2020 ALCS Educational Writers’ Award shortlist: CELEBRATING DIVERSITY AND INSPIRING CHANGE

Five books are on the shortlist for the UK’s only award for creative educational writing.

The Society of Authors (SoA) and ALCS are delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2020 ALCS Educational Writers’ Award, the UK’s only award for excellence in educational writing which stimulates and enhances the learning experience.

The five outstanding books for readers aged 11–18 years on this year’s shortlist illuminate the continent of Africa; black history and the Black Lives Matter movement; and what it is to be autistic. They also celebrate inspiring stories of women and girls who have changed the world for better, as well as the earth heroes who have made a contribution to securing a more sustainable future for our planet.



Author: Atinuke

Illustrator: Mouni Feddag

Publisher: Walker Books

Welcome to Africa, Amazing Africa: from the richest king, the tallest sand dunes and the biggest waterfall on the planet, to drummers, cocoa growers, inventors, balancing stones, salt lakes, high-tech cities and nomads who use GPS. This book is British-Nigerian storyteller Atinuke’s love letter to Africa in all its amazing diversity. Richly illustrated by Mouni Feddag, it explores the continent’s geography, its peoples, its animals, its fascinating history and more.

Our judges said: Vibrant and comprehensive, this book provides an overview of the whole continent, and how each individual country is unique, for example in culture and language. Attractive and unique, it is a celebration of culture suitable for all abilities.



Author: Lily Dyu

Illustrator: Jackie Lay

Publisher: Nosy Crow

When faced with the enormity of climate change, we can feel daunted when it comes to making a difference, but this book proves that individual people can change the world. With twenty inspirational stories celebrating the pioneering work of a selection of Earth Heroes from all around the globe – from Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough to Yin Yuzhen and Isatou Ceesay – each tale is a beacon of hope in the fight for the future of our planet.

Our judges said: Through its warm and inspiring text, this book profiles a broad range of heroes that young readers can relate to, and demonstrates that even small acts can create change. Through an accessible and motivating text, it highlights different areas of activism, and what young people can do to make their own contribution to saving our world.




Author: Katherine Halligan

Illustrator: Sarah Walsh                                                  

Publisher: Nosy Crow

From Empress Wu Zetian to Rosa Parks, this book tells the stories of 50 intrepid women from around the world and throughout history, exploring the challenges they faced and the changes they made. With a range of pioneering careers – from astronauts to activists, musicians to mathematicians and many more – it aims to inspire young readers to follow their own dreams and to make the world a better place.

Our judges said: Including quotes that are memorable and motivational, this well-structured book profiles a broad selection of women and girls from all walks of life; some that most young people will have heard of, along with others they may not have known about before. More than a history book, it is an uplifting read that will encourage young people to believe that anything is possible.



Author & Illustrator: Charlotte Amelia Poe

Publisher: Myriad Editions

In this highly personal account of autism, mental illness, gender and sexual identity, punctuated by their poetry, Poe bears witness to a riot of conflicting emotions: horror, empathy, despair, laugh-out-loud amusement and, most of all, respect. They witness their own behaviour through school and college with a wry humour as they sympathise with those who care for them, yet all the while challenging the neurotypical narratives of autism as something to be ‘fixed’.

Our judges said: This raw, honest and passionate personal story reveals how the author ‘controls’ their autism, and how others can help those on the autistic spectrum. It also urges us to be more open about the word ‘autism’, and gives us a new understanding of how it is different for each individual.



Author: Robin Walker

Publisher: Franklin Watts

Aiming to provide young people with a comprehensive resource throughout Black History Month and beyond, this book chronicles thousands of years of black history, from African kingdoms, to slavery, apartheid, the battle for civil rights and more. Important and inspiring black personalities, from Olaudah Equiano to Oprah Winfrey are highlighted throughout, while achievements and progress are balanced alongside a look at the issues that continue to plague black communities.

Our judges said: This accessible, comprehensive and inspiring book provides an excellent and timely introduction, both to black history and to the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement. With a good range of illustrations, it also includes a comprehensive glossary, timeline and index, along with a list of books and websites providing further information.


The Educational Writers’ Award was established in 2008 by ALCS and the SoA “to celebrate educational writing that inspires creativity and encourages students to read widely and build up their understanding of a subject beyond the requirements of exam specifications”.

The 2020 Award focuses on books for 11–18 year olds, published in 2018 & 2019. This year’s judges are children’s author, Bali Rai; school librarian, Liz Annetts; and secondary school teacher, Charlotte Baggley. The winner will be announced at an online ceremony on Wednesday 9 December 2020 as part of the Annual ALCS Awards. The winning author and illustrator/designer will share a cheque for £2,000.

The Society of Authors (SoA) societyofauthors.org

The Society of Authors is a trade union for all types of writers, illustrators and literary translators, and has been advising individuals and speaking out for the profession for more than a century. The SoA supports and runs many other prizes for poetry, short stories, fiction and non-fiction, and in addition to the ALCS Educational Writers’ Award also administers the Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award. Last year the SoA distributed more than £600,000 in prizes and grants.