Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2016 shortlist revealed

19 May 2016

An ingenious sloth, rebel scientists who changed the world and a guide for aspiring astronauts keen to follow in Tim Peake’s footsteps are just some of the topics on offer in the six inspiring science books shortlisted for this year’s Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize.

UK publishers submitted their best science books for under-14s to the 2016 Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize and now an expert adult judging panel has narrowed them down to the 6 best books.

The overall winner of the annual prize will be selected entirely by groups of young people across the UK. The adult judging panel hand over the reins every year to young readers to make the final decision. School and community groups all over the country will get stuck into the 6 shortlisted books and choose their winner, which will be announced in November 2016.

The prize celebrates the best books that communicate science to young people in an accessible, creative way. Professor Dame Julia Higgins FRS, Chair of the judges said:

“We have had so many wonderful books this year. There’s something to inspire young people whatever their interests, whether that be to go into space, to become an engineer and solve difficult problems, to explore the human body, or to change the world. These books make science exciting in new and creative ways. For children who might find books inaccessible these 6 titles will engage and excite: full of humour, challenges, and activities. These books are a wonderful route into both science and reading – I hope our young judges will have as much fun reading them and selecting their winner as we have!”

The six books shortlisted by the judges are:

Lift-the-flap First Questions and Answers: How do flowers grow? by Katie Daynes, illustrated by Christine Pym

ISBN: 9781409582137

The judges said: “This book is exquisitely illustrated, a delight to look at, it’s the sort of thing that really intrigues young children. But it’s also really informative. What it has is the correct science and at the level that’s right for its young readers- and it’s beautiful to look at.”

How Machines Work by David Macaulay

ISBN: 9780241203385

The judges said: “This book isn’t just dry pages about what engineering is. It’s a very exciting story about a sloth that has to get somewhere and in order to get to where he’s going he has to build levers, he has to build bridges. Each of the pages is about how he designs a solution to a problem- just what an engineer must do.”

TreeTops inFact: How to Change the World by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Esme Lonsdale

ISBN: 9780198306825

The judges said: “We love this book because it’s a book about the future and it encourages curiosity and thinking for yourself. It’s about how the reader of this book can learn from what’s gone before, what other scientists have achieved and asks how you might change the world to make it a better place or make it safer or to get us to the moon… It shows how things can become quite surprising when it comes to science – including a chapter called ‘avoid being boiled alive’. It’s got some great top tips: don’t be too quick to accept the way things are being done, question whether there’s a better way. I think a book that encourages you not to be afraid to think outside the box has got to be a good thing.”

Project Body by John Farndon

ISBN: 9781782098225

The judges said: “This book about the human body and how it functions is packed with absolutely amazing pictures, illustrations and real life pictures. It has so many facts and activities- this is a great educational book with a great balance between reading and interactive parts.”

Rebel Science by Dan Green, illustrated by David Lyttleton

ISBN: 9781783420445

The judges said: “This is a brilliant book. It’s about science in a really novel way. It has fantastic bits in it, like a rap battle between Sir Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke, and funny bits like the Great Atomic Bake Off. It talks about the unsung heroes of science that are not usually mentioned in text books. It’s a really fun way for children to explore science and the story of science.”

The Usborne Official Astronaut's Handbook by Louie Stowell, illustrated by Roger Simo

ISBN: 781409590743

The judges said: “This is a superb book all about how to become an astronaut. It’s a step by step guide for would-be astronauts and space scientists- plus it has a foreword from a really inspirational astronaut, Tim Peake. There’s a lot of humour in it, and it’s full of those little details that just make a book special.”

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

Professor Dame Julia Higgins DBE FREng FRS – Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Investigator, Department Of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London.

Dr Robert Pal – Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Department of Chemistry, Durham University.

Andy Seed – Author and Blue Peter Books Awards winner in 2015.

Zoe Toft – Co-ordinator of National Non-Fiction November for the Federation of Children's Book Groups and writer of the Playing by the Book blog

Shirin Sheikh Bahai - Primary Science Leader at the Harris Federation supporting teaching and learning science and curriculum. She is also a PhD student at UCL, and the winner of best Science project (All is One) at Science On Stage 2015.