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UKLA Book Awards winners announced

13th Jul 19

The winners of the UKLA Book Awards for 2019 - the only book awards to be judged solely by teachers - have been announced and include a picture book, middle grade adventure and a book for older readers.

The judges look for texts that can "enhance all aspects of literacy learning". During the judging process, the books are shared with their classes to find what genuinely works with young readers in each of the three age categories.

The winners are as follows:

3-6 category

Morag Hood has won the award for a second year in a row for I Am Bat. She said "I am so honoured that I Am Bat has been chosen as the winner, and to win for the second time is just incredible! What better accolade than from the teachers who know and understand children the most. It fills me with joy to know that my little bat is being used in classrooms and, I hope, helping to encourage a life-long love of reading."

Highly commended

After the Fall by Dan Santat

7-11 category

Costa prize winner The Explorer by Katherine Rundell took the 7-11 category, demonstrating that "mass appeal and beautiful writing can go hand in hand", said the judges.

Highly commended

Running On Empty by SE Durrant

12-16 category

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, a verse novel which was also shortlisted for this year's Carnegie Medal.

Highly commended

Carnegie medal winning Elizabeth Acevado's verse novel, The Poet X

The 2019 awards were presented at a special ceremony on July 12th at the UKLA International Conference at Sheffield Hallam University. Student teachers from 20 universities around the UK take part in Shadowing the awards and read and use the shortlisted books on teaching practice in schools before having their own online vote to select their own winners. Mini Grey's The Last Wolf was the 3-6 winner while SE Durrant's Running on Empty won the 7-11 student vote as well. The National Education Union sponsors student shadowers to attend the conference and they also announced and presented their awards at the ceremony.

10 teachers nominated from the 58 involved in the shortlisting, who came from Midlands region around Sheffield, formed the final judging panel and had the challenging task of reading all the shortlisted books in all three age categories, which meant nursery teachers reading fiction for teenagers and secondary teachers reading picturebooks.

For UKLA, giving classroom practitioners the opportunity to read a number of new quality 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.

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."

The winning books:

12-16+ Category Winner
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds illustrated by Chris Priestley (Faber and 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."

12-16+ Category Highly Commended
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (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 said they found themes that are "relevant and applicable to all young people with redeemable, complex male characters as well as a powerful female role model."

7-11 Category Winner
The Explorer by Katherine Rundell, illus by Hannah Horn (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".

7-11 Category Highly Commended
Running on Empty by SE Durrant (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".

3-6 Category Winner
I am Bat by Morag Hood (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".

3-6 Category Highly Commended
After the Fall by Dan Santat (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".

The Shortlists in full


After the Fall by Dan Santat (Andersen Press)

The Last Wolf by Mini Grey (Jonathan Cape)

Bob's Blue Period by Marion Deuchars (Laurence King)

Stardust by Jeanne Willis, illus by Briony May Smith (Nosy Crow)

The Big Book of the Blue by Yuval Zommer (Thames & Hudson)

I Am Bat by Morag Hood (Two Hoots)


The Explorer written by Katherine Rundell, illus by Hannah Horn (Bloomsbury)

Running on Empty written by SE Durrant, illus Rob Biddulph (Nosy Crow)

Sky Dancer by Gill Lewis (Oxford)

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (Piccadilly)

The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius. Translated by Peter Graves (Pushkin Press)

Kick by Mitch Johnson (Usborne Publishing)


Moonrise by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (Egmont Electric Monkey)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, illus by Chris Priestley (Faber)

Piglettes written and translated by Clementine Beauvais (Pushkin Press)

After the Fire by Will Hill (Usborne Publishing)

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge (Wren and Rook)

You can follow this story at: @The_UKLA #UKLA19 #teachersbookawards

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