Recreating Nobel Prize experiments at home, learning how to code through the language of song, scientific discovery and the wonder of everyday objects are among the topics explored in the six books vying for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2020. The shortlist was announced October 8.
The prize recognizes the best science books for under-14s. The shortlist was picked by an adult judging panel including Cressida Cowell, the Waterstones Children’s Laureate and author-illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon books; former Blue Peter presenter and author Konnie Huq; and chaired by Professor Mike Kendell, geophysicist and Fellow of the Royal Society.
The shortlisted books follow. The links are to articles about each finalist on the Society’s website.
- Gut Garden: A Journey into the Wonderful World of Your Microbiome written by Katie Brosnan (Published by Cicada Books Limited)
Judge Cressida Cowell said: “This book was very interesting, the wonderful little characters brought it to life. The field is growing, with scientists only now beginning to comprehend the significance of our microbiome – it helps to educate the future generation about science fields with emergent interest.”
- The Everyday Journeys of Ordinary Things written by Libby Deutsch, illustrated by Valpuri Kerttula (Published by Ivy Kids)
Judge Konnie Huq said: “Being a curious mind, I still wonder where things have come from, and why things are. Why does the world spin? Why is the sky blue? I have children with the same questions, which has reignited my passion. Seeing every step of the process explained behind everyday actions like flicking a light switch or making a phone call really satisfied my curiosity. Igniting curiosity is what this whole Prize is about.”
- Cats React to Science Facts written by Izzi Howell (Published by Hachette Children’s Group)
Judge and Royal Society Research Fellow Professor Rosalind Rickaby said: “This book makes science fun and engaging by breaking down difficult information in a relatable way. The book introduces topics like forces, energy and climate change — the real fundamentals — in a fun and engaging way. It was thoroughly road tested in my house, it wasn’t a quick scan, this was the book my kids wanted to take to bed with them and flick through.”
- In the Key of Code written by Aimee Lucido (Published by Walker Books UK)
Chair of the judging panel Professor Mike Kendall said: “Not only does this book teach you about code, it teaches you the importance of logic and critical thinking through the ‘way’ of coding. It makes learning fun and prepares you for the future. In most aspects of science, you have to code. This book normalises it and shows you that coding is part of being immersed in science.”
- How to Win a Nobel Prize written by Professor Barry Marshall with Lorna Hendry illustrated by Bernard Caleo (Published by Rock the Boat)
Judge and special educational needs coordinator and teacher Gail Eagar said: “I really enjoyed the activities at the end of each chapter, there are some unbelievable experiments. The fact that it was a female lead character added to the delight of reading this.”
- Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry written by Neil deGrasse Tyson with Gregory Mone (Published by WW Norton & Company)
Judge Cressida Cowell said: “This book successfully encapsulated topics in an imaginative and yet comprehensible way, and the brilliant opening sentence captivated me from the start. It ticked all the criteria – there was plenty of science, and it was exciting and wonderful to read.”
The winners will be chosen by over 13,000 young judges, drawn from over 500 schools, science centres, and community groups such as Scouts and Brownies from across the UK.
The overall winning book will be unveiled at an online awards ceremony in February 2021.