Book of the Year - Children's Illustrated & Non-Fiction

Introduction

This shortlist draws heavily on themes which dominated the public conversation in 2020, covering topics such as systematic racism, isolation, hope and (a major one for parents) the constant task of keeping children entertained at home. Despite the timely topics, all of these books have the potential to become future classics.

Winner

Black & British

Black and British: A short, essential history

David Olusoga

Macmillan Children's Books

A children’s version of David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History was initially acquired by Pan Macmillan Children’s Books in January 2020. Just six months later, Olusoga approached the publisher and asked if it could bring a new, third version to market in response to the Black Lives Matter protests that took place around the world: and as a result, in September last year, Black and British: A Short, Essential History went to print.

Olusoga skilfully tracks 1,800 years of Black British history, from the presence of Africans in Britain during the Roman period right up to the present day. “A really important subject addressed in an accessible and straightforward manner, which clearly resonates with young people,” praised one judge.

The publisher impressively secured broadcast, radio, print and online media marketing, including children’s TV and a serialisation in the Times. It also partnered with The Black Curriculum to ensure the book’s success, pledging to donate funds from each sale to the social enterprise.

What led the title to triumph in this category, though, was the judges’ confidence in its ability to challenge misconceptions, evolve public discourse and start a conversation around the true and complete history of the UK.

David Olusoga in conversation with Will Rycroft

The Shortlist

  • Kay's Anatomy by Adam Kay & Henry Paker
    Puffin
    Puffin Books approached Adam Kay to work on his first children’s book, confident that the funny, engaging style that ran through his runaway hit This is Going to Hurt (Picador) would translate well for a younger market. Kay set out to make the body as interesting to children as Space or dinosaurs, and the bold and confident text was illustrated by the author’s friend Henry Paker.
  • I'm Sticking With You by Smriti Halls & Steve Small
    Simon & Schuster Children's Books
    Knowing that design and production would be key to publication, S&S paired Smriti Halls’ delightful rhyming text with artwork from début illustrator Steve Small. It originally planned a simultaneous hardback and paperback publication but, with the shuttering of bookshops, split them and created an extensive digital campaign to ensure the success of this book.
  • Draw With Rob by Rob Biddulph
    HarperCollins Children's Books
    Rob Biddulph’s #DrawWithRob videos added some colour to lockdown, and HarperCollins Children’s reactively brought out a book of the same name. The title was planned, written, illustrated and designed in just three weeks. The author’s commitment to the project was clear: he gave interviews, created bespoke draw-along videos, and held multiple live and virtual events.
  • Black and British: A short, essential history by David Olusoga
    Macmillan Children's Books
    David Olusoga’s book is an essential introduction to 1,800 years of Black British history: from the Roman Africans, right up to the present day. Since he published Black and British: A Forgotten History in 2016 (Macmillan), parents have been asking Olusoga for a kids’ title. Leveraging the author’s profile, Macmillan Children’s secured broadcast, radio, print and online media marketing.
  • The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
    Hamish Hamilton
    The “little sister” to The Lost Words, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’ The Lost Spells (Hamish Hamilton) is a pocket-sized collection of acrostic poetry and artwork. A spontaneous bout of crowdfunded campaigns saw the book being bought for three-quarters of all British primary schools, care homes and hospices, and saw it billed as “a cultural phenomenon” by the Guardian.
  • The Book of Hopes by Katherine Rundell (ed)
    Bloomsbury Children's Books
    Featuring work from 133 kids’ authors and illustrators, this anthology was put together by Katherine Rundell during lockdown to cater for middle-grade readers. Bloomsbury initially published it online for free, with the hardback and audio editions following in the autumn to raise money for NHS Charities Together. “Sweet, sophisticated and pertinent,” said the Times.