Winners in Westminster

The annual All Party Writers Group (APWG) Winter Reception at the House of Commons earlier this month was attended by a throng of writers, Lords and MPs, who celebrated the presentation of two prestigious ALCS-sponsored awards.

First came the announcement of the 2016 Educational Writers’ Award, which was won by This Is Not a Maths Book: A Smart Art Activity Book, written by Anna Weltman, illustrated by Edward Cheverton and Ivan Hissey, and published by Ivy Kids. The book is a multi-dimensional treasury of graphic activities and drawing challenges that have a mathematical basis. From simple geometric patterns to fractal art, anamorphic art and Celtic knots, it invites the reader to discover the beauty in maths, and the maths in beauty.

The result of this year’s Educational Writers’ Award – the UK’s only award for creative educational writing – was announced by Pete Wishart MP, Chair of the APWG. This year’s judges – secondary school English teacher and author Jonathan Lomas, award-winning author and international expert on adolescence Nicola Morgan, and school librarian Nicky Ransley – were unanimous in their praise for the winning title:

“With superb design, this is maths made genuinely exciting – a brilliant page turner of a book which will quite literally give you a new and more beautiful perspective on life and learning. We particularly loved the fact that it is likely to engage people of any level of mathematical aptitude or reluctance, and yet it does so without jumping up and down and shoving a ‘maths is fun’ message at the reader. It is genuinely pleasurable and mind-opening and you can’t ask more of a book!”

The 2016 Educational Writers’ Award focused on books for 11-to 18-year-olds, published in 2014 and 2015. This Is Not a Maths Book beat off strong competition from the two other titles shortlisted for this year’s Award. They were Oxford Shakespeare Illustrated Dictionary, written by David and Ben Crystal and illustrated by Kate Bellamy (Oxford University Press), which was described by the judges as a “visually appealing treasure chest (that) is fun as well as informative, which gives a real insight into Shakespeare’s language and the rich world of his plays with a wonderful variety of layout, colour and pace.” And The School of Art, written by Teal Triggs and illustrated by Daniel Frost (Wide Eyed Editions), described by the judges as “beautifully clear and light-hearted – but never childish, with the potential both to build artists, and help the rest of us understand the techniques of the artworks we encounter”.

Now in its ninth year, the Educational Writers’ Award was established in 2008 by ALCS and the Society of Authors “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 second award of the day was the inaugural Ruth Rendell Award for the author or writer who has done the most to raise literacy levels in the UK, either through their writing and books, or through their advocacy and championing in the cause of literacy.

The Ruth Rendell Award was established earlier this year by ALCS and the National Literacy Trust in memory of bestselling novelist Ruth Rendell, who died last year aged 85. Known for writing thrillers and psychological murder mysteries, including the Inspector Wexford series, she was also a long-time champion of the National Literacy Trust and its work to raise literacy levels in the UK.

Ruth Rendell’s son, Simon Rendell, paid warm tribute to his late mother and her own campaigning work for literacy. He then announced that author and former member of 22 SAS, Andy McNab was the winner of the inaugural award, for his tireless championing of literacy over the course of many years.

Sue Wilkinson of the Reading Agency accepted the Award on behalf of Andy McNab, who was unable to attend the presentation. Instead, he sent a recorded message in which he said: “I’m delighted and very proud to be receiving this award. The literacy work I do is deeply personal. Had it not been for the education I received from the army as a 17-year-old, when I had the literacy of a 9-year-old, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Receiving this award gives me even more incentive to get out there and make sure that as many people as possible are helped to achieve, and change their lives for the better.”


Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive of the Reading Agency and Simon Rendell, son of Ruth Rendell. Photo: © Matt Crossick

The judging panel for the inaugural Ruth Rendell Award was Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust (Chair); Jonathan Fryer, ALCS Board Member; Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive of the Reading Agency; and Ginny Lunn, Chief Executive of Beanstalk.