Revealing the results of our annual Teach Primary Book Awards is always a delight - and this year brings an additional pleasure, thanks to the introduction of a brand-new, non-fiction prize, judged by none other than comedian, writer and author Robin Ince. Added to our usual three, age-related categories (Reception, KS1 and KS2) - and not forgetting the First News Funny award, decided upon by readers of the newspaper that gets young people talking - this enables us to share no fewer than 27 quality assured titles with teachers and parents, so they can in turn share them with children in and out of the classroom.
In order to help our judges come to a final decision, we asked them to assess each shortlisted entry according to six very clearly defined criteria, asking questions about learning opportunities as well as beautiful writing and powerful illustration. This means that as well as being a joy to read, every title listed here has something extra to offer young people - perhaps through a particularly original use of language, or by encouraging them to think differently about issues that really matter to them. As always, the standard of entries for this year’s awards was incredibly high; and we’re thrilled to announce the winners here.
“What a broad range of brilliance. From formats, to stories, to moods and subjects, these books are windows into our world.” Dan Freedman, judge
Memorable illustration Read-aloud-ability Opportunities for discussion Encourages language play and development
While riding the subway home with his Nana one day, Julian notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train carriage. When Julian gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies and making his own fabulous mermaid costume. But what will Nana think about the mess he makes – and even more importantly – what will she think about how Julian sees himself? Mesmerising and full of heart, this is a picture book about self-confidence and love, and a radiant celebration of individuality.
Cyril is the only squirrel in Lake Park, and he's very lonely. Until one day he meets Pat – a big, grey . . . other squirrel? Cyril and Pat have lots of adventures and fun together, but everyone is adamant that they simply cannot be friends, and they eventually reveal why: Pat, as the reader has known all along, is actually a rat! In the end, however, the two chums learn that some things are more important than being the same, or listening to others.
Breadth of appeal Use of illustration Pacy, engaging story Learning opportunities
When a great dam was built by the Kielder Water in Northumberland, the valley below slowly filled with water. But just before this, when the villagers had been moved out, two musicians went back to the abandoned valley. They tore down the boards over the houses, stepped inside and started to play – for this would be the last time that a tune would be heard in this place. In this astonishing picture book that combines themes of loss, hope and music, David Almond and Levi Pinfold pay homage to all artists, showing the ancient and unstoppable power of creativity.
Sam has a problem. He has to share a room with his older brother and things aren't easy. When Sam sees the president on TV talking about building a wall, he realises a solution is at hand! But who knew that planning a wall could be so tricky? Told through Sam's letters to the president, this funny, insightful story invites discussion about living with others in times of conflict.
Eddie was given a dragon's egg by his uncle for his last birthday, and one day he notices a crack appearing in it. Soon the egg breaks open and out comes a very unusual creature. Then, just as Eddie and Emily are trying to cope with this new arrival, their mum announces that she has a surprise of her own...
Originality Compelling plot Emotional depth Something to think about?
“If you can imagine it, it exists ... somewhere.”
It’s 1945. They have survived the Blitz, but when Simon, Patricia, Evelyn and Larry step through a mysterious library door, it is the beginning of their most dangerous adventure yet, as they discover the magical world of Folio, where an enchanted kingdom of fairy knights, bears and tree gods is under threat from a sinister robot army. The many stories of the Library are locked in eternal war, and the children's only hope is to find their creator - a magician who has been lost for centuries. What they find will change not just their own lives, but the fate of the world, for ever... Young readers will be captivated by this extraordinary fantasy adventure from the author of the brilliant The Last Wild trilogy.
England is at war. Growing up in a lighthouse, Pet's world has been one of storms, secret tunnels and stories about sea monsters. But now the clifftops are a terrifying battleground, and her family is torn apart. This is the story of a girl who is small, afraid and unnoticed. A girl who freezes with fear at the enemy planes ripping through the skies overhead. A girl who is somehow destined to become part of the strange, ancient legend of the Daughters of Stone...
Quality of information Presentation Is the writing entertaining and age-appropriate? Will it provoke futher curiosity?
Selected by Alastair Humphreys - named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2012 - this is a collection of incredible journeys undertaken by twenty of the most heroic and impressive explorers who ever lived, including Ibn Battuta (14th-century explorer); Apsley Cherry-Garrard (a member of Scott's Antarctic expedition); Michael Collins (Apollo Moon mission astronaut) and Nellie Bly (who travelled round the world in less than 80 days). From young to old, male to female and with a wide range of abilities, these intrepid individuals crossed land, sea and sky in the name of adventure - and may just inspire readers to do the same
This beautiful book takes readers on a journey through art history, from early pictures drawn on cave walls to the images we make today on our computers and phone cameras. Based on the bestselling version for adults, this children’s edition of A History of Pictures is told through conversations between the artist David Hockney and the author Martin Gayford, who talk with inspiring simplicity and clarity, as Rose Blake’s illustrations bring the history of art alive for a young audience
Shortlisted titles in this category were judged by a panel of young First News readers in Year 6 at Springfield Junior School in Swadlincote, Derbyshire. Find out more about how First News can support literacy and learning in your school, at schools.firstnews.co.uk
Intrepid young schoolgirl-turned-reporter Greta Zargo is always in search of a Big Scoop - and suddenly there are plenty of strange goings-on in the usually quiet little town of Upper Lowerbridge. Not only has Aunt Tabitha, the great inventor, gone missing, but weird, wobbling, blob-like monsters are appearing via a very deep hole in Greta's garden - and slowly but surely devouring her neighbours one by one. Greta Zargo doesn't know it, but once again she is about to unwittingly save the world...
What would the world of children’s literature look like without the imposing turrets of Hogwarts looming over it? How many hilarious and empowering, brilliantly illustrated stories that kids love today simply wouldn’t exist if the authors hadn’t themselves been raised on a diet of Dahl and Blake? And does Enid Blyton still have something relevant to say to young people?
Books for junior readers have certainly come a long way since John Newbury published A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (widely believed to be the first title specifically aimed at giving enjoyment to children) in 1744; and many amazing writers have had an important part to play in that journey. But who do teachers think has made the most significant contribution to the ‘golden age’?
This is the question we put to teachers for 2019 - asking them to choose the ‘most influential children’s author’ from the following shortlist, or make their own suggestion; Malorie Blackman, Enid Blyton, Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl, Julia Donaldson, Jeff Kinney, C.S Lewis, J K Rowling, Dr Seuss, Jacqueline Wilson.
Amongst teachers’ own additions to the list of authors, by far the most popular suggestion was Michael Morpurgo - whose classic, Kensuke’s Kingdom was in fact the winner of last year’s Teachers’ Choice Award, which asked for ‘your favourite book to teach’.
“I’d vote for Jacqueline Wilson. Her books are so widely read and cover such a wide range of genres. Whenever I visit schools to run workshops or talk about reading, almost all of the children have heard of or read a book by her. Vicky Angel is such a clever study of grief and guilt, as is The Cat Mummy. She’s a children’s author who is devoted to her audience.”
“Katherine Rundell is a tremendous author. Reading her exciting, complex and emotionally charged stories with my daughter has been thrilling. From the bleak, breakneck drama of Wolf Wilder, to the dramatic journey and return of The Explorer, Rundell hasn't yet failed to inspire my eldest - and for me, it has been a delight to accompany her on the ride.”
“What a difficult question! How can I choose just ONE author when there are so many great influences to contend with? I grew up loving fantasy books – Tolkien, Diana Wynne Jones and Lloyd Alexander were some of my favourites. If I had to choose just one author though, I’d go for Ursula Le Guin, who created the most glorious, immersive fantasy worlds – packed with so much detail so it felt completely believable. I wanted to go to the School of Magic on Roke, with the same intensity that children of today want to go to school at Hogwarts!”
“Norton Juster was certainly the most influential children’s author to me. I remember reading The Phantom Tollbooth as a nine-year-old and being simply agog that words could be so funny. He more or less explained how jokes were written. The passage where the market stalls selling words get tipped over, and suddenly all the words get jumbled up - ‘Done what you’ve looked!’ - it made me understand how language works and how enjoyable it can be.”
“What a broad range of brilliance. From formats, to stories, to moods and subjects, these books are windows into our world.”
Dan Freedman, judge