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Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2019

It is with enormous pleasure we announce Onjali Q. Raúf’s The Boy at the Back of the Class as the winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019. In the year our award marks its 15th anniversary, the winner - as always, chosen by our expert booksellers - is a work of exceptional talent by a brilliant emerging voice in children’s writing.

Separated from his family, Syrian refugee Ahmet is alone in a new school and a new country; to those around him he is just the boy at the back of the class.  When a group of children set out to befriend him and learn about his story, they embark on an unexpected, whirlwind adventure.

Bursting with charm, humour and compassion, and featuring wonderful illustrations from Pippa Curnick, The Boy at the Back of the Class is a moving, timely story about understanding and showing kindness to those around us. 

 

‘Our booksellers, one after another, have given The Boy at the Back of the Class the highest and rarest of accolades, that it is a future classic. It is, notwithstanding its urgent contemporary relevance, a book that is funny, generous and vivid. It is a joy to read, and we recommend it unreservedly.’

James daunt 



waterstones children book prize the boy at the back of the class
waterstones children's book prize boy at the back of the class



Alongside our overall winner, we are also proud to present the victors in this year’s category awards.

Triumphing in the Illustrated Books category, The Girls by Lauren Ace and Jenny Løvlie is a beautiful story of fun and friendship, celebrating individuality on the path to growing up.

Winning for Older Fiction is Tomi Adeyemi’s electrifying fantasy debut, Children of Blood and Bone.  The first in an epic new series, and blending West African mythology with original world-building, it is an action-packed novel of courage and identity, told with thrilling urgency.

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When a new boy joins their class, a group of children try to befriend him. They soon learn that Ahmet is a refugee and has been separated from his family. None of the grown-ups seem to be able to help him, so the friends come up with a daring plan, embarking on an extraordinary adventure. Based in part on the stories she encountered when working in refugee camps, Onjali Q. Raúf’s remarkable debut deserves to be ranked as a modern classic. Told with humour and tenderness, it is an unforgettable story of hope, curiosity and the importance of kindness.

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Vividly created by Lauren Ace and Jenny Løvlie, The Girls is a winning celebration of difference, individuality and friendship that lasts a lifetime. The beautifully illustrated story follows four friends from childhood into adulthood. As different as they are the same, each girl takes her individual path, whilst always staying part of the others’ lives, wherever their journey takes them. A hit with adults and children alike, The Girls is an inspirational story to return to time and time again.

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Once an enchanted land, the magic of Orisha vanished without warning, leaving its people enslaved to a ruling and bloodthirsty elite.  Now one girl, Zelie, has the chance to return power to her people and strike at the heart of the kingdom, but at what cost? The first in an epic new fantasy series, Children of Blood and Bone is a fierce and unflinching saga of divided love, belief and legacy. A book that combines heart-stopping drama with unforgettable characters, it ripples with rage and magic, haunting the reader long after the final page. 

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Our Overall Winner

A beaming Onjali Q. Raúf collects the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for The Boy at the Back of the Class.

Image credit: Izzy Romilly

2019’s Older Fiction Winner

“This is cool!” Tomi Adeyemi accepts her award for Children of Blood and Bone in style.

Image credit: Izzy Romilly

2019's Younger Fiction Winners

Author and illustrator duo Lauren Ace and Jenny Løvlie celebrate success for The Girls.

Image credit: Izzy Romilly

Celebrating with the Children’s Laureate

Waterstones Children’s Laureate Lauren Child congratulates this year’s victors.

Image credit: Izzy Romilly

James Daunt Introduces This Year’s Awards

Waterstones managing director James Daunt looks back on fifteen years of award-winning children’s literature. 

Image credit: Izzy Romilly

This Year’s Shortlisted Authors

In it together: a moment to recognise all the brilliant authors on this year’s shortlists.

Image credit: Izzy Romilly

The Evening at a Glance

Image credit: Izzy Romilly

The Evening at a Glance

Image credit: Izzy Romilly

Get the opinions that really matter. Hear what our expert panel have to say about this year’s winners.


Illustrated Books Shortlist

Sparking the imaginations of our very youngest readers, our Illustrated Books Shortlist is a celebration of creative talent across every genre of children’s publishing. Bursting with life, invention and laugh-aloud humour, whether it’s a superbly silly rhyming canine roll-call or a tender, painterly story of identity or a catalogue of real life heroes, these are books that explore the breadth and depth of where words and pictures can lead us.  
100 Dogs
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Julian Is a Mermaid
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Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
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Mini Rabbit Not Lost
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The Girls
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The King Who Banned the Dark
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Younger Fiction Shortlist

Marking the beginning of a journey into independent reading, our Younger Fiction category is where many children lose their hearts to books forever. This year’s list is full of future favourites, crossing magical lands, tackling far-flung adventures and spinning new fairy tales to exploring what matters much closer to home.   

Brightstorm: A Sky-Ship Adventure
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The Boy At the Back of the Class
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The Boy Who Grew Dragons
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The House with Chicken Legs
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The Mystery of the Colour Thief
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The Train to Impossible Places
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Older Fiction Shortlist

Standing on the cusp of the most daring and experimental new trends – not to mention where Hollywood comes calling - Older Fiction is where some of the most exciting contemporary storytelling happens. Amongst the astonishing range and diversity on display there’s the sweeping, fantasy of rich and strange new worlds alongside myth-born epic and cutting edge contemporary drama: talent to take your breath away.

A Winter's Promise
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Boy 87
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Children of Blood and Bone
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Me Mam. Me Dad. Me.
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The Poet X
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The Truth About Lies
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15 Years Presenting Our Winners

This year, we’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, reflecting on how far this unique award has come in discovering and championing the very best in children’s publishing for all ages. Over the years, we’ve introduced readers to brilliant original stories and talented new writers and illustrators, spearheaded by our booksellers’ knowledge, commitment and enthusiasm.

15 Years of New Talent

We are passionate about discovering new talent. Since the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize first began in 2005, we’ve been sharing the best in new writing for children and teenagers. We’ve helped to launch the careers of some of the biggest names in children’s writing, including Katherine Rundell, Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Michelle Harrison.

15 Years of Illustration

We know that pictures can bring stories to life. Over the years, it’s been our pleasure to introduce fresh creative talent, combining words and pictures to be Blown Away with Rob Biddulph on the tail of a kite, or sailing the seven seas with Jonny Duddle’s cutlass-clutching, hook-handed sea-swabbers, The Pirates Next Door.

15 Years of Leading Conversation

Our choices always put readers first, rewarding the books that matter to them and reflecting the topics young people of all ages are most passionate about. Our standout winners include Angie Thomas’s important novel of inequality and contemporary prejudice The Hate U Give, and Sally Nicholls’ finely-crafted story of life in the face of death, Ways to Live Forever.

15 Years of Fun

We know that one of the hardest challenges for a writer is making readers laugh and that’s why we love to celebrate books that raise a chuckle. Whether it’s a daring quest, a fantastical journey or the laugh-a-minute antics of David Solomon’s My Brother is a Superhero or The Great Hamster Massacre from Katie Davies, we find the fun and turn young readers into lifelong bookworms.

15 Years Finding Adventure

New worlds, brave deeds, challenges that make and break character: soaring talents such as Tom Becker, Julia Golding and Stuart Hill excel on taking their readers on sweeping adventures, feeding young imaginations with the fuel to build universes of their own. These are writers with the gift to conjure universes and inspire dreams.

15 Years Being Brave

Throughout the history of the prize, we’ve rewarded books that engage with difficult issues in innovative and extraordinary ways. Stories of love, betrayal, grief and discrimination. Stories that move, inspire and provoke. Stories - like Artichoke Hearts from Sita Brahmachari and Annabel Pitcher’s Ketchup Clouds - that stay with you forever.

Our 2019 Winner

It is with enormous pleasure that we declare Onjali Q. Raúf’s original and timely debut as the winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019. Bursting with charm, humour and compassion, The Boy at the Back of the Class is a moving story about friendship and showing kindness to those around us. Featuring illustrations from Pippa Curnick, this is an exceptional book by an emerging voice in children’s writing.

Previous Overall Winners

The Hate U Give
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The Girl of Ink & Stars
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My Brother Is a Superhero
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Blown Away
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Rooftoppers
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Ketchup Clouds
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The Pirates Next Door
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Artichoke Hearts
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The Great Hamster Massacre
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The Thirteen Treasures
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Ways to Live Forever
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Darkside NE
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The Diamond of Drury Lane
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The Cry of the Icemark
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