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LoveReading4Schools is pleased to feature the UKLA Book Awards 2019 run by the UK Literacy Association and sponsored by LoveReading4Kids, LoveReading4Schools and MLS. What makes these awards so unique is that they are the only awards judged entirely by active classroom teachers, who are able to share the books with their classes and genuinely discover what works with young readers. We have all the winners and shortlisted titles here - all highly recommended.
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Highly Commended in the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Anyone familiar with the story of poor old Humpty Dumpty will be intrigued by Dan Santat’s story of what happens after that fall. In his version the king’s men do manage to put Humpy together again but the cracks are still there, and not just on the outside: a shadow of his former self, Humpty is too afraid to climb back up onto the wall where he used to love to sit and watch the birds. At last though he finds a way to enjoy the skies again and in a surprise ending flies away himself. A powerful story of recovery and overcoming fear this will resonate with all readers. The illustrations are full of clever jokes but portray Humpty’s emotional state perfectly while the sequence that sees him soar away on golden wings is glorious.
Winner of the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | This must be one of the brightest and best picture books of the year. With minimalist illustrations – simple shapes against blocks of Day-Glo colour – and short lines of text, Morag Hood tells a story that will dazzle and entertain all readers. Cherries, Bat tells us, ‘are my favourite things’, following this up with a fiercely delivered threat: ‘Do not take my cherries.’ In later pages though we see the cherries being stolen. Bat is inconsolable until one of the thieves leaves a pear in their place. Bat’s emotions – joy, anger, confusion, despair, surprise and joy again – are rendered brilliantly in the tilt of an eyebrow and the angle of the head while the intensity of those emotions will be hilarious yet recognisable to child and parent alike. Superb!
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Sally Jones is not only a loyal friend, she's an extraordinary individual. In overalls or in a maharaja's turban, this unique gorilla moves among humans without speaking but understanding everything. She and the Chief are devoted comrades who operate a cargo boat. A job they are offered pays big bucks, but the deal ends badly, and the Chief is falsely convicted of murder. For Sally Jones this is the start of a harrowing quest for survival and to clear the Chief's name. Powerful forces are working against her, and they will do anything to protect their secrets.
Winner of UKLA Shortlist Book Awards 2019 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Will is only fifteen but he’s experienced more violence and loss than most people might in an entire lifetime. His big brother Shawn was recently shot dead, right in front of him, but as “everybody knows”, “gunshots make everybody/deaf and blind especially/when they make somebody/dead”. While his mom mourns, “sobbing into her palms”, Will knows what he has to do. He must follow the three rules: No crying. No snitching. Revenge. Armed with Shawn’s gun, Will heads down six floors in an elevator on his revenge mission, thinking he knows exactly who he’s going after. When the “spooky ass” elevator stops at each floor and ghosts from the past step into the “vertical coffin”, doubts set in as Will is presented with more facts and finally comes face to face with some big choices (do some rules need to be broken? Does he want out of the cycle?), and more besides. The writing is crisp, clever and dazzlingly compact, with a whole family history and personally-charged societal issues conveyed with powerful precision. The line and page breaks are perfectly constructed, words and phrases frequently have multiple meanings, and Chris Priestley’s raw and resonant illustrations are hauntingly powerful.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | July 2018 Book of the Month | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | Shortlisted for the Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award 2018 | One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2017 | | A book to break your heart, quicken your blood and stir your soul by one of the most outstandingly distinctive writers to have emerged in a long, long time. New Yorker Joe Moon was only seven when he took the call in which his big brother Ed told him he'd been arrested because “they think I done something real bad”. That “something” led to Ed winding up on death row, convicted of murdering a cop, though he insists he’s innocent. Ten years later, now Ed’s execution date has been set, Joe travels to Texas to say goodbye. The sublimely-formed structure slips between present and past, recounting the brothers’ troubled upbringing - how their Mom took off; how Aunt Karen took control and decided that Bible study and never mentioning Ed again was the only route to their salvation. While she insists that there’s no point wasting life or money helping someone who wasn’t sorry, Joe sees things differently. “He's my brother,” and that’s really all that matters. He has to see him. Lawyer Al, who’s taken on Ed’s case for free, offers some hope, but time is running out. “It's better to be guilty and rich, I reckon,” Joe remarks, as he experiences the excruciating injustices of a legal system in which the harshness of a sentence depends on where a crime takes place, who the victim was, and who you can afford to pay to represent you (crucially, Ed had no representation when he was first arrested). Once again, Crossan's free verse form is breathtakingly powerful - always the right word, in the right place, at the right time. Yes, this is harrowing and heartbreaking, but the kindness of the strangers Joe meets in Texas is achingly uplifting, as is the deep bond of love between Joe and Ed. This really is a magnificent feat of writing.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | A beautiful picture book about friendship and art. Bob and Bat are best friends. They do everything together (look out for the wonderful illustration of them dancing to the radio!) but best of all they love painting. Then one day Bat leaves a note for Bob explaining that he has to go away for a while. Bob is bereft, indeed just how sad is clear not just in his attitude, but in his paintings: whatever he paints is blue, representative of the big blue hole where Bat used to be. Fortunately his other friends come to his help, opening his eyes to the colourful beauty and hope of a sun rise, and shortly after that, Bat returns too. This is simply gorgeous to look at, and opens up all sorts of discussions about friendship, resilience, art and expression.
Winner for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | Highly Commended in the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Winner of the 2018 National Book Award | Xiomara Batista is a Harlem teenager whose parents moved to the US from the Dominican Republic. She has plenty of thoughts, plenty to say, but she’s been rendered voiceless by her domineering mother, by religion, and by the boys and men who objectify her body. She gets “all this attention from guys/but it’s like a sancocho of emotions… partly flattered they think I’m attractive, partly scared they’re only interested in my ass and boobs”. Such is the experience of many young women, but for Xiomara this is exacerbated by racism and her judgmental religious community, and powerfully expressed in her inimitable narrative voice. Talking of which, through the sexual insults, and despite her mother’s meting of cruel punishments, Xiomara does find her voice. She keeps a secret notebook of poems, and dreams of joining a slam poetry club. And she finds love too, with Trinidad-born Aman, a compassionate young man with family heartache of his own. Xiomara’s descriptions of their burgeoning relationship are stunning, evoking first love and passion in all its visceral beauty. Somehow, Xiomara pulls herself free from a mire of obstacles. She stands tall, she burns bright - a wondrously authentic character who finds her own faith through writing poetry. Highly recommended for fans of Nicola Yoon, Angie Thomas and Sarah Crossan, this is a dazzlingly affecting feat.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Shortlist Book Awards 2019 | Nominated for the 2019 Kate Greenaway Medal | Take a tour of the oceans in Yuval Zommer’s engaging reference book. It guides us through the seas in the company of the living creatures you’d see there, from the sea turtles and rainbow schools of fish in tropical waters, to whales and tuna, shoreline dwellers and the inhabitants of the deepest, darkest waters. Each page is wonderful to look at, and answers the questions children really want to ask: how fast does a flying fish need to swim to launch itself out of the water? Who does an octopus need eight arms? How long can a seal hold its breath underwater? There’s information too on the danger to the oceans from pollution and global warming, while a page of ‘fishy-phrases’ gives children the technical language to use when describing the animals that live in the sea. A book to inspire and entertain as well as inform.
Highly Commended in the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | S E Durrant writes convincingly and movingly about ordinary young people in extraordinary situations, and Running on Empty finds beauty and certainty in an apparently bleak situation. Eleven-year old AJ’s parents both have learning difficulties and he becomes their main carer when his grandfather suddenly dies. It’s a struggle, especially at first when no-one at his new secondary school realises just what AJ has to cope with. His love and tenderness towards his parents is beautifully described, as is the warmth of his extended family and things slowly sort themselves out. Somehow too his grandfather – who loved running as much as AJ does – is never really far away. Without a trace of sentimentality, this ends on a note of hope and happiness that is both believable and uplifting. This is one to recommend to fans of Susin Nielsen and even R J Palacio.
Winner of the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Winner of The Costa Children's Book Award 2017 | After crashing hundreds of miles from civilisation in the Amazon rainforest, Fred, Con, Lila and Max are utterly alone and in grave danger. They have no food, no water and no chance of being rescued. But they are alive and they have hope. As they negotiatethe wild jungle they begin to find signs that something - someone - has been there before them. Could there possibly be a way out after all?
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Peter Brown is best known for his picture books, including the sublime Mr Tiger Goes Wild and My Teacher is a Monster. The Wild Robot is his first book for older children and tells the story of a robot who is shipwrecked on an island, and creates a life for herself there. Finding herself on the remote island, Roz quickly realizes that she’ll have to learn survival skills from the island’s wild inhabitants then, inadvertently destroying a nest of goose eggs, ends up the adoptive mother to a gosling too and responsible for bringing him up. Though Roz doesn’t feel emotions, she has been designed to do the best job possible, and bringing up her adopted son calls for all sorts of adaptations. Beautifully written and beautifully illustrated, the story is sure to inspire all readers with affection for robot Roz, and also to set them thinking about what it means to be human. Runaway Robot by Frank Cotterell-Boyce is another wonderful robot adventure that poses its own set of AI questions.
UKLA Shortlist Book Awards - 2019 | Sky Dancer is a vivid, inspiring animal story in which the British countryside is as important a character as its human protagonists. Joe has grown up on the moors, and knows no other world. But following the death of his father, nothing seems certain anymore. His sense of insecurity is reflected in the wider community, divided over the fate of the hen harriers that nest nearby. Gill Lewis explores ideas of trust and loss, and like the very best animal stories, this is a thrilling and moving read that will help young readers understand the natural world, and their responsibility to look after it.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Winner of the Branford Boase Award 2018 | Like lots of kids in this country, Budi lives for football, training with his friends whenever he can, following his team with a passion and dreaming about playing at the top level. But Budi lives in Jakarta and works ten hours a day making the football boots his sporting heroes wear, and earning just pennies for doing it. The descriptions of his working conditions will shock readers, but Budi’s acceptance of them as inevitable is almost more upsetting. Lively, funny, always optimistic, Budi will win readers’ hearts and his positivity ensures the book remains an accessible page-turner even as his life gets very bleak indeed. A vividly told story that has lots to say about the world, and the importance of hope and fate, represented here by Real Madrid.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Suffused in the exuberance of a yellow-jersey-wearing cyclist freewheeling down the Champs-Élysées with a bottle of Champagne, this wildly witty novel tells of three fine young women who rise above body-shaming bullies to become Queens of the Mountain. Likened to Jean-Paul Sartre - “squinty old man, atrociously ugly” – Mireille has been voted one of the ugliest girls in her school in the cruel “Pig Pageant” Facebook poll, but she’s not going to take this lying down. Rather, she seeks out the two other “Little Piglettes”, Astrid and Hakima, and they strike up sisterly bond. Sometimes fate conspires in fortuitous ways and here the girls realise that key aspects of their lives will conflate at the president’s Élysée Palace party. Quite simply, the Three Little Piglettes must go to the ball and so they embark on a voyage à vélo to Paris, funding their trip by selling homemade saucisson. First covered by local news, their journey goes viral, which sees them enveloped in a peloton of national interest. What an inspired, amusing, enchanting ride this is.
Shortlist for the UKLA Book Award 2019 | Winner of the YA Book Prize 2018 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018 | In a nutshell: tense, super-suspenseful novel based on harrowing real life events | After the Fire was inspired by the Waco siege in Texas 1993 when 82 members of the Branch Davidian sect and four US government agents died in a fire fight after a long siege. It’s not a fictionalised version, but Hill imagines life in the camp and as a survivor. Moonbeam, his central character, is beginning to doubt the teaching of Father John and to comprehend the methods he uses to control his followers. A survivor, she’s being coaxed to tell the story of the events that led up to that deadly confrontation with ‘The Authorities’. The tension rarely abates, and Hill makes readers empathise with Moonbeam’s confusion and fear. He also makes us desperate to discover the secrets she’s keeping, and long for her to achieve the freedom that’s always been denied. One of the most gripping and suspenseful books you’ll read all year.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2019 | Shot through with passion, tension and tragedy, this stunningly illustrated biographical verse novel explores Mary Shelley’s extraordinary life, from her birth to pioneering mother of modern feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft, to her writing of Frankenstein and beyond. It’s the story of the original female teen rebel, of an exceptional young woman who forged her own path and refused to be silenced even when family and friends cast her aside. The framing of Mary’s rebellious life within her mother’s is perfectly expressed: “Mary Wollstonecraft was mother to a rebellion/before she was mother to me.” Though they only had eleven days together, young Mary connects with Wollstonecraft through her books: “Her thoughts and ideas reach across the space of time/and come alive and lodge inside my chest.” In her early teenage years she meets the married poet Shelley and in an instant “the entire landscape of my existence changes”. After vowing in her mother’s revolutionary spirit that “Shelley and I will fight our own/and set the word on its edge”, she and Shelley flee to Paris, then Switzerland, their passion ablaze. Soon after, impoverished and pregnant, she returns to England a shamed figure and then comes tragedy. At seventeen she is “daughter to a ghost and mother to bones”. Of course, she rises and returns to Switzerland where she creates the most memorable of literary monsters among the artistic madness of Shelley and Byron. Suffused in the indomitable spirit of its subject, this beautiful book is a triumph of biographical storytelling.