Behind the Scenes of the Laugh Out Loud Awards 2020

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to get a top secret package with seriously funny contents to judge? One of our Lollies judges, Alison Leach, gives us the inside scoop…

Alison Leach

Quite often top-secret packages are deadly serious, but a few months ago I was sent a top-secret parcel with very funny contents. The box including 45 books to be considered for the Laugh Out Loud Book Awards shortlist and – I was told – it was all to be kept under wraps.

Shortly afterwards, I was invited to visit Scholastic HQ to select a shortlist along with the other judges, including Michael Rosen (who set up the Lollies award in 2016), Kate Newport from Scholastic, teacher-blogger Scott Evans and Global Teacher Prize 2018 winner Andria Zafirakou. Our task; to narrow down 45 funny books to a shortlist of 12.

Enjoying the books was easy, but picking the best was more of a mission as there were many worthy contenders in the line-up. Some choices were obvious to us all and others generated a bit more discussion between the judges, but in the end we came up with a brilliant shortlist that we are excited to share. Here’s a glimpse of some of the criteria we considered when choosing the shortlist:

Genuinely funny

The “Laugh Out Loud” book awards would be sadly misnamed if we were not to choose the books that really made us chortle. Some of the books that made the shortlist had all five judges agreeing that they were universally funny and worth of a good old LOL. For many young readers, funny books foster a true sense of enjoyment in reading and we tried to select the books that would bring children the most pleasure during the experience of picking them up and reading.

Something Original

The books that appealed to me the most were ones with a truly original element; a quirky character, a wild plot twist, inventive illustrations or a main idea that I had not come across before. One book in particular that made the shortlist was the first I had ever seen of its type and this was one of the books that got a resounding ‘yes’ from all 5 judges.

Word-Play and Puns

Many of the books on the list will end up being read out loud in classrooms and bedrooms up and down the country. Teachers often find that the most popular classroom read-alouds are the ones that contain funny word-play that bags lots of laughs. The Picture Book category in particular was hotly contested but the four books that made the cut are all brilliant to read out loud because of the way they cleverly play around with language.

Beyond the Humour

Some funny books use humour as a vehicle for exploring more serious issues. The books that caught my eye the most as I made my way through the long-list box were the ones that used humour to get me thinking at a deeper level about a range of topics that feel relatable to young readers today. The shortlist deals with themes of sibling relationships, school issues, local campaigning, bullying, natural disasters and loneliness, all through books that are thought-provoking but also lots of fun to read.

lollies hi-res logo

Shortlisting with the other judges was a real honour, but the best thing about the Lollies is that the winners are chosen by the readers, so anyone who reads the books and wants to have their say can vote. Find out more about voting here.

Alison Leach is the founder of BooksForTopics, a website that supports thousands of primary schools in finding great books to enrich their curriculums and to promote reading for pleasure. As an experienced primary teacher, Alison knows that it is not always easy to source the right books amid the time pressures of teaching and she is passionate about helping the best books reach the spotlight.