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Waterstones Children’s Book Prize Shortlist 2024: Celebrating Twenty Years

By Emma Rogers, Rosie Pinder, Holly Allwright, Ekta Rajagopalan


Illustrated Books


The Secret Elephant by Ellan Rankin


Inspired by a true story, this picture book tells the wonderful tale of a zookeeper who hid an elephant in her home throughout World War II. With talk of a great war, people have stopped visiting the Belfast Zoo and, when the bombs begin to fall, a baby elephant and her zookeeper find safety in the zookeeper’s home. But what will happen when their secret is found out? This is Cambridge MA graduate Ellan Rankin’s debut picture book, and she brings this incredible story to life with beautiful illustrations and a heartfelt narrative.


Wolf and Bear by Kate Rolfe


A heartfelt book that deals sensitively with the topic of depression for young readers, Wolf and Bear by author-illustrator Kate Rolfe is a beautiful addition to the shortlist. Wolf and Bear are best friends who love playing together in the forest, but sometimes Bear is sad and wants to be alone. This book is emotional yet gently told and certainly a very powerful debut.


The Search for the Giant Arctic Jellyfish by Chloe Savage


Striking and quirky, the third shortlisted book in the illustrated category centres on Dr. Morley, whose love for jellyfish leads her to undertake a daring expedition to find the elusive Arctic species. Stunning icy illustrations accompany this charming adventure story that will sweep readers along and bring the mystery and beauty of the Arctic to life.


Younger Readers


Greenwild: The World Behind the Door by Pari Thomson


The first book in Pari Thomson’s thrilling new adventure series, Greenwild: The World Behind the Door, follows Daisy Thistledown, who recently escaped from boarding school. She has a mystery to solve and must do so in the fantastical world of Greenwild which is bursting with both nature and magic. But, Greenwild is also intertwined with her own world, and she must save them both with the help of a fun cast of characters. Elisa Peganelli’s illustrations are also fantastic in bringing the world of Greenwild to life.


The Swifts by Beth Lincoln


On the day they are born, the Swift children are each brought before the sacred Family Dictionary. They are given a name and definition which they must grow up to match. Shenanigan Swift is destined to be a troublemaker, but she is determined to prove her family wrong. When one of the family tries to murder Arch-Aunt Schadenfreude, Shenanigan takes on the case with the help of her sisters and cousins, but more murders and a whole lot of suspects make this a difficult feat. Can Shenanigan catch the killer? And will she be able to prove a name does not define a person? The Swifts was named the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month in January 2024 and was also the winner of the Nero Children’s Award 2023.


My Name is Sunshine Simpson by G.M. Linton (Illustrated by Fuuji Takashi)


Her grandad keeps telling her to go off and find adventures, but bad luck just keeps coming Sunshine Simpsons’ way: her haircut is a disaster, her new friend is her frenemy and school is stressful. Can Sunshine stand tall and proud amidst all this and show the world she can shine? An endearing book that will make 9+ years readers believe in themselves and fall in love with the endearing central character.


Older Readers


You Think You Know Me by Ayaan Mohamud


From the debut author Ayaan Mohamud comes a Young Adult tale discussing hate, fear and the courage to speak out against oppression. Called “fiercely brilliant,” You Think You Know Me follows Hanan, a Muslim girl whose world is torn apart when her friend is killed and suddenly all eyes have turned on the Muslim community. She must learn to find her voice as a Muslim teen in this world and speak out as she learns that silence truly equals compliance.

Promise Boys by Nick Brooks


Described as “thrilling, captivating and blade sharp,” Promise Boys is a Young Adult mystery novel about three boys of colour who must investigate their school principal's murder to clear their names. J.B., Ramon and Trey are students at the Urban Promise Prep School, a school that forces students to follow strict rules and extreme discipline, i.e. the Principal Moore Method. But when their principal is murdered, the boys become the main suspects. This thriller highlights the inequalities in the system and shows how Black and Latino boys are set up for failure before they have the chance to succeed.


Friendship Never Ends by Alexandra Sheppard


Four best friends keep in touch via postcard during their first summer apart in this delightfully relatable and uplifting novel about moving on and keeping in touch. Sunita, Gifty, Dawn and May are about to have a summer they'll never forget, but does growing up have to mean growing apart? If you loved Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, you are sure to love this one! A funny and heartwarming book about navigating friendships and making time for those who truly matter.

 

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