Out of this world ‘Am I Made of Stardust?’ named winner of Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize by student judges

19 March 2024

Space scientist and host of BBC’s Sky at Night, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, has been crowned as the winner of the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2023 for Am I Made of Stardust? Dr Maggie Answers the Big Questions for Young Scientists

The announcement was made this afternoon in a ceremony at Techniquest science discovery centre in Cardiff, where local schools and student judges met shortlisted authors and took part in science activities. Watch the livestream now.

Picked by more than 12,000 school age judges across the UK, Am I Made of Stardust? launches young readers through the wonders of the universe, past our moon and solar system towards distant galaxies and faraway planets.

In the book, Dr Maggie and her trusty robot assistant IQ are on hand to answer their readers’ burning questions, from “What would happen if I fell into a black hole?” to “Does it really rain diamonds on Jupiter?”.

Responding to the news, Dr Maggie said: “It’s such an honour to receive this award. I want to say the biggest thank you to all the school children who voted and Chelen Écija who brought these questions to life with her illustrations. 

"I have dyslexia, which has made it hard for me to take myself seriously as an author, so this prize means a lot to me.

"Whenever I go into schools, I tell kids to reach high for their dreams. This was one of my big, crazy dreams and they’ve made it come true.”

Over the last few months hundreds of school and youth group judging panels across the UK pored over the six shortlisted science books, which spanned prehistoric living, deadly creatures, bugs, brains and bogies, before picking their favourite.

The shortlist was picked by an all-star panel of scientists, teachers and famous faces including NHS paediatrician and TV presenter Dr Ranj Singh and bestselling author MG Leonard

Each shortlisted author receives £2,500, with a grand prize of £10,000 for the winner.

Professor Usha Goswami FRS, Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge and chair of the Shortlist Panel, said:  "So many of the questions in Am I Made of Stardust? are things I hear children ask, and questions I’ve thought about myself.

“The format engages children’s natural curiosity and the ‘try it at home’ activities encourage them to get hands on and try out simple experiments for themselves.

“As a fellow scientist, Dr Maggie’s passion is contagious and her love of space shines through on every page.”

Here’s what the young judges thought of Am I Made of Stardust?:

“She looks like me! Could I be an astronaut one day? Maybe a scientist?” – Student, St Maria Goretti Primary School, Glasgow 

“THE BEST BOOK! it was so interesting, lots of new facts. My favourite was the planets. It was set out really well and we loved the index of tricky words. We could tell it was written for children. It was like Dr Maggie was actually talking to us and we couldn't stop reading it!” – Elise, aged 9 

“Dr Maggie is inspirational. We have learnt about her in science so it was fab to read a book she's written. I love space.” – Scarlett, aged 10

"I didn't like it - I LOVED it!! I loved everything, but what I love the most is that there are things that you can try at home." – Ellie, aged 10

“The best science book I have ever read!” – Isabelle, aged 10

Here’s what the young judges had to say about the rest of the shortlist: 

A Bug’s World by Dr Erica McAlister, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman (Wren and Rook, Hachette Children’s Group)

“I really enjoyed it. It was fascinating. I had to go and tell other people what I found out in the book.” – Student, Trinity Academy Akroydon, Halifax

“This book is really interesting and has made me think about bugs WAY more!!!! I loved the awesome facts about thermometer crickets.” – Liyana, aged 9 

Ben Rothery's Deadly and Dangerous Animals by Ben Rothery (Ladybird, Penguin Random House Children’s)

“Speechless how good it is. Would recommend it to anyone who loves to read about animals. You won't be disappointed!” – Lyla, aged 10 

“A book everyone should read.” – Grace, aged 10

Bodies, Brains and Bogies by Paul Ian Cross, PhD, illustrated by Steve Brown (Welbeck Publishing)

“A brilliant, interesting book about the human body that is both fun and disgusting and taught me things I didn't know earlier.” – Estelle, aged 10

“A mind-blowing book - I loved how it tells you real facts!” – Carter, aged 11

Live Like a Hunter Gatherer by Naomi Walmsley, illustrated by Mia Underwood (Button Books)

“Every page has something to spark your interest and there is something for everyone (stories, facts, amazing illustrations, quizzes and creative tasks) - we loved this book.” – Zachary, aged 11

“I definitely will be going home and buying this book. A fantastic book with beautiful illustrations - so many fun facts, interesting activities, diagrams and graphs.” – Alfie, aged 11

Step Inside Science: Germs by Sarah Hull, illustrated by Teresa Bellón (Usborne)

“I loved how it was vivid and colourful, with a lot of pictures to make it more understandable and enjoyable.” – Mathaba, aged 10

“Amazing. I want to keep on and on reading it. I want to keep it forever.” – Olivia, aged 7