Panda Book Awards 2023 Winners Announced
By Brodie Mckenzie, Grace Briggs-Jones, Anna-Maria Poku and Clara Garnier-Barsanti
Implemented in 2008 by librarian Nadine Dewit Rosevear, the Panda Book Awards aims to reunite students, librarians, teachers for debates and recommendations; and to celebrate the joy of reading topped by the adorable logo of a panda bear holding a book: how not to love it? The shortlisted titles meet selection criteria that focus on diversity, social justice and inclusion, with a special emphasis on titles that feature Asian settings, characters or creators. Through the network of the participating international schools in China, students vote for their favourite book published in the last two years. The award is split into six categories, detailed below:
For children between three and four, the Early Years category awards picture books. We Want A Dog is the new gold nugget by Lo Cole, an internationally awarded author-illustrator. The minimalist drawings with an eye-catching palette take you into the story, and the twenty-seven scenes displaying all types of dogs with their antics that will keep you entertained and laughing. The final plot-twist makes it all adorable and we dare say…tail-wagging! We Want A Dog is the perfect winner of the Panda Book prize to share a fun and loving moment with our children.
The Younger category awards titles which are aimed at young readers aged four to six. Magic Candies was announced the winner among the list of incredible books shortlisted in the category, which was made up of ten titles total. Magic Candies is a quirky picture book all about finding one’s voice, and is written and illustrated by award-winning author Baek Hee-na.
There are eight titles in the Middle Novel category, which awards books aimed at children aged between seven and ten. Topics covered include bullying, family and the importance of animal conservation. The winner this year is Cheryl Bardoe’s stunning Bei Bei Goes Home: A Panda Story, which is made up of striking nature photographs and details international collaboration and conservation efforts.
Middle Graphic Novels
With only four graphic novels competing for best Middle Reader Graphic Novel steered towards seven to eleven-year-olds, there were some interesting nominees. Jukebox by Nidini Chanani, a colourful time-travelling musical tale about family and courage; Living With Viola by Rosena Fung, an exploration of mental-health, cultural differences and the trials of middle school; Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd, a coming-of-age story about a girl with severe allergies trying to find the perfect pet; and the winner, City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm by Jaimal Yogis & Vivian Truong, a story about a girl named Grace who moves to Hong Kong with her mom and gets put in a boarding school only to be given a dragon egg by an old woman which hatches. With evil forces at play, Grace must protect her dragon from mysterious forces whilst trying to understand the dragon’s immense power. An edge-of-your-seat Marvel-esque graphic novel that is packed with action and a worthy winner!
Nominees from the Older category cover a wide breadth of genre and important topics by both new, budding authors and well-established, award-winning ones. Books in this category are aimed at children aged between eleven and fourteen. Those on the shortlist included Soul Lanterns by Shaw Kuzki and Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba. Soul Lanterns is a haunting, poignant story which has been coined as “gut-wrenching” (School Library Journal). The story details an age-appropriate account of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, and its devastating consequences. Temple Alley Summer is of a different genre, covering a magical, fantastical adventure with ghosts, a black cat and plenty of mystery. The winning novel is Welcome to Dweeb Club by Betsy Uhrig, which tells the fascinating story of a school club whose members stumble upon video footage of their future selves…
There were some brilliant books included in the Mature category, aimed at ages fifteen to eighteen, from How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao to She Who Came With The Sun by Shelley Parker Chan; there was a lot of competition. The book that came out on top is Sarah Suk’s Made in Korea. Suk’s debut novel, Made in Korea is a romantic comedy about two competing entrepreneurial Korean American teens with lots of high school drama and touching moments. With the two protagonists butting heads and navigating the world of high school business, they both grow as individuals having faced some not-so-good decision making and familial pressures.
Every adult that loves to read was once a child who discovered that joy with a magical first encounter: such prizes allow children to rejoice, share, discover books, but also to celebrate with an award the creative spirits behind these works. Congratulations to all the winners!