The best and the truest of books

18th February 2000 at 00:00
Geraldine Brennan introduces the contenders for this year's TES-sponsored information and school book awards.

FROM outer space to Ancient Rome via Antarctica and the frontiers of science, the final stretch of the journey is under way for some prizewinning books. The shortlists for the Information Book Awards and School Book Awards 2000, sponsored by The TES and the Educational Publishers' Council, are announced today.

Panels of subject-specialists with classroom experience have been searching for innovative books with wide appeal and accurate content which inspires young readers. The winner in each category will receive pound;500 to be presented by children's author and physicist Russell Stannard in an awards ceremony at the British Library next month.

The Senior Information Book Award (for books for 11 to 16-year-olds) attracted 57 entries. The judges welcomed Dorling Kindersley's Space Encyclopedia by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest (who won the 1998 Senior Information Book Award for Big Bang) as an enticing reference book with clear signposting, depth of information, good images and jargon-free text.

Back on planet Earth, Fast Forward: Rainforest, by Kathryn Senior and Carolyn Scrace (Macdonald Young Books) was thought to add "a fresh dimension" in an area already well served by publishers, providing a good resource for projects and balancing glimpses of a thriving rainforest ecosystem against an outline of the threats to its future.

Shifting the focus back a couple of millennia, A Visitor's Guide to Ancient Rome, an Usborne Timetours title, adopts a Rough Guide style to talk the intrepid time-tourist through the hazards and delights of the city that was once the centre of the world. A team headed by writer Lesley Sims is responsible.

The Junior Information Book Award (for titles for four to 11-year-olds) attracted a record 234 entries, and three swiftly stood out from the pack.

Castle Diary: the journal of Tbias Burgess, Page (Walker Books) sees 11-year-old Tobias through a year in service in his uncle's castle in the 13th century. Richard Platt's text and Chris Riddell's illustrations capture all the action of harvest, hunt and banquet (not forgetting the fleas) as Tobias prepares for adulthood.

The Emperor's Egg (Walker) is a younger reader's picture-book introduction to the trials of the male emperor penguins who keep their chicks' eggs warm through the Antarctic winter. Illustrator Jane Chapman and writer Martin Jenkins (also a 1998 award winner, for Fly Traps) were praised for delivering information with a light touch.

Finally, one of four books in Belitha Press's Human Machine series, Movers and Shapers by Sarah Angliss, illustrated by Tom Connell, slipped into a place on the shortlist for its "well-crafted, well-designed" treatment of muscles and bones.

The School Book Award, which rewards excellence in educational publishing, this year focused on science, with 49 entries. The judges were looking for books that challenged pupils to get to grips with big concepts while giving teachers autonomy and flexibility.

There are three books on the shortlist for the Secondary School Book Award. The Salters foundation-tier revision guide Revise for GCSE Science (Heinemann Educational) was considered to be a market leader in revision guides. Health Sciences (Collins Educational) written by two doctors and a teacher and aimed at general national vocational qualifications students outside traditional sciences, was spotted as a useful resource for the pre-16 classroom. And Peter D Riley's Physics Now! 11-14 textbook (John Murray) was selected for its ability to inspire pupils and support non-specialist teachers at key stage 3.

The judges were unable to compile a primary science award shortlist but unanimously agreed on a winner, which will be announced with the others on March 10 in the TES Books in Schools supplement.

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