Dapo Adeola and Nathan Bryon have won the age three to six category at the UKLA Awards, the annual national book prize judged by teachers, with Look Up! (Puffin).
The awards, run by the UK Literacy Association (UKLA) and sponsored by book recommendation site Lovereading4Kids, also saw joint winners in the 11 to 14+ age category for the first time. The awards were announced in a virtual ceremony on 1st July, streamed via the UKLA YouTube channel and the UKLA website.
Adeola and Bryon's debut title as a team Look Up! was praised by judges for its "ambitious, intelligent and inspiring female lead" and as a story which sparked recognition for its relatable message, in addition to providing a springboard for intense discussion among children.
Judges also highly commended Tibble and Grandpa by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egnéus (OUP) to reflect how moved children and adults were by the "touching intergenerational tale of loss and resilience".
The seven to 10+ category winner was Check Mates by Stewart Foster (Simon & Schuster), which judges praised as a "beautifully crafted and empathetic tale", and one which gave a sensitive portrayal of ADHD. They highly commended Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Williamson (Barrington Stoke), which explores grief, remembrance and mental health.
In the 11 to 14+ category, both Run Rebel by Manjeet Mann (Penguin) and The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery (Hot Key) were considered "so exceptional" they both deserved awards. The verse novel by debut British author Mann, was praised for its "complex representation, universal themes, and visceral emotional impact".
"Powerful" Hiroshima survivor story The Last Paper Crane was singled out for its "sensitive and compassionate" handling of history, the discussion that it provoked and for its use of different text formats and illustrations by Natsuo Seki.
In the category of information books for ages three to 14+, The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson (Andersen) won, described as a book that is "both beautiful and important, delivering universal messages with such powerful impact".
Chris Lockwood, chair of the awards, said: “The UKLA is enormously proud of the commitment and resilience shown by our teacher judges for the 2021 book awards and of the stunningly diverse books which they have chosen as their winners. The quality of the judge’s discussions were a privilege to witness.”
Deborah McLaren, director of Lovereading4kids, said: “What a beautiful selection of winning books! Some of our absolute faves of the year; the UKLA committees and teacher judges have done a wonderful job of curating a stunning selection of quality texts and great reads to engage every age range."