Oscar’s Book Prize 2021 shortlist revealed

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Oscar’s Book Prize is an annual prize for the best under-fives book of the year, and champions magical storytelling from authors and illustrators who create wonderful stories to share together. It is awarded in memory of book-loving Oscar Ashton, who died in 2012 of an undiagnosed heart condition aged three and a half. Founded by his parents and run in partnership with Amazon, the Evening Standard and the National Literacy Trust, the Prize has been running since 2014. The shortlist for Oscar’s Book Prize 2021 has today been revealed, with six books in the running for the award.

To recognise and reward the vital work by early-years authors and illustrators in encouraging young children to read, the Oscar’s Book Prize 2021 prize fund has doubled in size to £10,000.

This year’s shortlist was chosen by a judging panel comprising of TV presenters Lorraine Kelly and Angellica Bell, and Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler. Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson has also been shortlisted, with her latest book The Hospital Dog.

Oscar’s Book Prize 2021 Shortlist

  • I’m Sticking with you by Smriti Halls and Steve Small
  • (Simon and Schuster Children’s Books)
    Axel Scheffler said: “The clarity and simplicity of the design and illustration is very striking, yet the pictures are emotional and funny. Similarly the writing is brilliantly simple but gripping. I enjoyed the tension between text and illustrations – it’s a perfectly balanced picture book.”

  • Meesha Makes Friends by Tom Percival
  • (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
    Angellica Bell said: “’This book was so touching and had a lovely sentiment to it without it being sad when I read it. There is so much potential for discussion about creativity and how we can be inclusive, and I really think this book can resonate to any reader whether big or small, ‘Be open, be honest, be YOU!”

  • Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Halls and David Litchfield
  • (Walker Books)
    Viveka Alvestrand said: “Every spread in this book provides its own fairytale, which complements the feeling of hope that radiates from every page. I loved it.”

  • The Hospital Dog by Julia Donaldson and Sara Ogilvie
  • (Macmillan Children’s Books)
    Lorraine Kelly said: “I loved the characters in this story, which the text and pictures bring so brilliantly and vibrantly to life. Reading this elicits an emotional response, and at a time when hospitals and narratives about illness are at the forefront of many minds, I found this very comforting. I thought this book was a delight.”

  • The Littlest Yak by Lu Fraser and Kate Hindley
  • (Simon and Schuster Children’s Books)
    Lorraine Kelly said: “This book is full of beautiful illustrations and deceptive simplicity. It’s about worries too, so if you had a child who felt a little bit different or who felt they didn’t fit in you could use it in a lovely, positive way.”

  • Would You Like A Banana by Yasmeen Ismail
  • (Walker Books)
    Simon Johnson said: “This book is full of wonderful pictures with a very funny story. It was completely gripping to read with my children.”

Oscar’s Book Prize 2021, which celebrates the best storytelling for children under five, received the highest number of entries in its eight-year history. Submissions were of such high quality this year that the judging panel recognised six rather than the usual five books. The exceptional stories on the 2021 shortlist feature characters as diverse as yaks, dogs and bears, and settings that range from mountain tops, hospitals and schools. They all share strong and inspiring themes of friendships, co-operation, self-belief and perseverance.

The winner will be announced by the award’s patron, HRH Princess Beatrice, in a livestreamed virtual ceremony on Tuesday 11th May. For more on the six shortlisted stories, go to

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