BookTrust Storytime Reveals 2021 Prize Shortlist Celebrating the Best Books for Early Years Sharing Skip to main content
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BookTrust Storytime Reveals 2021 Prize Shortlist Celebrating the Best Books for Early Years Sharing

Wednesday 28 July, London: BookTrust Storytime has revealed this year’s prize shortlist, celebrating the very best books for sharing with babies and children under five. The shortlisted titles will be central to a new national pilot that the UK’s largest children’s reading charity is running in partnership with libraries. Launching in the autumn, the pilot is designed to support disadvantaged families engage with their local public library and develop an ongoing reading habit.

Selected by a panel of experts, the six titles in contention are:

  • I Really, Really Need a Wee! by Karl Newson & Duncan Beedie (Little Tiger Press)
  • Octopus Shocktopus! by Peter Bently & Steven Lenton (Nosy Crow)
  • No! Said Rabbit by Marjoke Henrichs (Scallywag Press)
  • The Whales on the Bus by Katrina Charman & Nick Sharratt (Bloomsbury Children’s)
  • Lenny and Wilbur by Ken Wilson-Max (Alanna Max)
  • Arlo The Lion Who Couldn't Sleep by Catherine Rayner (Macmillan Children’s Books)

The shortlist includes a fantastically funny reimagined version of a well known nursery rhyme that everyone can sing along to courtesy of Katrina Charman and Nick Sharratt (The Whales on the Bus), a hilarious toilet tale of determination from Karl Newson and Duncan Beedie (Little Tiger Press), Marjoke Henrichs’ empathic debut exploring tears and tantrums (No! Said Rabbit), a brilliantly bonkers story about welcoming newcomers by the award-winning Peter Bently and Steven Lenton (Octopus Shocktopus!), Ken Wilson Max’s bold and colourful celebration of friendship (Lenny and Wilbur), and a mindful bedtime book from Catherine Rayner (Arlo The Lion Who Couldn't Sleep).

The prize – which promotes the life-changing benefits of sharing stories with young children and is run in association with the CILIP Youth Libraries Group and librarians, has this year been incorporated into the new national pilot – BookTrust Storytime.

Developed in partnership with libraries, local authorities and families, the project will help disadvantaged families with young children engage with their local public library so that sharing stories becomes a regular and long-lasting part of family life. Copies of this year’s shortlist will be distributed to all pilot libraries and used to encourage families to make repeat visits to their local library. The books will also be integrated into a raft of resources and activities available in a smaller number of libraries to help bring the magic of reading to life.

 The families and librarians taking part in the BookTrust Storytime pilot will also be invited to take part in the vote to crown this year’s winner of the £5,000 prize, announced in early 2022.  Previous winners of the £5,000 award include This Is Owl by Libby Walden and Jacqui Lee (2020) and Cyril and Pat by Emily Gravett (2019).

Jill Coleman, Director of Children's Books at BookTrust, said: 'Our mission at BookTrust is to get every child reading so they can reap the lifechanging benefits this brings. Sharing stories with young children is a crucial step on this journey, and so we are thrilled to announce that this wonderful prize will now form part of BookTrust Storytime, our new national pilot, designed to encourage more families to enjoy and take part in activities in their local libraries. Congratulations to shortlisted authors and illustrators, and best of luck to the librarians and families who will be helping select the winner – we hope you enjoy discovering and celebrating each of these six charming books along the way.’ 

Ben Lawrence, Children’s Librarian for Calderdale Libraries and Yorkshire and Humber Representative of CILIP Youth Libraries Group, said: ‘The weekly storytime is a ubiquitous library experience for so many families. Libraries want to enable everyone to access the wonderful world of story, song and rhyme. The shortlisted books for this year’s BookTrust Storytime prize represent the pinnacle of attributes for books that need to be shared, with each having truly engaging and entertaining stories and so beautifully and imaginatively illustrated. These books will be really put to the test, both in the library and with families at home. Thank goodness that it’s up to families and librarians across the country to vote for their favourite. I’m not sure I could choose between these wonderful books!’

Karl Newson, author of I Really, Really Need a Wee! said: ‘WAHOO! I'm delighted to hear I Really, Really Need a Wee is shortlisted for the BookTrust Story Time Award - I'm jiggly-wiggly-wobbly-wibbly happy as can be! Duncan brought so much energy to this story and captured the desperation of the theme hilariously! It's been a joy to work with him and the super team at Little Tiger Press. Thank you, BookTrust. And thanks Dad, for keeping me in the queue for the toilet all those times so many years ago.’

Duncan Beedie, illustrator of I Really, Really Need a Wee! said: ‘It was a wonderful surprise to learn that 'I Really, Really Need A Wee' has been shortlisted for the BookTrust Storytime prize. I had tremendous fun working with Karl's text and, truth be told, have had a lot of practice when it comes to this particular subject. I knew a childhood of filling sketch books with toilet-based doodles would pay dividends one day. That day has come!’

Peter Bently, author of Octopus Shocktopus! said: ‘BookTrust is a wonderful organisation that does so much brilliant work to support children's reading and I am delighted and honoured that Octopus Shocktopus has been shortlisted for the 2021 BookTrust Storytime prize.’

Steven Lenton, illustrator of Octopus Shocktopus! said: ‘I am so pleased that Octopus Shocktopus is much-loved and enjoyed by so many parents, children, librarians and teachers!’

Marjoke Henrichs, author of NO! Said Rabbit said: ‘I feel very honoured that No! said Rabbit has been shortlisted for the BookTrust Storytime prize.  Book Trust does such important work promoting the love of reading and sharing books, and I am delighted they are helping my book reach more children and families across the UK.’

Katrina Charman, author of The Whales on the Bus said ‘Booktrust is such an amazing organization doing essential work to get books in the hands of children who need them the most, so I am absolutely thrilled that The Whales on the Bus has been nominated for Booktrust’s Storytime Prize this year.’

Nick Sharratt, illustrator of The Whales on the Bus said: ‘I’m ‘whaley’ delighted that Whales on the Bus has been shortlisted for this wonderful award!’

Ken Wilson-Max, author of Lenny and Wilbur said: ‘Lenny is one of my favourite characters so Lenny and Wilbur being shortlisted for this year's BookTrust Storytime prize is just fantastic. It's also wonderful to think that all the shortlisted books will be enjoyed and discussed by little ones and their grown-ups.’

Catherine Rayner, author of Arlo The Lion Who Couldn't Sleep, said: ‘I'm so excited, flattered and honoured to be shortlisted for this brilliant prize. Arlo is very excited too and has his paws crossed!’