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Something for all ages

If you thought you had grown out of picture books, think again. Gillian Macdonald on the Saltire SocietyTESS awards

For all those fun-loving little boys who enjoy shocking their teachers with rude words, there is a great Scots phrase to try: "big bahoochies".

This delightful example of alliteration and onomatopoeia (so much more expressive than "bums") is one of the highlights of Animal ABC: a Scots alphabet, the winner of the 11th annual Saltire SocietyTES Scotland award for educational publishing, announced last night in Edinburgh.

There were 31 entries submitted by eight publishers, covering English, German, history, geography, modern studies, science, computing, personal and social education, environmental studies, art and design, moral education and Scots. Many were disappointingly dry and colourless. So it was with some glee that the judges leapt unanimously on Animal ABC as an outstanding winner.

A children's picture book rather than a textbook, this lively landscape-shaped paperback, written by Susan Rennie, illustrated by Karen Sutherland and published by Itchy Coo (an imprint of Black and White Publishing), could do more to revive the use of Scots words than any number of worthy storybooks, essays and language primers.

This book, thought the judges, was an ideal way to introduce Scots to any youngsters, never mind the target audience of four-to seven-year-olds.

Instead of going straight into stories and dictionaries, here was a new format that teachers and pupils would love.

Animal ABC was "way ahead of the other entries" and met all the judging criteria, the judges said. It was "the best example of published non-fiction work which enhances the teaching and learning of an aspect of the curriculum of Scottish schools" and is relevant to children aged from five to 18.

Moving from a small imprint to a big player in Scottish textbooks, this year's runners-up are both published by a frequent winner of the award, Hodder and Stoughton (now Hodder Gibson).

Last year Hodder and Stoughton took the top award for its English textbook Turnstones, one of the last accolades for editor Robbie Robertson shortly before his unexpected death. This year the series has triumphed again, with Turnstones 2. This came second equal for its colourful presentation and wide appeal to both girls and boys aged 12 and 13 (see review on facing page).

Judges liked the book's format of "manageable chunks" of writing on the pages and felt that pupils would be interested by the content and enjoy dipping into it. It presented the English language in a lively way, introducing topics and turning them into investigations that could be taken further.

Moving up the age groups, the other runner-up was Making Moral Decisions, for 16-year-olds and older pupils. Although this is an Intermediate 2 text, the judges thought schools that did not have a Standard grade section could use it in S3. It would not have to be handed out as a textbook but could be a fruitful source of discussion topics for a teacher.

The book addresses real-life dilemmas in a practical, common-sense way for teenagers. The issues are good and the language is good, though the judges thought the photographs were disappointing. The book contains a range of appropriate topics that would bring on pupils' thinking, including egotist, utilitarian and Muslim views. The judges thought the book "hit the nail on the head" for Intermediate 1 and 2 philosophy and religious studies and covered a lot current issues for which it can be difficult to find resources.

So, all in all, a good year for the Saltire Society awards, with three winners from three different subject areas and three age groups.

For anyone aged three to 103 wanting to know the Scots ABC: A is for "auld armadillos airm in airm"; B is for "birlin bears wi big bahoochies" and C is for I Well, it's more fun to look it up yourself.

The pound;500 publisher's prize is sponsored by TES Scotland and the Saltire Society. This year's judges were Gerald Mortimer, former education lecturer at Strathclyde University; Anne Turner, headteacher of Carleith Primary, West Dunbartonshire; Jim McGonigle, principal teacher of history at Hermitage Academy, West Dunbartonshire; Eleanor Harkness, assistant head of Douglas Academy, East Dunbartonshire; and Gillian Macdonald, assistant editor of TES Scotland


Itchy Coo (Black and White). Animal ABC: a Scots alphabet by Susan Rennie, illustrated by Karen Sutherland


Hodder and Stoughton. Turnstones 2: an English course for Scotland by Brian Fitzpatrick et al.

Hodder and Stoughton. Making Moral Decisions: Intermediate religious, moral and philosophical studies by Joe Walker.

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