The winners of the UKLA Book Awards 2023 were announced on Friday 23rd June at the UKLA’s International Conference in Exeter. The UKLA Book Awards celebrate exceptional children’s books that have a powerful impact both in the classroom and on individual readers. They are the only national children’s book awards that are judged entirely by teachers. Giving classroom practitioners the opportunity to read new, high quality children’s books is an important part of the UKLA Book Awards and a total of 87 teachers were involved in this year’s selection process. The eventual winners were chosen by a final judging panel of 12, nominated by their colleagues.
The Ficton and Poetry for 3-6+ cateogry was won by Flooded by Mariajo Ilustrajo (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books). This ‘stunning’ debut picture book delighted the judges with its ‘unique style’ of ‘quirky and original’ illustrations. They also admired the way that the book ‘works on lots of different levels’. Older children will be able to access the underlying political messages while all ages will appreciate the humour and need for communities to work together.
Katya Balen made award history by becoming the first author to win two years in a row. Her ‘exquisite’ novel The Light in Everything (Bloomsbury Children’s Books) won the Fiction and Poetry 7-10+ category, following on from her 2022 win with October, October. The judges described The Light in Everything as a ‘gut-wrenchingly emotional and relatable’ story that provides an authentic portrayal of a modern blended family and the difficulties faced by the children. In awards that are looking for ‘books in which the language is powerful’, the judges particularly commended ‘the sophisticated but not condescending language’.
The Fiction and Poetry 11-14+ category featured another returning winner. Manjeet Mann was joint winner in 2021 with her debut novel Run Rebel. Her verse novel The Crossing (Penguin) secured her a second UKLA win. The judges commended The Crossing for its ‘brilliant construction’ and clever handling of the dual narrator perspective. They found the verse novel format engaging and accessible while still providing a ‘deeply thought-provoking’ read that ‘really lives with you’.
One of the judging criteria for the UKLA Book Awards is that books should ‘recognise a broad range of perspectives, experiences and voices’ and this was particularly reflected in the outstanding range of titles in the Information Books 3-14+ category. The judges chose Musical Truth – A Musical History of Modern Black Britain in 28 Songs by Jeffrey Boakye, illustrated by Ngadi Smart (Faber & Faber) as their winner, describing it as a ‘masterpiece’ for its unique and accessible approach to engaging readers with Black History. Also Highly Commended was Here and Queer by Rowan Ellis with ‘bright and engaging’ illustrations by Jacky Sheridan (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books). The judges described Here and Queer as ‘Informative, accessible and non-patronising’ and enjoyed the ‘personal dialogue between the writer and the reader’. Both books were considered ‘incredibly important’ to have in schools.
Commenting on this year’s awards, Chair Chris Lockwood 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.’
You can see the full shortlist for the UKLA Book Awards 2023 here.