by Margaret Pemberton, SLA Judging Panel Chair
It is now 10 years since the School Library Association, at the suggestion of its reviews editor Chris Brown, founded the first Information Book Award. Since then it has gone on to become a major contributor to the world of children’s publishing and education. Over this period there has been a tremendous resurgence in information books. The range and quality of the books has expanded beyond recognition and we have seen the birth of many small, but ‘perfectly formed’ publishers within this area.
This is my first year as chair of judges and it is a great honour to be working with such a dedicated group of experts. The team of five have many years’ experience as librarians, both in public and in school libraries and have a wealth of understanding about the qualities that are important in a good information book. We have a wide age range to consider and luckily we are able to share experiences from across the three groups. The challenge this year was great as we had such a large number of nominations, particularly in the middle group and the quality of the books was also high.
The process started in the middle of February with the arrival of seven large boxes of books for each of the judges; thankfully the staff at SLA office had labelled them by age range, so this helped in the initial sort process. We were expecting to hold an initial judging meeting in March but this was halted by the arrival of the Covid 19 shutdown. Luckily we were able to hold a virtual meeting and despite having to adapt to the changes we were able to have a very successful discussion. This enabled us to bring the books down to a manageable longlist. We then faced the even more arduous task of whittling this down to a shortlist but after long discussions about the merits of all of the titles we came to our decisions. The last few weeks have been exciting as we have worked towards the announcement on 22nd May and I know that there will be a lot of discussion about who will be the eventual winners. We are wondering that ourselves and I am looking forward to the fascinating discussions that will no doubt take place when we hold the final judging meeting.
One of the really exciting parts of the shortlist announcement is the start of the “Children’s Choice” process, where we ask young people to become involved in reading the final titles and actively voting for their favourites by the end of term one in the coming academic year. This year is going to be slightly different for some as they will possibly be undertaking the process at home, rather than at school. However they and their parents, as well as teachers and librarians will find a wealth of support materials on the School Library Association website. From Friday 22nd May there will be downloadable sheets for each title and they will include suggestions for work around the main curriculum areas, depending on the subject matter of the book.
I look forward to sharing the shortlist with everyone and hope that you agree that they are worthy titles. I particularly want to say thank you to all the children and carers who join in and make this such a wonderful award to be part of.
2020 School Library Association Information Book Award Shortlists
Up to 7
All About Feelings by Felicity Brooks and Frankie Allen , Mar Ferrero. Usborne (9781474937115)
Goodnight Ocean by Becky Davies, Carmen Saldaña. Little Tiger (9781912756148)
Heroes Who Help Us From Around the World by Liz Gogerly, Ryan Wheatcroft. Franklin Watts (9781445165677)
The Usborne Book of the Moon by Laura Cowan, Diana Toledano. Usborne (9781474950848)
8 to 12
Africa, Amazing Africa by Atinuke, Mouni Feddag. Walker (9781406376586)
Dictionary of Difficult Words by Jane Solomon, Louise Lockhart. Frances Lincoln (9781786038104)
Heroes by Jonny Marx, Gerhard van Wyk. Little Tiger (9781848578739)
Kids Fight Plastic by Martin Dorey, Tim Wesson. Walker (9781406390650)
13 to 16
Black History Matters by Robin Walker. Franklin Watts (9781445166896)
Feminism is … Foreward by Gemma Cairney. Dorling Kindersley (9780241228029)
Hidden Planet by Ben Rothery. Penguin Random House (9780241361009)
Any views expressed within this post may not represent those of the FCBG.