Inventor sloth makes a break for it to scoop kid’s science book prize

21 November 2016

An ingenious inventor sloth has won the Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize 2016 which champions the best science books for under-14s.

The winning book, How Machines Work by author and well-known illustrator David Macaulay (published by Dorling Kindersley), follows the adventures of Sloth who tries to outwit his zookeeper with a fantastical array of engineered escape attempts. The illustrated book, complete with working cogs on the cover, explores engineering in an exciting way with pull outs and pop outs to show how simple mechanics work in real life situations. 

In one escape attempt readers can use a see-saw to catapult Sloth and his mouse friend, Sengi, over a pop up fence. In another zoo-break attempt the pair teach readers about pulleys when they use them to hoist Sloth up and swing him, wrecking ball style, towards the zoo’s gate. 

The Young People’s Book Prize is judged by schoolchildren and youth groups across the UK and was presented at a special kid-friendly award ceremony in Cardiff this afternoon (21 November).

Here’s what some of the young judges had to say about the winning book:

Jenny, age 9: “I loved this book - it's the best book I've read. I did loads of the activities and love sitting with my friends and playing with the seesaw.”

James, age 12: "Brilliant; the best format there is with all the scientific principles wrapped up in a story. The cover had that amazing cog mechanism on it which made it look spectacular."  

Sara, age 8: “It has flaps! It’s well cool!”

Rhianna, age 13: “This is the best book ever!”

Sean, age 12: "I really like the cover. The title drew you in with a good general questions but the cover design made it intriguing."

James, age 8: “I wanted to keep this book. I'm really interested in how things work and this book does not just have descriptions - it lets you do it! The cover is brilliant but you would need to be careful not to bend the flaps inside.”

The children judged the winning book from a shortlist of 6 selected by expert judges including children’s author and Blue Peter Book prize winner, Andy Seed. 

Professor Dame Julia Higgins FRS, Chair of the grown-up judging panel 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.”

The full 2016 shortlist for the Royal Society’s Young People’s Science Book Prize includes: 

  • Lift-the-flap First Questions and Answers: How do flowers grow? by Katie Daynes, illustrated by Christine Pym
  • TreeTops inFact: How to Change the World by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Esme Lonsdale
  • Project Body by John Farndon
  • Rebel Science by Dan Green, illustrated by David Lyttleton The Usborne Official Astronaut's Handbook by Louie Stowell, illustrated by Roger Simo
  • How Machines Work by David Macaulay (winning book)

The book wins an award of £10,000 and the shortlisted books each receive £2,500.