The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf (Hachette Children’s Books) is the winner of this year’s overall £5,000 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, beating off competition from other category winners Tomi Adeyemi, Lauren Ace and Jenny Løvlie.
Raúf’s novel, which also won the younger fiction category, is about a new boy in class who is a refugee. Ahmet has been separated from his family so his friends in school come up with a plan to help him.
Florentyna Martin, Waterstones children’s buyer, said: “In this future classic, Raúf has distilled what it means to be a genuine and positive person into a story that sparkles with kindness, humour and curiosity. Her characters step out of the book with a warm smile, fully-formed as role models for everyday life, ready to take you on an ambitious adventure which is both fun and exceptionally gripping. Children’s books have a raft of difficult topics to convey to young readers, and Raúf embraces this with an approach that is funny, upbeat and overwhelmingly open-hearted. Having recognised this, our booksellers have chosen a winner that showcases the very best of what stories can achieve.”
Tomi Adeyemi’s Children Of Blood And Bone (Macmillan Children’s Books) won the older fiction category and The Girls by Lauren Ace and Jenny Løvlie (Little Tiger) took the illustrated category.
Martin described Adeyemi’s YA novel as “fearless, immersive, emotional and cinematic” and Ace and Løvlie’s picture book as “brimming over with character and compassion”.
Waterstones booksellers voted for the titles from a shortlist including Elizabeth Acevedo, Christelle Dabos, Michael Whaite and John Bond.