With Christmas around the corner, all us parents are looking for solid gold reading material to put in our kid’s stocking. Something that will capture their imaginations and broaden their minds (and maybe stop them from looking at a screen for least a few minutes).
Here are my top five award-winning middle-grade fiction books for kids that have earned a badge of honour in 2019.
5. British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year 2019 Winner – The Ice Monster
The all-conquering David Walliams has been scooping up awards with a JCB Digger, and I say good for him (but it would be nice if he left some for everyone else).
This one bagged the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year for 2019. The Ice Monster takes young readers to the wintry wilds of the arctic for his most epic novel yet. Elsie, an adventurous Victorian orphan, hears about a 10,000-year-old woolly mammoth being discovered at the North Pole which kicks off the expedition of a lifetime. While everyone else sees a beast, Elsie sees a friend. It’s chocked full of friendly humour and zany villains and crazy science stuff worthy of a Roald Dahl book.
The Ice Monster has only sold 625,000 copies. And it managed to sell a quarter of a million more than the second top seller (which also happens to be Walliams too, the show-off).
Other Notables on the Shortlist: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeymi (which won the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2018), The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson (which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2019), and Head Kid by David Baddiel (which is, well, it’s a good read).
4. CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 Winner – The Poet X
The Carnegie Medal (pronounced ‘car-neigh’, and now you’ll always think of a horse driving a mini cooper when you hear it) is the oldest book awards for children and young people in the UK.
By debut author, Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X was concocted whilst working as an English teacher at a secondary school in Maryland, USA, as you do. The daughter of Dominican immigrants, she realised that the books on the curriculum didn’t contain characters of colour. And she also noticed that this often leads to a disinterest in reading for those kids not being represented in kids books.
This book is a searing, unflinching exploration of culture, family and faith. Xiomara, does every type of verse through the story. She cries, laughs, loves, prays, writes, raps and, ultimately, offers hope. It’s a book that will show kids how girls and women can learn to inhabit, and love, their own skin. Which is a fantastic life-lesson for everyone!
Other Notables on the Shortlist: The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders (which won the Costa Children’s Book Award), A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge (who won also won the Costa Children’s Book Award, but for a different book), and Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls (which won the Waterstone Children’s Book Prize).
3. LOLLIES Winner 2019 – Tom Gates: Epic Adventure (Kind Of)
The LOLLIES (or the Laugh Out Loud Book Awards) is the only prize dedicated to funny books, which makes it my favourite! But the best thing about the Lollies is that the winners are chosen by the readers, so anyone who reads the books and wants to have their say can vote.
The winners in all three categories in 2019 were all women, another reason to like this award. Liz Pichon’s Tom Gates: Epic Adventure (Kind Of) won in the 9 – 13 category. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of flicking through the pages of a Tom Gates book you’ll know that an infinite amount of imaginative doodles fly off the paper. It’s a delightfully addictive series that, as the award says, makes you laugh out loud.
The Other Winners: Mr Bunny’s Chocolate Factory by Elys Dolan (Best Laugh Out Loud Picture Book), The Big, Fat, Totally Bonkers Diary of Pig by Emer Stamp (Best Laugh Out Loud Book for 6 – 8s)
2. FCBG Children’s Book Award Winner 2019 – The Explorer
The Children’s Book Award is the only national award voted solely by children from start to finish. Everyone loves it – kids, parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, children’s authors and the illustrators. Why? Because every year nearly 12,000 books are donated to hospitals, women’s refuges, nurseries and schools. Isn’t that incredible!
The Explorer by Katherine Rundell won the most votes in 2019. Fred, Con, Lila, and Max are travelling back to England when the plane crashes in the jungle. That’s not the worse bit . . . the pilot dies upon landing. For days they survive alone until Fred finds a map that leads them to a ruined city, and to a secret. This tale of friendship and discovery is a long, but thrilling read.
1. Blue Peter Book Award Winner 2019 & Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize Winner 2019 – The Boy at the Back of the Class
This book decided one award wasn’t enough, so it went and won another. If you’re from the UK you can skip over the next paragraph.
So, Blue Peter is a children’s TV programme that has been going for over 60 years which aims to encourage reading. And Waterstones is a chain of bookstores dotted across the UK that are rather marvellous because, as you already know, books are wonderful.
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Rauf’s is a book that, in my opinion, everyone should read. Four classmates befriend the new kid at school, Ahmet, who they discover is a refugee from Syria. Through their sensitivity, curiosity, ingenuity, bravery and innocent niceness, they make a massive impact on Ahmet’s life, friends, class, school, community and wider world . . . and also you, if you read it.
Other Notables on the Shortlist: The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher (no relation to Princess Leia), The Train to Impossible Places by P.G. Bell (no relation to the telephone guy), and The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shepherd (who may or may not herd sheep).