As the shortlists are announced for the UKLA Book Awards 2024, diverse voices, genres, formats and age groups are celebrated and Kwame Alexander is the only previous winner to be shortlisted this year.

The UKLA Book Awards are the only national UK children’s book awards judged entirely by teachers. Their task, defined by the criteria, is to find texts from a “wide and inclusive range” of publishers that will “recognise a broad range of perspectives, experiences and voices” but that “first and foremost” are “well written, engaging ‘reads’ “. These awards are completely devoid of any commercial influence, and it is notable that once again we see a strong presence of small, independent publishers, including first shortlist appearances for UCLan, the unique children’s publishing arm of the University of Central Lancaster and for The O’Brien Press from Dublin.

The University of Sussex was the venue for a day of passionate debate, as the 84 teacher judges whittled down the exceptional longlists to the six books now shortlisted in each of the four categories.

As Chris Lockwood, Awards Chair said, “This is always a difficult task, especially when we had such rich and varied books in the longlists. It is always a delight to listen to talented and creative teachers talk about how they have used the longlisted books in their classrooms. The 2024 team of teacher judges brought their passion, expertise and enthusiasm to the task and, as a result, we have four marvellous shortlists.”

For UKLA, giving classroom practitioners the opportunity to read high quality new children’s books is as important as finding an overall winner. Research carried out by members of UKLA (Cremin et al 2008) clearly demonstrated the links between teachers’ knowledge of children’s books and the likelihood of pupils becoming successful readers. Despite this evidence, teachers are seldom given time to read new books or funding to purchase them when they do.

As judge Jane Branson said, “The book talk with colleagues has been stimulating and invaluable” and fellow judge Rachel Gonin agreed “ My school is definitely a richer, more knowledgeable and better read place for me having taken part”

The 3-6+ age category has author Steve McCarthy, currently also shortlisted for the Carnegie medal for Illustration, for The Wilderness a whimsical adventure inspiring children to overcome fear and explore outdoors, in direct competition with twice Carnegie winner, Emily Gravett, who is shortlisted for 10 Dogs, a really funny story about dogs which brilliantly teaches about number bonds to 10. In a shortlist of great variety, they are joined by Irish author Paddy Donnelly with Fox & Son Tailers, a pun- packed, heartwarming story about not being afraid to stand out from the crowd, Leigh Hodgkinson with Martha Maps it Out, an immersive guide to Martha’s world and her imagination and best-selling author Kaye Umansky with Dick the Delightful Duck, who is hilariously having a very bad mood day, in a book which opens up discussions about feelings. The judges final choice is John Dougherty’s The Hare Shaped Hole, a touching and beautifully age appropriate metaphor to depict bereavement, which leaves young readers in a hopeful , optimistic place.

In the empathy and genre rich 7-10+ category which has something for the whole age range, Camilla Chester’s touching debut Call Me Lion and Anne Marie Conway’s sensitive How to be More Hedgehog, both feature protagonists battling with communication difficulties, bullying and family issues and in Finn Jones Was Here Simon James Green features a young boy in total denial about his best friend’s death and manages to be both hilarious and heartbreaking. There is a second shortlisting for Lesley Parr, with Where the River Takes Us, a thrilling adventure mystery about the power of friendship, set in a Welsh valley in the 1970s. The list also features a current Carnegie shortlisted title, Zillah Bethell’s extraordinary The Song Walker, which weaves Aboriginal folklore into a courageous story of friendship, loss and discovery and Wildsmith: Into the Dark Forest, Liz Flanagan’s richly imagined fantasy world full of magic, mystery and dragons. 

In the 11-14+ category, Hot Key Books repeats its 2021 feat of securing two books on this shortlist and coincidentally also mirroring their success on the current Carnegie shortlist for Writing with Tia Fisher’s powerful verse novel debut, Crossing the Line, dealing with highly topical county lines exploitation of vulnerable youths joining Nathaneal Lessore’s comedic, relatable and authentic debut Steady For This. Also sharing with them a place on the Carnegie and UKLA shortlist are Sophie Cameron with Away With Words, which explores what it means for words to mean everything and their loss to mean even more and Ruta Sepetys with I Must Betray You which powerfully explores what it was like for families and friends under the brutal Ceausescu regime. Similarly in Zoulfa Katouh’s breathtaking debut, As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow, we experience Salama's struggle to live the life of an ordinary teenager during the Syrian civil war. Finally we have bestselling fantasy author Sabaa Tahir’s, All My Rage, an unforgettable contemporary novel about family and forgiveness, love and loss, in a story that crosses generations and continents and has already won a National Book Award, the Michael J Prinz Award and the Boston Globe Horn Award in her native USA.

Kwame Alexander repeats his 2021 shortlisting in the category of Information Books 3-14+ and could be in line for a second win with The Unspoken, which in words and images does not shy away from the horrors of slavery yet is balanced with hope for the future. With the beautiful and informative, Whose Tracks in the Snow, Alexandra Milton has improved upon her 2020 longlist place and introduces young children to animal track identification. Darwin and Hooker, the accessible biography by Alexander Stewart explores “one of science’s most important friendships” and leads the reader to understand the struggles of making ground-breaking scientific discoveries. In a moving autobiographical account, written for children, The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Die, Peter Lantos shares his experiences as a five year old child in Belsen Belsen. Husband and wife team Donna and Vikesh Amey Bhat’s Lands of Belonging, importantly explores the rich and complicated history of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Britain. The final book in this wide ranging shortlist demonstrates the variety of text types available. Using a graphic novel scientist-notebook style Saving H’Non: Chang and the Elephant with a mix of Vietnamese art and manga, this stunningly informative text tells an important environmental story about the work of the Animals Asia Foundation.

The fact that these shortlists are judged by class teachers and can be heartily recommended to their peers makes them particularly useful as co-sponsor, our very own Deborah Maclaren, Managing Director of LoveReading4Kids, long time supporter of the UKLA and cheerleader of children's books,commented: “We are so proud to be involved with these very special Awards. We stand united with the UKLA in our mission of celebrating the very best children's books being published today. With social purpose at our heart our aim is to help get more books into the hands of children in schools, through our online bookstore and Funding Scheme. And what a brilliant selection of books these are. We'll be shouting about these to our LoveReading4Kids audience and the 14,000 schools who are members of our LoveReading4Schools platform.

We are delighted to be involved with this celebration of reading for pleasure. The only national awards to be judged entirely by teachers, the UKLA Awards are a remarkable thing, with the added bonus that practitioners can experience and appreciate first-hand the impact these beautiful books have on the children themselves in their classrooms. Huge congratulations to all of the shortlisted authors and illustrators, and a hearty well done to the publishers who make these books happen. The longlists were outstanding and the teacher judges had the unenviable task of whittling them down to this shortlist so kudos to all who made it this far. We can't wait to see who the winners are at the ceremony in July. Good luck everyone from LoveReading4Kids"

Stephen Park, Commercial Director at co- sponsor Reading Cloud, said: “Encouraging reading for enjoyment and improving literacy are very much at the heart of Reading Cloud, so we are delighted to support these worthwhile and unique children’s book awards as co-sponsors again this year. We are always heartened to see so many dedicated teacher judges all over the UK working with the longlisted, shortlisted, and winning books to inspire a love of reading in their pupil groups and beyond. We look forward to hearing more about the winning titles in due course.”

12 teachers nominated from the 84 involved in the shortlisting will now form the final judging panel and have the challenging task of reading all the shortlisted books in all categories. The winner’s announcement will take place at the UKLA International Conference at the University of Sussex on 5th July.

The Shortlists in full


Fox & Son Tailers written and illustrated by Paddy Donnelly

The Hare-Shaped Hole written by John Dougherty and illustrated by Thomas Docherty

10 Dogs written and illustrated by Emily Gravett

Martha Maps It Out written and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson 

The Wilderness written and illustrated by Steve McCarthy

Dick the Delightful Duck written by Kaye Umansky and illustrated by Ben Mantle


The Song Walker written by Zillah Bethell and illustrated by Saara Katariina Söderlund 

Call Me Lion written by Camilla Chester and illustrated by Irina Avgustinovich

How to be More Hedgehog written by Anne Marie Conway and illustrated by Danielle Dey

Wildsmith: Into the Dark Forest written by Liz Flanagan and illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton

Finn Jones Was Here written by Simon James Green and illustrated by Jennifer Jamieson

Where the River Takes Us written by Lesley Parr and illustrated by David Dean


Away with Words written by Sophie Cameron

Crossing the Line written by Tia Fisher

As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow written by Zoulfa Katouh 

Steady for This written by Nathanael Lessore

All My Rage written by Sabaa Tahir

I Must Betray You written by Ruta Sepetys 

Information Books 3-14+

Unspoken written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Dare Coulter

Lands of Belonging: A History of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Britain written by Vikesh Amey Bhatt, and Donna Amey Bhatt and illustrated by Salini Perera

The Boy Who Didn't Want to Die written by Peter Lantos

Whose Tracks in the Snow? Written and illustrated by Alexandra Milton

Saving H'Non: Chang and the Elephant written by Trang Nguyen and illustrated by Jeet Zdung

Darwin & Hooker written by Alexander Stewart and illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton

Download an extract, buy and read our expert reviews of the shortlisted books below

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