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Waterstones Children’s Book Prize Shortlist Announced

By Holly Allwright, Aimee Haldron, Nicole Haynes, Rosie Pinder and Emma Rogers



Another year, another Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize! Chosen by booksellers across the country, this prize has been a highlight of the children’s book calendar since its inauguration in 2005. And the release of the shortlist earlier this month shows that 2023’s is set to be just as exciting. Split into three categories – Illustrated Books, Younger Readers and Older Readers – the prize picks out the most inspiring new talent and releases from all corners of children’s publishing. In this article we do a deep dive into some of our favourite shortlisted books from all three categories, sharing our thoughts and predictions.


Illustrated Books


I Am NOT a Prince! by Rachael Davis, illustrated by Beatrix Hatcher (Orchard Books)


In this modern fairytale, a young frog named Hopp tries to create their own destiny in a world where all of the other frogs are simply waiting to be turned into princes. Hopp sets out on a journey to find themself and ends up helping so many others along the way. With its playful illustrations by Beatrix Hatcher and strong message of inclusivity and acceptance, this book is a sure-fire hit for younger children.


The Station Cat by Stephen Hogtun (DK Children)


A lonely kitten wanders into a subdued, grey train station and meets similarly dreary people waiting for their trains. However, this kitten’s big heart and colourful essence is contagious and soon travellers begin to notice her. She begins to learn about these people and their different stories of loss and isolation. In turn, the lonely kitten befriends these passengers through kindness and generosity, spreading colourful joy throughout this dim place. A heart-warming tale about kindness and unlikely friends, this story is a life affirming tale for children and adults alike.


Other shortlisted titles include…


The Fairy Garden by Georgia Buckthorn, illustrated by Isabella Mazzanti (Ivy Kids Eco)

What Do You See When You Look at a Tree? by Emma Carlisle (Big Picture Press)

The Missing Piece by Jordan Stephens, illustrated by Beth Suzanna (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Gretel the Wonder Mammoth by Kim Hillyard (Ladybird)


Younger Readers


Nura and the Immortal Palace by M. T. Khan (Walker Books)


Celebrating Muslim culture and tradition, this tale plunges our protagonist from modern-day Pakistan into the underground world of the magical and dangerous jinn. Nura works in the mica mines, earning what she can to support her family. One day when her beloved friend gets trapped underground, she delves deeper into the mines in search of him. Here she stumbles across into the magical world of the jinn and discovers treasures beyond her wildest dreams. But this deceptive world is not all that it seems…


This book is the perfect companion for middle grade readers striving to learn about international cultures and discover a magical adventure.


Other shortlisted titles include…


The Last Firefox by Lee Newbery, illustrated by Laura Catalán (Puffin)

The Book of Stolen Dreams by David Farr (Usborne Publishing)

Ajay and the Mumbai Sun by Varsha Shah, illustrated by Sonia Albert (Chicken House)

The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries: Drama and Danger by J. T. Williams, illustrated by Simone Douglas (Farshore)

Small! by Hannah Moffat, illustrated by Rory Walker (Everything with Words)


Older Readers


Ellie Pillai is Brown by Christine Pillainayagam (Faber & Faber)


A wonderful debut romance about standing out, falling in love and following your heart. Ellie Pillai is Brown follows Ellie, who is used to being invisible, as she discovers it’s okay to be different. She’s navigating the stresses of high school, and all the joys that come with it like falling in love for the first time and changing friendships. Suddenly she realises that everything about her – her misfit style, her skin colour, her songwriting – is all okay and that standing out isn’t a bad thing. A funny, feel-good story, this one will have you laughing and possibly crying in equal measure.


Welcome to St. Hell: My Trans Teen Misadventure by Lewis Hancox (Scholastic)


A combination of memoir and graphic novel, author Lewis Hancox documents all of the things he wishes he could tell his younger self in Welcome to St. Hell. He knows she hates her body and is confused about who to kiss, but it will take a long and heart-breaking journey to realise this. The humour and light-hearted tone balances the heavy topics of this novel and is a great read for teenagers who feel alone.


Other shortlisted titles include…


All That’s Left In the World by Erik J. Brown (Holder Children’s Books)

The Cats We Meet Along the Way by Nadia Mikail (Guppy Books)

If You Still Recognise Me by Cynthia So (Stripes Publishing)

Once Upon a Fever by Angharad Walker (Chicken House)


And that’s it! Which titles stand out to you from the three shortlists? The winner of each category will be announced on 30 March, and one will then be selected as the overall Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year so keep an eye out.

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