Discover the 2019 Book Awards shortlist here
As you might expect, there was no shortage of incredibly beautiful picture books entered for this category - however, our judges were in search of titles with real synergy between illustration and language; each element subtly enhancing the other to produce a truly inspiring early reading experience.
When two turtles find one hat, and it looks equally good on both of them, how are they supposed to decide what to do next? The sustained hilarity and depth of emotional dilemma Jon Klassen manages to conjure from this simple scenario is astonishing; his chelonian protagonists exchange sparse, deadpan dialogue with impeccable comic timing, whilst an unspoken narrative concerning possession of the newly desired headgear unfolds around and between them. Children will find something new to amuse them every time they revisit the book - and the big questions it asks, about friendship, sharing and generosity are timeless, and addressed with a tender empathy that cannot fail to touch readers of all ages.
Oliver Jeffers created this beautiful gift of a book by way of an introduction to the world for his new son - gentle, thoughtful, but never taking itself too seriously, it’s a gorgeous guidebook for how to live well on our marvellous, but often troubled, planet.
The reading skills of KS1 children can vary enormously - for this category, therefore, success depended on real breadth of appeal; a pacy, engaging story; and genuine learning opportunities for all abilities, as well as originality and clever use of illustration.
Holly’s dad is an explorer, having amazing adventures all over the world - while Holly is stuck at home, living a boring and ordinary life with her mum, her baby brother and the dog. When she realises that her dad is going to miss her tenth birthday, thanks to his latest expedition, Holly is not happy - until she finds out that he’s planned a special treasure hunt, just for her. She has complete ten tasks in ten days - some silly, some tricky, and some downright terrifying; and in the process of carrying them out, she learns that she shares more of her dad’s adventurous spirit than she had ever realised, and that in fact, life doesn’t need to be boring at all. Perfectly pitched for a tricky age group, this is a great read with an important message - and plenty of heart.
An absolute joy to read aloud, told in elegantly phrased rhyming couplets and with fantastic, rich illustrations throughout, this story of three sisters who find a whale stranded on a windswept beach and try to save it powerfully brings home both the majesty and vulnerability of nature, and our place in it.
As in previous years, the scores in this category were the highest overall - and the closest, too, with just one mark separating the eventual winner from the runner up. Exceptionally skilled storytelling was a must for our judges, with emotional depth and thought-provoking subject matter also key considerations.
In 2014, Neal Jackson entered the Big Idea competition - a scheme that sees the winner’s suggestion turned into a book by an established children’s author. Jackson’s notion was to conceive a story focused on the famous Montgolfier hot-air balloon, unveiled before King Louis XVI at Versailles in 1783, which transformed a duck, a rooster and a sheep into the first aeronauts. It’s a delightful tableau - and in Sky Chasers the author Emma Carroll brings it to sparkling, thrilling life with her wonderful imagination and narrative genius. Teaming a smart, tough and resourceful orphan, Magpie, with Montgolfier’s thoughtful son, Pierre - and throwing in a sinister pack of English rogues determined to steal the French inventor’s secrets - Carroll takes readers on a truly captivating and unforgettable journey.
Martin and his younger brother Charlie have snuck out of their house, determined to travel 421 miles from Preston to Cornwall, to see a dolphin. They’re in trouble from the moment they leave - but it’s a journey that has to be made, and there’s a secret that must be faced before life can go on. Both heartbreaking and uplifting (and also, very funny), this is an exquisitely told story that will stay with readers long after the final page has been turned.
Shortlisted titles in this category were judged by a panel of young First News readers in Years 4 and 5 at Portway Primary School in London - part of the The Leading Learning Trust. We wanted to know what tickled their funny bones, yes; but also asked them to look for “a fantastic plot, memorable characters and great dialogue”, as well as the jokes…
You might expect the debut children’s book by a pair of radio personalities largely known for their work on BBC Radio 1 to be ‘zany’; for the narrative to be bold, irreverent and crammed with jokes, many of them deliberately daft. And yes, Greg James and Chris Smith deliver on all these counts - but there’s a lot more to this tale of an ordinary boy who finds himself enrolled in a secret school for superheroes than mere joyful silliness and cheek. The writing is sharp and sophisticated, with the humour layered, rather than delivered in a series of set-ups and sucker punches; and neatly tucked inside the fast-paced story about saving the world from an evil scientist-turned-wasp is a touching subplot about the many different shapes in which families come, and the need for all of us find a place of stability in our lives, from which we can start to explore who we really are. It’s an impressive achievement.
First News, founded in 2006 by Sarah and Steve Thomson, with editor Nicky Cox, is the UK’s only national newspaper for young people. Over half of all UK schools already subscribe to the paper, which features fresh and innovative news content that speaks directly to young people in a voice they can recognise and trust.
Each week, a team of educational specialists also creates a wealth of teaching resources to spark engagement with current affairs. Thousands of schools across the country benefit from the First News reading package, which includes downloadable, differentiated reading activities based on stories in that week’s newspaper.
And now, with the launch of its new, BETT award-winning digital literacy product, the iHub, First News is bringing an exciting, online dimension to literacy and learning, with its interactive reading challenges based around current affairs.
When you share a book you love with the children you teach, something magical happens. No matter how many times you've read it before – no matter how well you think you know it – your pupils' thoughts, ideas and questions help you see it in a new way. And as they discover the story for the first time, you rediscover it, too.
But what are the most enjoyable books to teach? What are the stories that inspire new activities year upon year, and remain fresh and exciting for class after class? We asked teachers to tell us their favourites - and the result was a fascinating and incredibly diverse list of hundreds of titles. From Shakespeare and Sendak to Rowling and Rosen, the range of authors who really hit the spot for educators and their pupils was impressively wide ranging - however, three titles came up more often than any others…
“Amazing descriptions of a science fiction character. There are lots of resources available, and strong links with other subjects - art, DT, maths, geography to name a few.”
“My class love it. I’ve taught from it for three years now in Year 3.”
“The message of this book can be tied into any lesson or activity we do - we reference this book every day in my classroom!”
“Teaches about so many subjects but most importantly, kindness. “
“It was a real honour to be on the judging panel for the Teach Primary Book Awards. Apart from anything else, it was an excuse to spend my spare time reading books by the very best authors and illustrators out there. What fun! Every single shortlisted book was brilliant in it’s own way. In fact, the only downside of the whole process was how difficult it was to choose a favourite…”
Rob Biddulph, judge
In 2018, The Teach Primary Book Awards had a total Twitter reach of 412,550. See what publishers, authors and teachers had to say about the winning entries and their favourite titles.