British Book Awards Children’s Highlights
By Holly Allwright, Rosie Pinder and Emma Rogers
The British Book Awards, often referred to as The Nibbies, is a highlight of the UK book industry calendar with the big awards night that took place on 15 May 2023. For over thirty years, it has been a vibrant event for people across publishing and bookselling to come together and celebrate successes from the past year. With so many things to talk about from the night, we wanted to highlight some of the awards in the children’s book market and discuss the future of children’s publishing.
Children’s Fiction Book of the Year: Tyger by SF Said, illustrated by Dave McKean
Described as a “timeless classic” by Sita Brahmachari, Tyger is the magical story of the world on the brink of destruction and an animal that might be able to save it. In a London rubbish dump, Adam finds a magical and mystical creature – a tyger in danger. With the whole world at stake, Adam and his best friend Zadie, are determined to help. But can they master their powers before it's too late? This book was nine years in the making with David Fickling Books (DFB), the book’s publisher, determined not to rush this masterpiece. Tyger is DFB’s second bestselling fiction hardback and is now in its fifth reprint. The judges applauded the “synergy” between the text and the illustrations and agreed that Tyger already “felt like a classic.”
Children’s Non-Fiction Book of the Year: A Better Day (Wren & Rook) by Dr Alex George, illustrated by The Boy Fitz Hammond
Dr Alex George, the UK Youth Mental Health Ambassador and former A&E doctor, used his personal experience to write A Better Day, a mental health handbook for children aged nine to eleven years. From peer pressure to exam stress, life can be draining for young people but Dr Alex notes that there is always a way to stay on top. This book is full of practical techniques to help you look forward to a future with positivity and optimism. The judges praised the balance between the text and the illustrations and agreed that “it is a book that will really save lives.” A Better Day was the bestselling non-fiction book in 2022 and it's easy to see why.
Children’s Illustrated Book of the Year, supported by LoveReading4Kids: Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate (author and illustrator)
A heartwarming tribute to the healing power of family, Grandad’s Camper follows a little girl as she goes to visit her grandad in his cottage by the coast. The girl’s grandad always told her stories of his travels in the camper van he had with his husband, Gramps. But since he lost his husband, he hasn’t wanted to go on any new adventures. The little girl vows to fix the camper van so that her grandad can go on adventures again. To promote the book, Woodgate decorated the windows of bookshops across the UK, created postcards for the Queer Lit bookshop and teamed up with the National Literacy Trust to create KS1 resources for schools to use alongside the book. Grandad's Camper is a poignant story of love and loss through the eyes of a child but with a hopeful and inclusive twist. It truly is a celebration of the power of love and remembrance.
Children’s Bookseller of the Year: Waterstones and Round Table Books
This year, the judges were unable to separate the top contenders with the great success of both Waterstones and Round Table Books. Waterstones last won the Bookseller of the Year in 2019 and is now being recognised again for the rejuvenation of its children's bookselling. Its work with the new voices caught the judges' attention, boosted by its Children’s Laureate, Book Prize and Book of the Month and Year initiatives along with their BookTok Fest.
Round Table Books was founded by the children’s publisher Knights Of four years ago and has already made huge moves to diversify the children’s book market, whether that be by race, sexuality or disability. Their decision to move location in 2022 to be closer to the community was rewarded by an increase in sales. They also produced school events, a festival with Spread the Word and a pay-it-forward bookshelf to gift books to underprivileged children. The judges celebrated Round Table Books’ amazing business with incredible passion and commitment.
Children's Publisher of the Year: Simon & Schuster
Having been shortlisted for the past two years, it was finally Simon & Schuster’s time to shine! Whilst much can be said for their performance in terms of profit and growth, what made them stand out even further was their dedication to different causes. Over one-quarter of their books this year along with a third of their acquisitions came from underrepresented authors and illustrators creating a truly diverse environment. As well as this, they made considerable steps with sustainability and contributed to a number of outreach programmes including Save the Children. Overall, the publisher has grown both financially and introspectively with all of its efforts giving them the well-deserved title of Children’s Publisher of the Year.