Spark! Children’s Book Awards: Ages 4-7 Shortlist

The final category in the Spark Book Awards is Picture Books, and it was very difficult to judge between four books that vary so greatly in tone, style and content.

Clean Up by Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeola 

Rocket is very excited that she’s going on holiday to see her grandparents at their island Animal Sanctuary. But when she gets there, she discovers that the beach is full of plastic rubbish that is endangering the local wildlife. Can Rocket organise a beach clean up and save a baby turtle that has been tangled up in plastic?

Clean Up! is a bright, fun and inclusive story with an important environmental message.

The Last Tree by Emily Haworth-Booth 

When the people first discover the forest, it is an ideal place to live. But as they start cutting down the trees to build their homes and construct walls around their village, the people also create barriers in their hearts. When the children discover the last tree, it helps them to remember why the forest was so important in the first place.

The Last Tree is a beautiful and poignant environmental fable about our relationship to the natural world.

Who’s Your Real Mum by Bernadette Green, illustrated by Anna Zobel 

Elvi has two mums but her friend Nicholas is confused, “Which one’s your real mum?” he asks her. Elvi gives Nicholas lots of exciting and imaginative clues (she “can clip a dragon’s toenails while she’s standing on her head and eating a bowl of spaghetti.”) until he realises what she’s telling him—they’re both her real mums.

Who’s Your Real Mum is a humorous and heartfelt story about love and the true meaning of family.

Avocado Asks by Momoko Abe 

When Avocado overhears a child at the supermarket ask her mum whether he is a fruit or a vegetable, the foundation of his world is shaken! Suddenly he’s not sure where he fits in. Fortunately, Tomato is there to remind him, that even if he’s not quite like all the other fruit, he is simply amazing anyway.

Avocado Asks is an engaging and whimsical story about learning to love yourself—whether you’re a fruit or a vegetable, or anything else.

In my experience of reading picture books aloud in schools and libraries, the stories that connect the best with a group are inevitably the funny ones. Although all four are wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated, I’ll place my bets on the one that elicited the most laughs – the millennial fruit identity crisis…

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