth and humour, Helen Stephens’ exquisite new picture book celebrates the precious wildlife that lives all around us, and shows how even the smallest of us can help to protect it.Hugely topical: a warmly funny environmental book with heart – will inspire children to look out for, love and protect their local wildlifeStriking cover design with gold foil – a perfect gift bookHelen Stephens is an Instagram star with nearly 20,000 followers. She also launched her own online illustration course, The Good Ship Illustration
Smriti Halls
 & Ali Pye
This is a joyful celebration of all the pieces, places and people that make us who we are. It is a wonderful way to get children thinking about and learning about their own families, and also opening up discussions about all of the other pieces that come together to make us all unique: from our friends and food we eat, to activities we get up to and the places we go.Children will enjoy finding out more about themselves and their families, and thinking about other families and friends who are similar or different to their own.
Joe Todd-Stanton
Picturebook
From the award-winning Joe Todd-Stanton, comes an exquisite and heartfelt picture book touching on the bewildering experience of moving house. This beautiful story explores how this can affect a child's sense of belonging, but also how it can open them up to new and wonderful experiences.When Nyla has to leave her home in the countryside to start life again in the city, all she can think about is everything she misses from before. So when a comet comes crashing through the city streets and starts to glow and grow, Nyla can't resist a chance to head somewhere that feels closer to what she had before. But what starts as an escape could be just the thing to make her finally feel at home.
Mariajo Ilustrajo
Picturebook

Flooded is a visually stunning book with a powerful story about learning to face up to problems before they grow too big.

In Flooded, the city faces a problem. It seems like a normal day; the city wakes up to find itself a little bit wet. No one minds at first as it was just a little bit of water, but as the city carries on with its usual rhythm, the smaller animals start to realise that it is all becoming a rather big problem.

Flooded is a fun story illustrating how small problems can grow into bigger problems if we don’t give them enough attention. It is also a story about how problems are easier to solve together and communities that work with a positive common goal can be very powerful.

This book is full of surprises and has a pull-out page at a very significant part of the story, which really creates excitement for younger children as they are reading the book. When sharing this book with my class, it really made them think and predict about how the animal’s problem could be solved. They absolutely loved the artwork featuring gorgeous, blues and blacks as well as yellow shades for a very significant character within the book.

Manjeet Mann
 & Amanda Quartey
Picturebook
A beautifully lyrical and empowering picture book about the importance of dreaming big, from award-winning author Manjeet Mann and the exceptionally talented debut illustrator, Amanda Quartey.Small lived in a small house. She had a small room with a small window and at night she slept in a small bed with a too small blanket.Despite being small, Small had BIG dreams.In Small’s world, everything is small – her shoes, her bed, everything. But her dreams are big. And Small discovers that when you dream big, anything – and everything – can happen.Small’s Big Dream is the first picture book from Manjeet Mann, with artwork by exciting debut illustrator Amanda Quartey. Manjeet Mann is the author of the Costa Children’s Book Award winning The Crossing and critically acclaimed and Carnegie-shortlisted Run, Rebel.

Malorie Blackman
 & Dapo Adeola
Picturebook
A rip-roaring picture book adventure from superstar pairing Malorie Blackman and Dapo Adeola.Over the shimmering ocean, up the huge, high mountain, through the deep, dark forest . . . WE'RE GOING TO FIND THE MONSTER!Join two intrepid adventurers as their imaginations transform their house into a wild wonderland - and their big brother becomes a mighty monster. A joy to read-aloud with its cumulative refrain, and full of funny, relatable characters, this is a contemporary celebration of creativity, fantasy and family.Written by bestselling author of Noughts & Crosses , Malorie Blackman, this story was originally published as Marty Monster . This new version has been stunningly brought to life by the award-winning illustrator of Look Up! , Dapo Adeola.

7-10+ Shortlist

Eve Ainsworth
 & Kirsti Beautyman
Chapter book
Lewis loves football more than anything else in the world, so he’s thrilled when his talent is spotted by a local coach.But there are some big obstacles in his way. His mum doesn’t want him to have anything to do with the game because of what happened to his dad on the pitch. And even if Lewis can persuade her to let him give it a go, there’s no way they can afford the kit.Can Lewis beat the odds to have a chance of following his dream?
Katya Balen
 & Sydney Smith
Chapter book
From the author of October, October, winner of the Yoto Carnegie Medal 2022, comes a life-affirming story about blended families and learning to find room in your heart for new life and new love.Tom is still quiet and timid, even though his dad has been gone for nearly two years now. Zofia has a raging storm that makes her want to fight the whole world until she gets what she wants. And what she wants is for scaredy-cat Tom to get out of her life. Tom hates loud, unpredictable Zofia just as much, but he’s moving into Zofia’s house. Because his mum and Zofia’s dad are in love... and they’re having a baby.Tom and Zofia both wish the stupid baby had never happened. But then Tom’s mum gets ill, and it begins to look horribly like their wish might come true... A story of learning to trust, trying to let go and diving into the unknown with hope in your heart, with a stunning cover illustrated by CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal winner Sydney Smith.
Onjali Q. Rauf
Chapter book

Onjali Q Rauf’s loyal fanbase will be pleased to hear of a new novel. True to form, the Lion Above the Door explores important social issues while capturing voices from the younger generation in a most relatable manner.

The story broaches the topic of cultural blindspots in history education, posing questions about the missing and ignored figures from the history topics taught in schools. Young Leo is intrigued to find a WW2 memorial in which he recognises his own name; being of Singaporean heritage he has become used to rarely seeing people like himself reflected in the history books. As Leo and his classmates research their relatives’ roles in the war, important stories come to the surface and it’s up to the children to make sure these histories get the spotlight they deserve.

This is a sincere and timely story that gently turns over themes of prejudice, cultural underrepresentation, racism and the courage to put right societal injustice – while at once holding out the mantle to young readers to invite them to be the catalyst for change.

Holly Goldberg Sloan
Chapter book
It's been almost a year since Sila's mum travelled halfway around the world to Turkey, hoping to secure the immigration paperwork that would allow her to return to her family in the United States.The long separation is almost impossible for Sila to bear. But things change when Sila accompanies her father (who is a mechanic) outside their Oregon town to fix a truck. There, behind an enormous stone wall, she meets a grandfatherly man who only months before won the state lottery. Their new alliance leads to the rescue of a circus elephant named Veda, and then to a friendship with a unique boy named Mateo, proving that comfort and hope come in the most unlikely of places.A moving story of family separation and the importance of the connection between animals and humans, this novel has the enormous heart and uplifting humour that readers have come to expect from the beloved author of Counting by 7s.
Coral Rumble
Poetry
Ava is hiding – hiding from the small cramped room where she lives with her two little siblings and her mum, hiding from the taunts and hostility she gets at school, hiding from her sometimes lonely and joyless life. But there is love here too. Her best friend Roxy, her wise Trinidadian Nan and a stray dog she befriends. Can Ava be brave enough to allow some light to shine into the darkest part of her being? Moving, emotive and poignant, Coral Rumble’s poetic novel is a compellingly beautiful read.

Ross Montgomery
Chapter book

Yanni is a reluctant big brother; he has a baby sister and ever since her arrival, his world has been turned upside down. As an only child, he had shared a cosy flat with his parents and as the only grandchild, his grandparents had worshipped him. When Ari arrived, the family needed more space and so moved to the rural village of Fallow Hall and Yanni would attend the ominously named Riddleton School.

Two days into his new life, and struggling to find a babysitter, Yanni’s parents invite Amy over. Between them they have to look after Ari while Yanni’s parents enjoy a rare night out. It is All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) and when a stranger appears in the house, events take an unexpectedly dark turn. Some simple house renovations have reopened a door into the World of the Fae, and Lorde Renwin is intent on stealing Ari.

What follows is a race-against-time quest to get Ari back before midnight, when the door back to normality will close again. But will the reluctant adventurers have time to locate the toadstone, navigate the goblin maze, collect a vial of elixir from the ruined abbey and find the magic crown from an ancient king? The only possible way they can complete their quest is by working together, using the few resources they have and a big helping of initiative.

Through his beautiful writing, Montgomery has created a fantasy world that would rival Oz, Wonderland or Narnia. The unusual characters are honest and, at times, very funny. The undercurrent of love conquering evil is prevalent throughout, which gives it the feel of 21st Century fairy-tale, although this book is not for the faint-hearted! This story will chill you to the bone, and you won’t be able to put it down. It truly is a page-turner.

Reviewer: Emma Hughes

Information Books Shortlist

Sangma Francis
 & Romolo D'Hipolito
Non-fiction

If you know Flying Eye publishing house’s output, you will know before you even see this book that ‘Amazon River’ is a beautiful object, that the art will be as thoughtful as the writing, the quality of paper as important as the factual information.

Reading this to a class as the launch of a topic on the Amazon/Rainforests will undoubtedly whet the children’s appetite to learn about this astonishing and awe-inspiring place. The introduction is amply matched by the end piece, ‘A River of the World’, which sums the book up perfectly, as well as acting as an excellent discussion starter on the interconnectedness of our planet.

In between these two marvels, the main body of the book is divided into 4 main themes: water, wildlife, people and life on the river. These pages tread the tightrope between concision and depth expertly. Despite a background as a geographer, I learnt many new facts such as the difference between clearwater, blackwater and whitewater. The summaries of a wide range of exciting and unusual animals are also superb, as are more summaries of the Legends of Pirarucu and Naia, star of the water.

‘Amazon River’ is a stunning way to engage children with an important and breathtaking part of the world. It could easily be used as the centrepiece of a topic, and would inspire much engagement with the natural world and our place within it.

William Grill
Non-fiction

This is the true story of Bandoola – an Asian timber elephant of Myanmar, which was for a time a colony of the British Empire. The story focuses on Bandoola’s adult life around the time of World War 2, when elephants were used to help move and haul hardwood teak. The elephants at this time were looked after ‘Oozies’; men who cared for the elephants, but perhaps in a way that didn’t always show these majestic and intelligent animals the respect that they deserved.

Things changed when James Howard Williams arrived to work for the timber company, and soon saw the true nature of the hard-working elephants. He began to find different ways to work with all the elephants, developing mutual respect between man and beast, leading him to be known as ‘Elephant Bill’. World War 2 eventually arrived In Myanmar, and the people of the country were forced to leave. Bandoola and Williams led 53 elephants and over 200 refugees to safety in Northern India, on an unbelievable and treacherous journey that saw them scale mountains and tested them to the limit. This incredible journey showed an astonishing trust between humans and animals, with a remarkable level of understanding and bravery that saw them reach their destination in one piece.

Having enjoyed William Grill’s compelling re-telling of Shackleton’s Journey in his wonderfully sensitive yet engaging style, it was a joy to have the opportunity to read another. Grill has a talent for finding incredible stories; stories with historical importance and that show the best (and sometimes the worst) of humanity. There are clear strong themes of conservation and the environmental impact of human behaviours, along with reminding us of the utter respect we need to have for all animals, particularly as we learn of the dwindling numbers of Asian elephants still living in the wild. At the heart of the story is the legacy of one special elephant. Bandoola had a lasting effect on Williams, who through his time with the elephants learnt that humans could live side by side with animals, based on respect and understanding.

‘Bandoola’ is visually and literarily compelling, powerful, and thought-provoking; providing a new angle among the range of WW2 book options.

Mini Grey
Non-fiction
Here we are at 4.6 billion years ago, and as we raise the curtain . . . the STORY OF LIFE is about to begin! (Yes, that's right - we're telling the story of the ENTIRE history of Planet Earth).Take your seats for the ENTIRE history of Planet Earth, as we take a whistle-stop tour from the birth of Earth, to the age of bacteria, the era of dinosaurs . . . to the moment of people (blink and you'll miss it).Narrated by a friendly troop of insects and with mind-blowing, lively illustrations, this illustrated non-fiction book will entertain and educate, as we put on a show, the greatest show, the show of the evolution of life on Earth.From internationally bestselling creator, Mini Grey, winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal, this is her first non-fiction book and it's told with wit, humour and heart.
Kim Hyo-eun
Picturebook
A cinematic journey through the Seoul subway that masterfully portrays the many unique lives we travel alongside whenever we take the train. A poetic translation of the bestselling Korean picture book.Accompanied by the constant, rumbling ba-dum ba-dum of its passage through the city, the subway has stories to tell. Between sunrise and sunset, it welcomes and farewells people, and holds them — along with their joys, hopes, fears, and memories — in its embrace.Originally published in Korean and brought to English-speaking audiences with the help of renowned translator Deborah Smith (The Vegetarian), I Am the Subway vividly reflects the shared humanity that can be found in crowded metropolitan cities.Translated by Deborah Smith.

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