The winners of the 2023 UKLA Book Awards have been announced.
The 11-14+ category features another returning winner. Manjeet Mann was joint winner in 2021 with her debut novel Run Rebel. Her second verse novel, The Crossing, has now secured her a second UKLA win.
The 3-6+ category however has been won by a stunning debut, Flooded by Mariajo Ilustrajo.
The judges described The Light in Everything as a ‘gut-wrenchingly emotional and relatable’ story which gives a really authentic portrayal of a modern blended family and the difficulties faced by the children. In awards which primarily seek ‘books in which the language is powerful’, they commended ‘the sophisticated but not condescending language’.
The judges described The Crossing as important and powerful with ‘real emotional heart and soul’. Both Katya and Manjeet received Emeritus medals for winning their categories twice.
Flooded by Mariajo Ilustrajo delighted the judges with its ‘quirky and original’ illustrations. They noted that this is a book which works on lots of different levels, with older children able to access the underlying political messages about awareness of the disadvantaged in society, while all ages will appreciate the humour and the need for communities to work together.
Katya Balen said, ‘The UKLA Book Awards and its community are everything I love about being a children’s author – their members and judges are so enthusiastic, dedicated and involved in making sure young people are reading for pleasure and exploring a wide range of books. So it’s an absolute honour and a privilege for them to recognise my work.’
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 was particularly reflected in the outstanding books in the Information Books 3-14+ category. The judges name Musical Truth – A Musical History of Modern Black Britain in 28 Songs written by Jeffrey Boakye with illustrations by Ngadi Smart as winner, highlighting its uniquely accessible way to engage readers with Black History and describing it as a ‘masterpiece’. The judges also awarded Highly Commended to Here and Queer written by Rowan Ellis with illustrations by Jacky Sheridan. Both books are ‘incredibly important’ to have in schools.
Chris Lockwood, Awards Chair said ‘It is a joy to hear the passion and enthusiasm from our teacher judges every year. They approach the job of choosing the winning books with enormous care and consideration about the impact of these books on the children and young people they teach. We are so lucky to have such wonderful shortlisted books to choose from.’
A total of 87 teacher judges were involved in this selection process, twelve were then nominated by their colleagues to go on to form the final judging panel to decide the eventual winners of the UKLA 2023 Book Awards. As head teacher and judge Simon Pollard said, ‘Being a final judge for the UKLA book awards is a privilege as it enables us to explore, in depth, the highest quality books for all ages. Sharing ideas for their use in the classroom and then ultimately to pass that knowledge onto many teachers and therefore the books into the hands and minds of countless pupils.’
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.
The Shortlists in full
Saving Mr Hoot written and illustrated by Helen Stephens (Alison Green)
Who are you? written by Smriti Halls and illustrated by Ali Pye (Farshore)
The Comet written and illustrated by Joe Todd- Stanton (Flying Eye)
Flooded written and illustrated by Mariajo Ilustrajo (Frances Lincoln)
Small’s Big Dream written by Manjeet Mann and illustrated by Amanda Quartey (Harper Collins)
We’re Going to Find a Monster written by Malorie Blackman and illustrated by Dapo Adeola (Puffin)
All to Play For written by Eve Ainsworth and illustrated by Kirsty Beautyman (Barrington Stoke)
The Light in Everything written by Katya Balen (Bloomsbury)
The Lion Above the Door written by Onjali Q Raúf (Orion)
Little Light written by Coral Rumble (Troika)
The Chime Seekers written by Ross Montgomery (Walker)
Tremendous Things written by Susin Nielsen (Andersen)
In the Wild Light written by Jeff Zentner (Andersen)
The Blue Book of Nebo written by Manon Steffan Ros (Firefly)
Truth Be Told written by Sue Divin (Macmillan)
Julia and the Shark written by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and illustrated by Tom de Freston (Orion)
Musical Truth: A Musical History of Modern Black Britain in 28 Songs written by Jeffrey Boakye and illustrated by Ngadi Smart (Faber)
Amazon River written by Sangma Francis illustrated by Rômolo D’Hipólito (Flying Eye)
Here and Queer written by Rowan Ellis and illustrated by Jacky Sheridan (Frances Lincoln)
The Greatest Show on Earth written and illustrated by Mini Grey (Puffin)
I am the Subway written and illustrated by Kim Hyo-eun. Translated by Deborah Smith (Scribble)
The UKLA Awards are co-sponsored by Reading Cloud and Lovereading4Kids.