ALCS Educational Writers’ Award shortlist announced

The shortlist for the UK’s only award for creative educational writing features six outstanding books for readers aged 11 – 18.

ALCS is delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2023 Educational Writers’ Award. The award, founded in 2008 by ALCS and the Society of Authors, celebrates educational writing inspires creativity, encourages students to read widely and build their understanding of a subject beyond the requirements of exam specifications. This year’s focuses on works which offer fresh takes on history, and positive perspectives for now.

The shortlisted works invite young people to think about Black British history through music; provide a sensitive guide to all matters trans and non-binary; illuminate the history of the Holocaust; provide a wild ride through the history of drag; guide them positively through the challenges of growing up; and present a rich, first-hand history of the Windrush generation.


A Musical Journey Through Modern Black Britain

Author:  Jeffrey Boakye

Illustrator:  Ngadi Smart

 Publisher:  Faber

“Music can carry the stories of history like a message in a bottle”. Inviting us to think about history with new ears, this illustrated playlist in a book tracks some of the seminal moments in modern British history through the emotional impact of 28 songs and the artists who performed them; from ‘London is the Place for Me’ by Lord Kitchener to ‘Little Baby Swastikka’ by Skunk Anansie and ‘Black and Ready’ by Jords.

Our judges say: “A captivating history which ties together music, black history, family, growing up, politics and inequality with panache, humour, and at times brutal honesty. It’s an extraordinary read which made our hearts sing.”.



Author:  Juno Dawson

Illustrator:  Soofiya

Publisher:  Wren & Rook

From identity and expression to coming out and dating, this no-nonsense, illustrated guide to all things trans and/or non-binary aims to guide young people through the modern transgender experience, and help them live their best life, true to who THEY are.

Our judges say: “Written with sensitivity, depth and humour, this truly comprehensive guide is witty and funny without being flippant, and practical without being dull. It is also a powerful book in offering young people and all who work to make their lives happier a frank opportunity to share their journeys with empathy, and with a powerful charge of optimism and lived experience”.



The True Story of the Resistance Hero Who Fought the Nazis From Inside the Camp

Author:  Jack Fairweather

Publisher: Scholastic

This young reader’s edition of Jack Fairweather’s Costa Book of the Year, “The Volunteer” is the story of Witold Pilecki, a Polish underground operative who accepted a mission to uncover the fate of thousands interned in Auschwitz, report on Nazi crimes there, and stage an uprising.

Our judges said: “This remarkably told story reveals a whole new aspect of the notorious Auschwitz work camp, describing in stark and brutal details how the camp evolved into the most infamous Nazi death camp”.



Author:  Jake Hall

Illustrators:  Sofie Birkin, Helen Li & Jasyot Singh Hans

Publisher:  Nobrow

“Lights, Glamour, Action!”. From the earliest lip-syncs to RuPaul’s “Drag Race” and beyond, take a wild ride through the history of drag with this vibrantly illustrated guide to the past, present and future of this ancient art form.

Our judges said: “From Ancient Greece to the present day, this flamboyantly but appropriately illustrated book charts the rich and colourful history of drag, providing a definitive guide to how this art from has evolved, and the fabulous characters who helped shape it”.



Author: Stuart Lawrence

Designer: Richard Smith

Publisher:  Scholastic

Stuart Lawrence draws on his own experience, including the murder of his older brother Stephen in 1993, to highlight the tools that have helped him live positively. These words and thoughts have kept him moving forwards when times have been tough, and this collection encourages young people to harness the good in themselves to create change.

Our judges said: “The fact that Stuart Lawrence has been able to use the experience of his brother’s brutal murder to forge such a positive approach to life is remarkable. His eloquent book offers young people a thoughtful guide to growing up”.



Stories About the Windrush Generation

Authors:  KN Chimbiri, Kevin George, Salena Godden, Judy Hepburn, Ashley Hickson-Lovence, Jermain Jackman, Kirsty Latoya, Katy Massey, EL Norry & Quincy the Comedian

Illustrator & Designer:  Joelle Avellino & Richard Smith

Publisher:  Scholastic

“Home ain’t jus’ where you live. Home is your heart an’ yer history”. Richly illustrated with documentary photographs and published in association with the Black Cultural Archives, a collection of 12 stories of sacrifice and bravery inspired by first-hand accounts of the Windrush generation, which helps bring the experience of Black British people into focus.

Our judges said: “With a moving Foreword by Dame Floella Benjamin, this beautifully designed book tells the history of Windrush generation people with clarity and compassion. Drawing on an impressive depth of research from The Black Cultural Archives, it is an invaluable resource which encourages young people to consider the power of their own voices”.

The winner of the 2022 ALCS Educational Writers’ Award will be announced at a reception at Goldsmiths’ Centre in London on Wednesday 22 February 2023. The winning author and illustrator/designer will share a prize of £2,000.