From Art to Anxiety: the 2019 ALCS Educational Writers’ Award shortlist

15 November 2019

The Society of Authors and the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society are delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2019 ALCS Educational Writers’ Award, the UK’s only award for educational writing which stimulates and enhances the learning experience.

The six outstanding books for readers aged 5-11 years on this year’s shortlist bring us the colourful histories of art, and the fight for women’s suffrage; the journeys of intrepid explorers; and the wonders of science and nature; as well as providing help for the anxious.

Here are the six shortlisted books:



Authors: David Hockney & Martin Gayford

Illustrator: Rose Blake

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

This richly illustrated and vibrantly colourful book takes young readers on a journey through art history, from early art drawn on cave walls, to the images we make today on our computers and phone cameras. Told through lively conversations between the artist David Hockney and writer Martin Gayford, it illustrates the narratives of both authors to bring the history of art alive for a young audience.

Our judges said: "This beautiful and striking book showcases the wonders of art in an engaging and thought- provoking way, showing the development of art movements throughout history, and making interesting and original comparisons between media. There is also an excellent timeline of techniques and the inventions which enabled them. A delightful, even page-turning book which children will return to time and time again."



Author: Kathy Hoopmann

Designer: Adam Peacock

Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Life as a bird can be stressful! From worrying about aeroplanes, windows and getting enough worms to eat, birds can be anxious creatures. Through its humorous, quizzical depiction of bird behaviour, this book validates everyday experiences of anxiety, providing young people with an understanding of the symptoms, and some compassionate coping strategies.

Our judges said: "Covering a difficult subject in an engaging and non-patronising way, this uses wonderfully appropriate, touching and humorous photographs of real birds, coupled with insightful text to illustrate the struggles a child with anxiety might be going through. An amusing, encouraging and consoling book that is accessible to all, and is sure to be frequently shared and talked about."


ALASTAIR HUMPHREYS’ GREAT ADVENTURERS: The Incredible Expeditions of 20 Explorers

Author: Alastair Humphreys

Illustrator: Kevin Ward                                                                 

Publisher: Big Picture Press

Hand-picked by Alastair Humphreys – whose own adventures include cycling the world and rowing the Atlantic Ocean – this compendium of great expeditions retells the extraordinary stories of 20 men and women who have ventured into space, oceans, deserts and jungles, and inspired Alastair’s own adventurous travels. They include Amelia Earhart, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Dervla Murphy, Ibn Battuta and Sacagawea.

Our judges said: "From the careful selection of adventurers from all backgrounds to the engaging and inventive presentation of their stories through comics, diary entries, maps and more, this book is an inspiration for children. We loved the way the explorers’ amazing stories are intertwined with tales of Humphreys’ own adventures too."



Author: Sarah Ridley

Designer and Illustrator: Jeni Child

Publisher: Franklin Watts

This absorbing book charts the history of votes for women from the mid-19th century when the first petition was presented to Parliament, and explores the work of both the suffragettes and other suffrage organisations. From peaceful demonstrations to more violent activism and prison hunger strikes, the story is brought to life through fascinating historical photos and artefacts.

Our judges said: "The suffrage colours and Art Deco graphics of this detailed, well-balanced and engaging book richly evoke the era of Votes for Women. Jam-packed with posters, photos, cartoons and other artefacts to complement the informative text, this relevant and timely resource also includes thoughtful design touches which add additional impact, such as the timeline endpapers."


MR SHAHA’S RECIPES FOR WONDER: Adventures in Science Round the Kitchen Table

Author: Alom Shaha

Illustrator: Emily Robertson                                                        

Publisher: Scribble

Written by a science teacher who is also a dad, this lively and engaging book gives step-by-step instructions for lots of easily staged experiments that will inspire young people to learn about science; from finding out about sound by making wine glasses sing, to exploring Newton’s Third Law by constructing balloon-driven cars.

Our judges said: "This book is an absolute wonder – bright, light, and engaging. Through clear explanations and attractive and colourful illustrations, it encourages predictions and curiosity, and will help even novice scientists to conduct numerous experiments with materials they probably have at home. All presented by a real-life scientist whose knowledge and experience make the book a captivating read."


2019 NATURE MONTH-BY-MONTH: A Children’s Almanac

Author: Anna Wilson

Illustrator: Elly Jahnz

Publisher: Nosy Crow

Published in collaboration with the National Trust, and packed with nature spotter guides, exciting indoor and outdoor craft and activity ideas, festivals and special days, tips for budding gardeners, tasty seasonal recipes and more; this is a comprehensive and entertaining month-by-month compendium of things for young people to see, make and do, all year round.

Our judges said: "This brilliant and colourful book is packed with engaging, informative and wonderfully varied activities for all the family, and is just the right size for putting in your pocket before you set off on an adventure. An almost bottomless treasure chest of a book to enjoy the whole year through."


More about the Award

Now in its twelfth year, the Educational Writers’ Award was established in 2008 by the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society (ALCS) and the Society of Authors (SoA) “to celebrate educational writing that inspires creativity and encourages students to read widely and build up their understanding of a subject beyond the requirements of exam specifications”.

The 2018 winner was FAR FROM HOME: Refugees and Migrants Fleeing War, Persecution and Poverty by Cath Senker (Franklin Watts).

The 2019 Award focuses on books for 5-11 year olds, published in 2017 and 2018. This year’s judges are: Hollie Davis, a primary school teacher; Michaela Morgan, a prolific author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry for children; and Fiona Shufflebotham, a junior school librarian.

The winner of the 2019 ALCS Educational Writers’ Award will be announced at a reception at the Authors’ Licensing Collecting Society in London on Tuesday 3 December. The winning author and illustrator/designer will share a cheque for £2,000.