Books about vampire sheep, unusual jobs and a school for thieves are among those shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.
Some 18 books are shortlisted across three categories – illustrated books, books for younger readers, and books for older readers.
Six books will compete within each category and the three category winners will then compete for the overall title of of Waterstones Children’s Book Prize Winner 2024.
Among the books in the illustrated category is Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of by Natalie Labarre, which was praised as “highly original and filled with inventive detail”.
Also included is Ellan Rankin’s The Secret Elephant, the true story of a wartime friendship between a zookeeper and a baby elephant.
Among the books in the younger readers category is The Beasts Of Knobbly Bottom: Attack of the Vampire Sheep! by Emily-Jane Clark, about two young heroes who must save the world from bloodsucking ruminants.
Also included is Vivi Conway And The Sword of Legend by Lizzie Huxley-Jones, a contemporary magical adventure steeped in Welsh mythology, and JJ Arcanjo’s mystery Crookhaven: The School For Thieves, about a child sent to a school for thieves to become a modern-day Robin Hood.
In the older readers category is Bea Fitzgerald’s Girl, Goddess, Queen, a retelling of the story of Persephone in a mix of coming-of-age story and rom-com, and YA crime thriller Promise Boys by Nick Brooks, about about three teenage boys who must investigate their headmaster’s murder to clear their own names.
Mel Darbon’s What The World Doesn’t See, a novel about grief and disability, has also made the shortlist, alongside You Think You Know Me by Ayaan Mohamud, a book about finding the strength to speak up against hate and fear and wanting to exist without putting yourself into a box to please others.
Bea Carvalho, head of books at Waterstones, said: “For 20 years the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize has been a highlight of our bookselling calendar: through it, we have discovered some of the most exciting children’s authors and illustrators at work today.
“This year, as ever, our booksellers have chosen a stunning shortlist which is truly reflective of the vibrancy, creativity, and genius to be found in children’s storytelling today: if this is the future of children’s writing, the next generation is in safe hands.
“There is something for every child here, with books both to encourage new readers and to challenge already passionate bookworms.
“Whether holding up a mirror to the real world or conjuring fantastical realms, delving into history or mining our own times, these books are united by enormous heart and imagination, and show children’s publishing to be as inspiring as ever.”
The winners will be announced at a ceremony on March 21.
The winner of each category will receive £2,000, with the overall winner receiving an extra £3,000.