There was a festive atmosphere at ALCS HQ by the Thames in central London earlier this month when ALCS played host to the announcement and presentation of two prestigious awards it sponsors each year.

First came the announcement of the winner of the Educational Writers’ Award 2019. This award, run in conjunction with the Society of Authors, is the UK’s only award for creative educational writing and this year focused on books for 5–11 year-olds. Michaela Morgan, a prolific author of fiction, non-fiction and one of the 2019 judges introduced the six books on the shortlist, which she said, were “the best of the best” among the large number of entries, and which had been much discussed and enjoyed.

Tony Bradman, Chair of the ALCS Board and MC for the awards evening then announced that the winner of the 2019 Educational Writers’ Award (EWA) was Alastair Humphreys’ Great Adventurers: The Incredible Expeditions of 20 Explorers, written by Alastair Humphreys, illustrated by Kevin Ward and published by Big Picture Press.

The winning book is a compendium of great expeditions, handpicked by explorer Alastair Humphreys, whose own adventures include cycling the world and rowing the Atlantic. It retells the extraordinary stories of 20 men and women who have ventured into space, and across oceans, continents, deserts and jungles – inspiring Alastair’s own adventurous travels.

On behalf of her fellow award judges – librarian, Fiona Shufflebotham and primary school teacher, Hollie Davis – Michaela Morgan commented that the winning book had seen off some fabulous competition, being “both stunning visually and packed with info”. It would, she added “…inspire future adventurers as well as inform children across the age range in an exciting, original and accessible way”.

You can read more about the 2019 Educational Writers’ Award here.

The second award of the night was the Ruth Rendell Award, awarded annually by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) and ALCS. Launched by the NLT and ALCS in 2016 in memory of bestselling author Ruth Rendell who was herself a powerful advocate for literacy, the award celebrates the author who has done the most to champion literacy throughout the UK over the past year.

Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive of the NLT announced that the 2019 Award winner was children’s author Tom Palmer who had, he said, had received a groundswell of support from librarians and teachers for showing not only an outstanding commitment to literacy but also a determination to support individuals who were facing the greatest challenges at the moment. “He has redefined reading for a lot of children”, Douglas commented.

Accepting the award, Tom Palmer paid tribute to his mum who encouraged him when he himself was a reluctant reader as a child. He also thanked his wife Rebecca for her leading role in his work, saying: “This is so exciting for my family, as much as for me. I found books intimidating as a child and feared I’d fail to finish them. But short sport articles in newspapers and magazines – including Roy of the Rovers – and sport books from the library were a great way into reading for me.

“Anyone can enjoy and strengthen their reading if they find the right thing for them, and that’s what I really try and get across to all the young readers I meet. I’m also very proud that many of my books are published by Barrington Stoke, whose books are written, edited and designed with reluctant readers and those with dyslexia and visual stress. I want to thank everyone who nominated me for this award, and the National Literacy Trust and ALCS for this honour.”

You can read more about Tom Palmer’s work here.

In the next episode of Authors’ Matters, the ALCS podcast, we talk to Tom Palmer and Michaela Morgan, an EWA judge. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it.

Photographs © Matt Crossick