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Find out which books teachers think are the best! Below are all the shortlisted books from each category - all highly recommended. The UKLA 2022 Awards are sponsored by LoveReading4Kids, LoveReading4Schools and Reading Cloud.
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Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 3-6 | | Being kind is super important, but it isn't always easy. Using a goodhearted, enthusiastic little boy's perspective, a lot of sensitivity and a little gentle humour, this story explores the potential pitfalls of trying to be kind, and what being kind really means.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 3-6 | | From standout author, Alex Latimer, and bestselling illustrator, David Litchfield, comes a beautiful picture book about finding - and holding on to - friendship. A lyrical, reassuring story that children will love with lush illustrations filled with warmth and emotion.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2022 Information Books 3-14 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Until approximately 100 years ago wolves had roamed freely in Yellowstone Park and their existence had shaped the eco-system of that vast expanse of wilderness. But, over the years, hunters killed off the wolves and everything in Yellowstone Park began to change. Elk took over the valleys eating everything they could so many plant species disappeared, bears went hungry and many of the familiar birds flew away. Yellow stone Park was changed! A plan was hatched to put wolves back into the habit making sure that their arrival would only do good. It was complex and daring but, once it had been carried off, fourteen wolves began a new life and the ecology of Yellowstone Park began to change again… Catherine Barr tells most of the story as narrative non-fiction which brings the environment and the animals vividly to life. Further facts are added in an additional, fact-filled section. Jenni Desmond’s illustrations evoke the wild and mysterious background of Yellowstone Park perfectly.
Shortlisted for the Books for Older Readers category, Children's Book Awards 2022 | Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | April 2021 Book of the Month | Bravo to Jonathan Stroud! With its cast of charismatic characters and extraordinary world-building (think broken Britain with Wild West vibes), The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne is an audacious firecracker. And, in even better news for fans of funny, inventive adventure fiction, this is but the beginning of what’s set to be an extraordinary series. “Britain was a land of ruin…the country was maimed and broken - but full of strange fecundity and strength”. It’s also brimming with the likes of bears, wolves, flesh-eating spear-birds and gruesome cannibal creatures, all of which whip-smart, cuss-uttering Scarlett takes into her swaggering stride. She makes an unforgettable impression from the off: “A slight slim figure in a battered brown coat, weighed down with…all the paraphernalia of a girl who walked the Wilds.” After killing four grown men who’d tried to rob her, Scarlett struts into a bank and proceeds to hold it up (turns out she needs money to repay a debt). On fleeing the scene, Scarlett finds a crashed bus, all its passengers dead but for a lone boy hiding in the toilet. Enter Albert Browne, “awkward, skinny and wide-mouthed, like a frightened skeleton”, and seemingly a piece of powdery chalk to Scarlett’s pungent cheese. Her scathing sarcasm (and Albert’s obliviousness to it) provides many a laugh: “You just holler if I get in your way,” she seethes as he admires a seed pod while she sets about making a fire, cooking a bird and establishing a camp for them, and all while they’re being pursued. But, for all his unworldliness, Albert turns out to have hidden talents. Sensing he might be of use to her after all, Scarlett agrees to help him accomplish his own mission. Albert wants to reach the Free Isles, remnants of London that “don’t have any restrictions on who you are or what you can do. They welcome people who are...different”, unlike the dictatorial High Council of the Faith Houses, which is “desperate to keep the old ways going”, and “on the watch for any kind of deviation.” Trouble is, as their respective pursuers close in, time and space is running out for our unforgettable outlaws. What a story, what characters, and what a wait it will be until the second instalment. I defy any reader not to fall for Scarlett and Albert, and to become gasp-out-loud, laugh-out-loud invested in their quest.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 3-6 | | Imagine what it would feel like to always be asked the same question, to only be seen for your disability? Well Joe is very cross about that- he just wants to play pirates and so he ignores the other children and eventually they become curious and eventually they all join in the imaginative game and great fun is had by all. In a letter to parents and careers at the end of the book the author tells us about losing his own leg and so we have no doubt that this reflects an authentic lived experience. He also gives wonderfully straightforward advice about the conversations parents can have with their own children about disability. This is the very opposite of a “worthy” issues-based book. It is a funny and very enjoyable read that will nevertheless perform an urgently needed task and generate very useful discussion at home and school. An absolute essential purchase for all schools and early years. settings. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2022 Information Books 3-14 | This exciting non-fiction picture book introduces young readers to the fascinating (and cutting-edge) science of the very, very small. Everything is made from something - but the way we make things, from the materials we use to the science and technology involved, is changing fast. Nano offers a fascinating narrative introduction to this cutting-edge area of STEM, better known by the name nanotechnology .
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | Shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Medal 2022 | 15-year-old Yūki Hara Jones is only ¼ Japanese, but she has a deep bond with the country and her beloved grandpa there. Suffering badly from anxiety she feels she will be helped by a visit to see him. Her grandpa, a renowned Manga artist, feels she can be helped by rediscovering the small girl who loved to draw, but just as they are opening her old albums, the earthquake hits and although she survives he does not. Trying to recuperate back in England she can still feel there is unfinished business in Japan and is determined to try to understand it. Helped by her friend Taka, who has also lost everything in the disaster and has his own demons to follow, they take their quest illegally back into the disaster zone. This is an incredibly intense and atmospheric read- the prose descriptions of the disaster and its aftermath are breathtakingly powerful. But it is also a story suffused with Japanese legend and modern-day ghost stories. Manga is an important theme throughout the book - Yūki’s recovery is bound up with the creation of her own manga story and manga is so important to the character of her grandpa and her own love of Japan and so it is entirely appropriate that manga is used to tell the story. The superb drawings seamlessly reveal the other worldly and spiritual nature of Yūki and Taka’s story and the multi-layered whole becomes a truly immersive and compulsive reading experience that will linger long in a reader’s thoughts. Highly recommended.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2022 Information Books 3-14 | What’s the T? is street talk for ‘tell me the truth’ and this is exactly what Juno Dawson sets out to do. This Book is Gay by the same author became a staple purchase for school libraries and this new title absolutely deserves the same treatment and indeed should be purchased for the staff shelf too. This reader is paranoid about the correct language and terminology and I feel far more confident in my understanding now. The excellent glossary is worth the purchase price alone. Although it sets out to answer all the possible questions that anyone feeling body dysmorphia or anybody supporting a friend or family member with similar anxieties, could come up with, my strongest impression was one of moral rectitude. Without being strident or patronising and in her warm, witty and friendly way, the author makes very clear the right of every human being to define themselves and to be able to live their lives without fear. Many misconceptions (often generated by ill-informed or blatantly hateful messages in mainstream and social media) are firmly laid to rest. Notably what is and is not actually possible in terms of treatment for young people under 18. The information and advice given does not sugar coat anything. Nobody could be left in any doubt of the difficulties and the time that it would take to make any sort of transition, nor that there is one simple answer or one simple journey. The fascinating look at the history of transgender in different cultures and the witness statements from trans and non-binary people across the globe, give those of us in our cisgender privilege a salutary wake-up call, which is why this book has value for any sociology, politics or philosophy students too. An essential purchase for secondary schools and a recommended addition to any young person's bookshelf. For more books visit our LGBTQI Literature Collection.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 3-6 | This is a vital picture book for society today – with an emphasis on family and belonging. Isabel is a small girl who lives with her family, and though they have little they have each other, so life is happy. Then disaster strikes and they have to leave their home to move to the other side of town - where everything is grey and cold and sad and lonely. As she walks about Isabel realises she is ignored by people, and feels she is literally fading away. It is not until she has faded and become truly invisible that she notices all the other invisible people sitting or working away at different things – like planting flowers in old paint pots or mending a bike – but they are all alone too. So, Isabel decides to help, she helps to fix things up and gradually others join in too. As more people join in they become less invisible, until they have created a vibrant area where they can all be seen. By doing as she did Isabel has learned that one of the hardest things is to make a difference. This full colour picture book uses muted shades for much of the story – showing us just how cold and dark it is and how awful it is to be ‘invisible’. The beginning of the story has colour – but it is all edged with cold, and icy windows. It is not until the end of the book – when winter has passed, when the sun and spring add to the wonderful colour the new community has created by all working together. This is a very gentle story with a potent and persuasive message, that small acts can add up to a huge change. Whilst being selfless it also shows that Isabel and her family have all benefitted by the actions she has instigated. This is a very personal message from the author, who had a very happy childhood even when his family had very little – underlining the message we can all contribute somehow, and that we all belong! A book that should be in all classrooms and school libraries for its message and its powerful pictures.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2022 Information Books 3-14 | Learn how to storyboard, code and test games, just like your favourite devs, or boost your Twitch subs by learning how to go pro. Think you have the skills to compete in eSports tournaments, or do you need some tips on getting good? This book will give you the know-how on making it big in all areas of the gaming industry!
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2022 Information Books 3-14 | A captivating illustrated introduction to The Great Barrier Reef, written by renowned Oceanographer and author, Helen Scales. Illustrated by up and comer Lisk Feng, this is perfect for intrepid young snorkelers or children curious about the world under the sea. With nearly 400,000 square kilometres of dazzling colour, intricate ecosystems and unique creatures large and small, The Great Barrier Reef is one of the great natural wonders of our world. Vibrant, dynamic illustrations illuminate this enchanting place, its animal inhabitants, and the people who have embraced it as a centrepiece of their cultures. Learn all about how the reef came to be, its place in the world, and perhaps most importantly, what we can all do to help ensure that The Great Barrier Reef will be around for countless future generations to discover!
Chosen as our Guest Editor, Francesca Simon's Book of the Month | Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 10-14 | An extraordinary, powerful, and important book, based on the true story of how Liz Kessler’s father escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe thanks to a British couple his family had met once. But what elevates this book about three friends and their different fates in World War Two is the story of Max, the nice, ordinary boy who gradually becomes seduced into hatred and prejudice. The ringing question, ‘What would I do under these circumstances?’ echoes on every page. ~ Francesca Simon
Shortlisted for The Branford Boase Award 2022 | Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 7-10 | January 2021 Debut of the Month | Lesley Parr’s story of evacuees is rich in atmosphere and a sense of place, and uses its wartime setting to explore themes of community, understanding and self-forgiveness. Along with other children at their school, Jimmy and his little brother Ronnie have been sent hundreds of miles away from London to the safety of a small mining town in South Wales, and it couldn’t be further from what they know. Jimmy is determined they won’t stay long, and that the place won’t change him, even as it’s transforming his classmates: Florence Campbell for example, who is free to become someone else, far away from her abusive family. The village has its secrets though, and the discovery of a set of bones in a tree leads Jimmy to solve a decades old mystery and, in the process, to help those living with loss and guilt. The place and its people are carefully and skilfully evoked, with the adults, particularly Jimmy and Ronnie’s new ‘family’ of Aunty Gwen and Uncle Alun the miner, likely to be as fascinating to readers as the younger protagonists. The mystery will certainly keep readers gripped but it’s the characters and the place that will stay with them. Evacuees are a rich source for children’s adventure stories, examples include Michelle Magorian’s classic Goodnight Mister Tom, and Jacqueline Wilson’s more recent Wave Me Goodbye.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 7-10 | Without question, Kelly Yang's Front Desk has leapt to the upper echelons of my all-time favourite novels for pre-teen readers. Narrated in lively, compelling, authentic style by the one and only Mia (who stole my heart from the very first page), this tells the soul-stirring story of a Chinese family’s struggles when they take on running a US motel. As her family move into the Calivista Motel, Mia’s hopes and dreams run riot: “Our lives were about to change. We were going to become Disneyland-going people. As if things couldn’t get any better, the Calivista had a pool! It was right out in front. The water sparkled under the golden sun. I closed my eyes and pictured myself doing cannonballs in the water all summer long. This was going to be amazing!” Then, little by little - and big by big - the sparkle dulls as reality’s storm clouds muster. But not one to give up, Mia takes on managing the motel’s front desk. Though often harrowingly dampened by anti-immigration feeling and outright racism, and by the day-to-day grind of running the motel, Mia’s hope is a thing of magic. There’s pressure at school too - to be accepted, to make friends, to learn to write well, which is her big dream - but still she stays strong as her parents (understandably) worry whether it’s worth staying. The motel’s community of long-term guests provides a lively, characterful cast of extras, one of whom in particular plays a leading, shining role in Mia’s life, and in her ingenious scheme to fix her family’s fortunes through writing. What a story - I couldn’t love it more - thank goodness there’s a second book.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2021 | Shortlisted for the Iris Award | Longlisted for the YA Jhalak Prize | Longlisted for the YA Diverse Book Award | Shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Medal 2022 | Written with luminous, crackling style, Cane Warriors is an unforgettable account of Jamaican and British history that must be known, with an unforgettable narrator at its heart. In the words of fourteen-year-old Moa, “the hope of our dreamland churned in my belly,” a powerful statement that pulses through this extraordinary story of Tacky’s War. Based on a revolutionary real-life 1760 Jamaican slave rebellion, a visceral sense of the atrocities Moa and his fellow field slaves are subjected to is evoked from the start. Their bodies are lashed and “roasted by a brutal sun”, Moa hasn’t seen his house-slave mama for three years, his papa lost an arm in mill machinery, and his friend Hamaya fears the day predatory white men will “come for me.” Spurred by the death of Miss Pam who “drop inna da field and lose her life”, and led by Miss Pam’s brother Tacky, who “trod like a king” and whose brain “work quick like Anancy”, the uprising hinges on the freedom fighters killing the plantation master. While Moa is glad to be given a pivotal role in the rebellion, he fears that success and escape will mean he’ll never see his parents or Hamaya again - his conflict is palpable, but he’s set on being a cane warrior. Outside the plantation, Moa’s world is immediately transformed, with his life as a freedom fighter evoked in fine detail (I loved the depiction of him tasting creamy, fleshy sweetsop for the first time). There are bloody battles ahead, executed in the presence of Akan gods, and driven by brotherhood and hope for that dreamland. Lucidly lyrical and raw, I cannot praise Cane Warriors enough. Find out more about the YA Book Prize including all the shortlisted titles.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 7-10 | October 2020 Debut of the Month | Shortlisted for the 2021 Branford Boase Award | At once a moving adventure and a thrilling multi-layered mystery, Kereen Getten’s dazzling debut When Life Gives You Mangoes is set in the close-knit community of Sycamore Hill, Jamaica, where Clara spends her days playing ‘pick leaf’, having fun at the river and avoiding the wrath of moody Ms Gee. She used to love surfing, but now she’s scared of the sea and she can’t remember why. In fact, Clara can’t remember anything about last summer. She also can’t explain why her best friend Gaynah is being mean to her, and no one will tell her why Pastor Brown has turned the entire town against her Uncle Eldorath. Despite these unsettling mysteries, the superbly-evoked Sycamore Hill is a steady kind of place. In Clara’s words, “You live and you die here. No one leaves and no one new comes in. Sometimes that’s a good thing because you know everyone, and everyone knows you. Other times you get tired of seeing the same faces and want something new.” And then something new happens in the form of Rudy, a cool, confident girl from Britain who turns out to be Ms Gee’s granddaughter. At Rudy’s arrival, “the entire village is buzzing. This is the most excitement we have ever had,” and it’s not long before the girls strike up a beautiful bond. Soon enough, Clara is enjoying escapades her parents wouldn’t entirely approve of because “there is something magnetic about Rudy and her adventures.” As Clara’s memory begins to return in tempestuous flashbacks, hurricane season brings a devastating storm that coincides with everything changing - truths are laid bare, ghosts are laid to rest, and a new landscape is left in the wake of the upheavals. Poignant on friendship, family and community, in all their tricky, complicated, life-affirming forms, this Middle Grade wonder also makes pertinent reference to police prejudice in the UK. “Where I live...there are some bad kids, but there are a lot more good kids, but the police think we’re all the same,” Rudy remarks. Clara’s huge-hearted story had me hooked and charmed from start to finish.
October 2020 Book of the Month | Shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Medal 2022 | Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2022 ages 7-10 | Raw, lingering and stirringly lyrical, October, October had me hooked from opening to end. Conjured in language that crackles and smoulders like an autumn bonfire, this is a book of bones and bark, of frost and flame, captivating in the manner of Skellig or Stig of the Dump as it undulates towards a wondrous homecoming of the heart. “We live in the woods and we are wild… Just us. A pocket of people in a pocket of the world that’s small as a marble. We are tiny and we are everything and we are wild.” October has everything she wants living in the woods in the house her father built. Her mother left when October was four and she’s adamant that, “I don’t want her. She’s not wild like we are.” This year October’s euphoria at the onset of autumn is sullied when she discovers a dead owl and a motherless baby owl: “my heart won’t stop bruising my ribs.” So, she rescues the baby, names it Stig and declares it her first ever friend. Calamity strikes when the woman “who calls herself my mother” arrives as a birthday surprise - her beloved dad breaks his spine after falling from a tree and October must stay with this woman – her mother – in London while he recuperates. In the chaotic city, October is a bird with clipped wings. Torn from her wild world, she implodes, becomes a “firework of fury”, until she strikes up a bond with a boy named Yusef and discovers mudlarking, which makes her once more “a wild animal skulking and prowling for food”, “a pirate hunting for treasure.” An unforgettable story, an unforgettable heroine – it’s no exaggeration to hail this a future classic.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2022 Information Books 3-14 | Modern Art Explorer is a witty and brilliantly illustrated introduction to modern art for children that takes readers undercover to discover the stories behind thirty famous artworks from the Centre Pompidou's collection in Paris. Modern art has never seemed so exciting!
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | September 2020 Book of the Month | Shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Medal 2022 | Co-written by award-winning novelist Ibi Zoboi and Dr Yusef Salaam, a prison reform activist, poet and one of the Exonerated Five, Punching the Air is a timely, heartachingly powerful free verse novel. Through its shatteringly succinct lyricism, Amal’s story is a mighty call to action that rouses readers to question the deep-rooted and damaging consequences of racially biased societal systems, while radiating the light and hope of art and Amal himself. Sixteen-year-old Amal is a talented poet and artist, but even at his liberal arts college, he’s victimised by destructive preconceptions, deemed disruptive by people who “made themselves a whole other boy in their minds and replaced me with him.” Amal’s budding life careers off-course when he’s wrongfully convicted of a crime in a gentrified area. Even in the courtroom it feels to him “like everything that I am, that I’ve ever been, counts as being guilty”. Standing before judgemental eyes in his specially chosen grey suit, he’s aware that “no matter how many marches or Twitter hashtags or Justice for So-and-So our mind’s eyes and our eyes’ minds see the world as they want to/Everything already illustrated in black and white.” In the detention centre, Amal considers his African ancestry: “I am shackled again,” he says. “Maybe these are the same chains that bind me to my ancestors. Maybe these are the same chains that bind me to my father and my father’s father and all the men that came before.” He expresses society’s double standards with searing clarity too - Black boys are “a mob/a gang ghetto/a pack of wolves animals/thugs hoodlums men” while white boys “were kids having fun home loved supported protected full of potential boys.” But through the beatings and despair, through anger and frustration, Amal finds solace in the supportive letters he receives from a girl in his school, and his “poet, educator and activist” teacher. By turns soul-stirring and inspiring, this sharp exposure of injustice and testament to the transformative power of art comes highly recommended for readers who love the work of Jason Reynolds and Elizabeth Acevedo. Find a selection of recommended books that celebrate difference in our blog, Diverse Voices.
July 2020 Book of the Month | Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 11-14 | Set in the author’s native Wales during the dark days of the fifth century, Ellen Caldecott’s The Short Knife is an energetic, edge-of-your-seat page-turner with present-day resonance as 21st-century Britain - island of migrants - faces the challenge of forging an identity independent of continental Europe. With the Romans compelled to leave Britain after 400 years, the island is on the brink of collapse. Amidst this uncertainty and the chaos of Saxon invasion, thirteen-year-old Mai is cared for by her dad and sister (she lost her mam when she was three), and wrestling with her “anger at the people free to flee into the hills. Anger at all the world and everyone in it. I want to open my mouth and let the fire out, burn it all into blackness.” When Saxon warriors turn up at their farm, the family is forced to flee to the dangerous hills themselves. Mai must cross the threshold from childhood to adulthood if she’s to survive in a hostile world in which speaking in her mother tongue might turn out to be fatal. The cinematic scene-setting, first person narrative, and succinct, magnetically lyrical style make for a thrilling experience that will hook the most reluctant of readers. Recommended for fans of Caroline Lawrence and Damian Dibben’s The History Keepers series, this offers enlightening insights into British history with fresh flair, and through the eyes of a compelling main character.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 7-10 | Omar Mohammed spent his childhood at the enormous Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing the war in Sudan with his younger brother, having seen their father killed and becoming separated from their mother. Eventually resettled to America, he was already working on his memoir for adults when he met the Newbery Honor winning author who persuaded him to turn his story into a graphic novel. This accessible format and the first-person narration create an intimate picture of a very real boy and what life in a refugee camp is really like. It importantly puts a face and a personality to the refugee crisis. We feel the hunger, the physical drudgery, the monotony and the frustrations, but also the sense of community, the love and support of friends and neighbours and the moments of joy and the passion for learning. Omar and his friends Jeri, Nima and Maryam all want to learn and aspire to escape to the West. The injustice of the lack of spaces for older children, of girls who are not allowed to study and of who gets selected for resettlement are unforgettably conveyed. The relationships between Omar and Hassan, his mute and damaged brother, and with Fatima who lost all her sons in Sudan but cares for them is beautifully and movingly portrayed. They never lose hope that they might find their mother and in the afterword we discover how that story turned out. Readers cannot help but develop empathy and compassion for people like Omar. This is an outstanding book that is truly engaging, educative and heart-breaking but ultimately a story of hope and doing the best you can. An essential purchase for schools.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award ages 3-6 | I wonder, then, what freedom is. Is it a place? Is it a thought? Can it be stolen? Can it be bought? As powerful as it is beautiful, Freedom, We Sing is a lyrical picture book designed to inspire and give hope to readers around the world. Molly Mendoza's immersive, lush illustrations invite kids into the text, to ask themselves what it means to be free, while lyrical and emotive text is provided by musician Amyra Leon.
Shortlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 7-10 | Winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards 2021, Best Story | Shortlisted for the 2021 Branford Boase | Award Shortlisted for the Little Rebels Award 2021 | When 11 year old Addie, who is autistic, learns about the 16th century women who were persecuted for witchcraft, she starts to lobby for a local memorial in her small Scottish village. With the help of a new girl at school, she fights valiantly against injustice and oppression. The Branford Boase Award Judges said: ‘Phenomenal’; ‘I loved it’; ‘brings a brand new voice into children’s books’; ‘deals with ideas of difference without being heavy handed’. Find out more about the Branford Boase Awards here.