Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize 2018 shortlist revealed

18 June 2018

Explore the dinosaurs that roamed lost prehistoric lands and measure yourself against their life-size bones, teeth and claws; head off with NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on a journey from the laboratory to the Red Planet; and discover 50 fearless female scientists who changed the world. These are just some of the creative and inspiring science topics on offer in the six 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 2018 Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize and now an adult judging panel has narrowed them down to the six best. The Prize celebrates books that communicate science to young people in an accessible, creative way and has been running for over 25 years.

The overall winner of the prize will be selected entirely by groups of young people from across the UK. Every year, the adult judging panel hands over the reins to young readers to make the final decision, with young reader judging panels drawn from over 300 schools, science centres, reading clubs, community groups, scouts and brownies.

Over the summer these young people will get stuck into the six shortlisted books, with the winner announced at an awards ceremony in November 2018.

Chair of the 2018 judges, Professor Yadvinder Malhi FRS, said: “The process of shortlisting the books was fascinating. It was wonderful to see the range of new children’s science books coming out, and I enlisted the help of a neighbour and about ten children, marshalled by my twelve-year old daughter, in whittling down my personal list of favourites. The books that really stood out for me were those that tried something different, that engaged the reader in a different way or presented the science on a topic that is rarely engaged with in children’s science books.”

Joining Professor Yadvinder Malhi FRS on the judging panel are Dr Martin How, Royal Society Research Fellow at the University of Bristol; teacher Alison Price, Head of Science at St Faiths in Cambridge; Nicola Davies, zoologist and author; and Jo Marchant, science journalist and author.

Their shortlist is:

Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover by Markus Motum (Publisher Walker Studio)

Judge Nicola Davies said: “For me, the stand out title was Curiosity: The story of a Mars Rover. This showed an originality of approach in its narrative perspective, its illustration and design. This is a book that can work across age groups, accessible to younger children but providing older children, and adults, with a satisfying level of information. All too often picture books are thought to be the territory solely of the under 8’s, but this isn’t the case. They are a unique art form that can be used to deliver some of the most complex and sophisticated information - as Curiosity shows.”

Exploring Space by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Stephen Biesty (Publisher Walker Books)

Chair of the judges Yadvinder Malhi said: “This beautiful book tells the story of space exploration from the earliest observers of the night sky to the near future. It stood out from the pack because it had a well-written and engaging narrative that really went into some depth, combined with beautiful and richly annotated illustrations.

“This could appeal across the age range: a seven-year old could engage with the rich illustrations, whereas a fourteen-year old could gain a lot from the deeper narrative. In a publishing space where many books are filled with short attention-grabbing factoids, it was pleasing to see this book present a deeper and richer storyline, and to do it well.”

Lonely Planet Kids' Dinosaur Atlas by Anne Rooney, illustrated by James Gilleard (Publisher Lonely Planet Kids)

Chair of the judges Yadvinder Malhi said: “Dinosaur books are always a favourite, and there are many out there on the bookshelves. Many are beautifully illustrated but tend to just end up being a catalogue of dinosaur species. This wonderfully illustrated and laid-out book is refreshingly different. For one thing, being an atlas, it covers the geography of which dinosaurs were found where, and where particular discoveries were made, and has great life-size illustrations. The artwork is fresh and engaging, and overall the reader comes away with a much fuller understanding of the dinosaur world, and how we have come to find out about this world.”

Optical Illusions by Gianni A. Sarcone and Marie-Jo Waeber (Publisher QED Publishing)

Judge Dr Martin How said: “This book really grabbed my attention. I loved how the authors uses a range of illusions to trick our vision, then illuminates what’s going on in our eyes and brain using bite-sized scientific explanations. Kids of all ages will find this entertaining and educational, and I think it has the potential to persuade young minds to take a real interest in the fields of biology and medicine.”

Scientist Academy by Steve Martin, illustrated by Essi Kimpimäki (Publisher Ivy Kids)

Judge Jo Marchant said: “This book is packed with projects, puzzles and experiments related to the different jobs that scientists do, from archaeologist to zoologist. Whereas some books treat science as a collection of facts, with Scientist Academy it’s a real-life adventure. My kids couldn’t wait to get started.”

Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky (Publisher Hachette Children's Group)

Judge Alison Price said: “Rachel Ignotofsky celebrates the accomplishments of fifty women scientists, some well-known and others who were equally great, but who did not get the recognition they deserved. With two pages devoted to each woman from across all eras and scientific disciplines, this is a treasury of fascinating information, beautifully illustrated and each woman’s accomplishments summarised in an informative poster format.

“A book which will inspire future generations of women scientists, the secret to success remains the same, ‘creativity, persistence and a love of discovery were the greatest tools these women had.”