Royal Society Young People's Book Prize shortlist announced

18 May 2012

How can we inspire the next generation of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs?  Publishers across the UK have submitted their best recent books communicating science to young people to the 2012 Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize and now an adult judging panel – comprising scientists, a teacher, an inventor and one self-confessed daredevil science geek – have narrowed down the choice to a shortlist of six books.

Each of the shortlisted books should prove inspiring to their young readers and the winning book will be selected entirely by groups of young people from over 100 schools and youth groups.  These groups together form a judging panel that will look at all the shortlisted books and choose a winner.

The Prize celebrates the best books that communicate science to young people aged up to 14 and Dr Andrea Brand FRS FMedSci, Chair of the judges said: “The books on this year’s shortlist are all very different, but each of them uses skilful writing and creative design to get across a huge range of scientific content.  Some of the books cover well-trodden subjects in unusual ways, while some of them explore areas that we don’t often see in science books for young people, but all of them manage to get the science across in a way that is fun, fresh and engaging.  We can’t wait to find out what the real experts – our judging panels from schools and youth groups across the UK – think of them!”

The six books shortlisted by the judges are:

How the Weather Works, by Christiane Dorion, illustrated by Beverley Young (Templar Publishing)

“We loved this beautiful and imaginative book, which uses pop-ups to explore an unusual subject – how the weather works.  We particularly liked the way that the pop-ups aren’t just there for decoration, but are thoughtfully used to explain the science behind the weather.”

Out of this world: All the cool bits about space, by Clive Gifford (Buster Books)

“This is so different to other astronomy books we’ve seen – it’s a fast-paced, funny and fact-packed guide to the very coolest bits of astronomical science.  Older readers will love dazzling their friends with the out of this world facts that they read in this book.”

Plagues, pox and pestilence, by Richard Platt, illustrated by John Kelly (Kingfisher)

“Not for the fainthearted, this imaginative and informative book covers a huge range of science while telling the story of deadly diseases.  It uses fabulous illustrations to get across some serious scientific content, and although it’s definitely gruesome in places, it’s never gratuitous.”

Science Experiments, by Robert Winston and Ian Graham (Dorling Kindersley)

“This brilliant book contains clear instructions for loads of great experiments, from things that you can try yourself (without getting in trouble from your parents), to spectacular tricks to try with adults present.  Lots of books on experiments cover the same old ground, but this book goes way beyond the usual content and contains plenty of experiments that we’d never seen before.”

See Inside Inventions: An Usborne Flap Book,by Alex Frith, illustrated by Colin King (Usborne)

“It’s wonderful to see a whole book devoted to the stories behind the world’s most important inventions and we hope that this one might inspire the next generation of young entrepreneurs.  The book packs in a huge amount of science without being overwhelming, and it’s great to see the history of science covered too.”

The Magic of Reality, by Richard Dawkins, illustrated by Dave McKean (Bantam Press)

“This challenging and thought-provoking book explores how human beings have explored the natural world over time and tackles these ideas in a way that we’ve never seen before.  Combining a comprehensive account of science, philosophy and culture with beautiful illustrations, this is an unusual book that adults might well enjoy too.”

The winner will be announced on 15th November 2012.

The judges on the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize panel this year who selected the six shortlisted books are:

  • Professor Andrea Brand FRS FMedSci (Chair) is Herchel Smith Professor of Molecular Biology and a member of the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge.  Her research looks into the development of the nervous system.
  • Mark Champkins is the Inventor-in-residence at the Science Museum in London. He appeared on Dragon’s Den in 2007, receiving investment from Peter Jones.
  • Greg Foot is a BBC science presenter, most recently seen on BBC3 giving away The Secrets of Everything.
  • Dr Anna Parrish is a science teacher at Coloma Convent Girls School in Croydon.
  • Dr Angela Taylor  is a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow and Research Fellow at St Peter's College, University of Oxford.  Her research is currently exploring remnants of the Big Bang in space.
    This year’s shortlist includes five authors who are new to the prize and two previous winners (Christiane Dorion in 2011 and Robert Winston in 2005).  This is the first time that a book written by a Fellow of the Royal Society (Richard Dawkins) has been shortlisted for the prize.  Previous prize-winners have included How the world works by Christiane Dorion and Beverley Hill (2011), The Big Book of Science Things to Make and Do by Rebecca Gilpin & Leonie Prat (2008) and Can you feel the force? by Richard Hammond (2007).

The Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize did not take place in 2008 - 2010 due to funding issues but from 2011 the Prize is offered thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor.