WKAR Quiz Writers’ Choice Award 2021 Shortlist

By Krista Culbertson

The shortlist for the What Kids Are Reading Quiz Writers’ Choice Awards is finally here!

What Kids Are Reading is the largest annual study of the reading habits and trends of students across the UK and Ireland, using data from a variety of sources including Renaissance Accelerated Reader data. Accelerated Reader is a reading practice programme allowing students to take comprehension quizzes on books they’ve read.

With the launch of the What Kids are Reading 2021 report launch fast approaching, below are details of Primary and Secondary, Fiction and Non-Fiction books shortlisted for our Quiz Writers’ Choice Awards.

We say this every year, but honestly: narrowing down the list was more difficult than ever. From harrowing stories of life at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to celebrations of the art form of drag – this list covers many types of stories. But if there was one theme to this year’s selection, it was a celebration of self.

To explain why these books were chosen, the team has shared their personal feelings on why they believed the shortlisted books deserve praise. Plus, some of the authors and publishers themselves have shared their thoughts on being nominated!

And don’t forget – you can click here to pre-order the report ready for its launch on 29th April, and click here to join us for our launch event on Zoom, where we’ll also be announcing the winners of these awards.

The Primary Fiction Shortlist

A Most Peculiar Toy Factory by Alex Bell, illustrated by Nan Lawson
Barrington Stoke

“I was already a fan of Alex Bell’s previous horror novels, and A Most Peculiar Toy Factory did not disappoint. Bell does a fantastic job of creating age-appropriate terror in the form of evil bears and creepy dolls – what’s not to love about this spooky, mysterious adventure?” – Sarah, Senior Editor

Jazz Dog by Marie Voigt
Oxford University Press

“A little dog wants to play jazz music, but the other dogs think jazz is only for cats. Through following his dreams, this determined dog learns the importance of being true to himself – rather than conforming to a stereotype. Not only that, he sets an example to the cats and dogs around him, who also find the courage to take their own path. Barriers are broken down and the cats and dogs, who had hitherto been divided by their differences, come together. With its adorable illustrations, the endearing main character and positive message, this book found its way into our hearts.” – Laura, Senior Editor

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll
Knights Of

“Addie is an autistic girl living in a Scottish village. On learning about its historic witch trials, she sets out to memorialise its victims who were targeted for being different – just as she is. Addie’s courage and perseverance to make herself heard kept me turning the pages, and I came away from this having learned so much. Heartbreaking at times, this was easily one of the best books I read all year and needs to be celebrated. I can’t wait to read more from Elle McNicoll!” – Peter, Assistant Editor

The Primary Non-Fiction Shortlist

Pride In… series by Emilie Dufresne, illustrated by Danielle Rippengill
“The Pride In… series is filled with amazing and brave people from all across the globe that will inspire children. From topics like sport and STEM, these books cover the entire LGBTQ+ community. I loved learning about Team GB heroes Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh and activist Barbara Jordan. So many incredible lives! I also appreciated how the books broke down many terms for younger children.” Liz, Content Developer

I Am Not a Label: 34 Disabled Artists, Thinkers, Athletes and Activists from Past and Present by Cerrie Burnell, illustrated by Lauren Mark Baldo
Wide Eyed Editions

“This book is a real treasure. Burnell covers the accomplishments of people with a variety of disabilities. I appreciated that both visible and invisible disabilities were included. So many children will see themselves in these important stories. I learned about so many new people while discovering some surprising things about many famous figures I thought I knew well!” – Laura, Senior Editor

Tomi: Tomi Reichental’s Holocaust Story by Eithne Massey

“By the time he was nine, Tomi Reichental was on the run for his life and would soon be caught and taken to Bergen-Belsen, along with many other Jewish people from his community; this book recounts his experiences in the concentration camp. I found this a difficult read – the horrors and injustices described are harrowing – but I couldn’t recommend it more. Eithne Massey’s retelling makes you pause, and reflect, and remember; I hadn’t heard Tomi’s story before, but it is one I shall never forget.” – Peter, Assistant Editor

Eithne Massey, author of Tomi: Tomi Reichental’s Holocaust Story, said:

“To be nominated for any prize shortlist is wonderful, but it is especially meaningful in this case because the judges are people who are so passionate about getting children to read, and to enjoy their reading. Given the, at times, dark subject matter of Tomi, it wasn’t an easy book to write in an age-appropriate way. So the fact that it is being recognised as having been successful in this endeavour feels particularly significant.

“It will be so interesting to see what the What Kids Are Reading report has to tell us about children’s reading in the past year, given the constraints they have been under and the amount of time they have been spending inside and onscreen.

“As an ex-librarian, my take on getting children to read for pleasure is to give them exposure to as many different kinds of reading as you can, and don’t judge or criticise their choices. Reading is a journey, not something static; children can be helped and guided, but it really doesn’t matter how many detours they take before they reach the ‘good reading’ place!”

The Secondary Fiction Shortlist

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, illustrated by Anshika Khullar
Hodder Children’s Books

The Black Flamingo is the story of a young mixed-race boy, Michael. The book follows him from birth to his drag debut in university. We get to see his pain and growth as he explores and comes to terms with his identity. Atta’s poetry is moving and full of heart. A coming-of-age novel that will truly change lives.” Krista, Editor

Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman
Hodder Children’s Books
“Charlie and Nick are possibly my favourite YA couple of all time? Their romance is so easy to root for in Alice Oseman’s graphic novel series. I loved Heartstopper Volume 1 so much: it’s cute and simple, but it tells a powerful story about finding yourself and finding your first love.” – Jan, Quiz Writer

Sonny and Me by Ross Sayers
Gob Stopper

“When Daughter and Sonny’s favourite teacher leaves school unexpectedly, and no one will say why, they start to investigate and end up discovering a darker secret than they’d bargained for. The teen dialogue in this book felt so authentic and had me giggling away. Although it’s a crime mystery with serious elements, there are lots of heart-warming moments too. What really made me keep turning pages was the relationship between Sonny and Daughter, which was touching at times. I always put my name down to quiz Ross Sayers’ books and I’ve loved each one so far!” – Kerry, Editor

Anne Glennie from Cranachan, publisher of Sonny and Me by Ross Sayers said:

“We’re totally chuffed to be nominated for this award – we know the AR Quizzers read hundreds and hundreds of books each year, so it means a lot to have Sonny and Me selected as one of their favourite reads. It’s particularly gratifying as Sonny and Me could be considered a niche title since the dialect is written in Scots – so it’s wonderful that Ross’s work is being enjoyed and getting the wider recognition it deserves.

“I think it’s essential for everyone to know what children are reading – teachers, librarians, parents, authors, and publishers. It helps us discover what children are choosing and enjoying, particularly in a year where they may have turned to reading more – or less – depending on their circumstances. The report gives great insight into what’s popular within the various age ranges and into what children are actually reading, which is valuable when thinking about the book choices available to young people.”

The Secondary Non-Fiction Shortlist

Black and British: A short, essential history by David Olusoga
Macmillan Children’s Books

Black and British: A short, essential history was one of the most important books I’ve read for work this year – and probably ever. It is a version made for children of the book, Black and British: A Forgotten History, and provides readers with the rare opportunity of gaining an introduction into the history of Black people in Britain for the last 1800 years, a history that has been overlooked for far too long.”  – Sarah, Senior Editor

David Olusoga, author of Black and British: A short, essential history said:

“I am delighted to be nominated for this award especially as I never thought I would ever be a writer of children’s books. I first wrote Black & British: A Forgotten History, five years ago for adult readers but after the momentous events of the Black Lives Matter Movement last year I thought this could be adapted to speak to a younger generation, a generation who is keen to make change and are open to learn.

“The last year has been a notoriously difficult time for children. Reading has become more important than ever during the pandemic, a place of escape.  But also it’s clear that children want to understand the issues and the history behind the events of Black Lives Matter and not shy away from the facts. It is, after all, young people not that much older than them who are the driving force behind this great moment of cultural and political change.  We need to make books engaging and relevant to young people, to reflect their lives, curiosities and interests. I’m so pleased with the reaction Black & British: A Short Essential History has had and I’m grateful to have a chance to speak to young people through my writing.”

Boy Oh Boy by Cliff Leek, illustrated by Bene Rohlmann
Wide Eyed Editions

“We quiz lots of books full of interesting people. Wonderful people who have changed the world. Boy Oh Boy is a striking book that stands out in the pack. This book tells the stories of 30 different men from activists to artists to athletes. I loved Cliff Leek’s engaging writing and adored Bene Rohlmann’s flamboyant illustrations. I think many children will discover historic figures they can identify with. And any book with Prince front and centre on the cover is automatically my type of book!” – Krista, Editor

“I Will Not Be Erased”: Our stories about growing up as people of colour by gal-dem
Walker Books

“I came away from reading this thinking it should be essential reading for all teens. We hear from fourteen different women and non-binary people of colour, all with important stories about how race, mental health, gender, and a wide variety of other topics, affected them while growing up. Many of the essays take the format of letters of advice to the writer’s younger self, with the benefit of hindsight. The essays are raw, funny, insightful and often shocking, but with a theme of self-love running through them. I felt like many of the writers were going back in time to give their younger self a warm hug.” – Kerry, Editor

gal-dem editor of “I Will Not Be Erased” said:

“We were thrilled to hear the book was nominated for the 2021 Quiz Writers’ Choice Award for Secondary Non-Fiction. We really wanted this book to resonate with a younger audience and love the idea that this might lead to it being picked up by more kids who might need it.

“We want to encourage all authors and publishers to keep creating stories that genuinely have young readers in mind and push the boundaries of what children ‘should’ be reading about.”

You can find the complete list of longlisted titles here along with all AR quiz information. We’ll be announcing the winners when we launch the What Kids Are Reading 2021 report, on 29th April.

Posted on 26 April 2021 at 2:47 pm
Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quick Links

Monthly Quiz List

Each month, we publish a list of the new AR quizzes released in the previous month.

January 2024

Previous months

Subscribe to monthly newsletter

Partners & Special Offers

We work with carefully selected partners who share our mission of accelerating learning for all and provide services that complement our programmes.

Special offer!

Logo for Laburnum House Educational

Favourites from Twitter