The British Book Awards have announced their Book of the Year shortlists – with three hot comics facing off in the Children’s Illustrated category: Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper vol. 5 (Hodder Children’s Books, UK), Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man: Twenty Thousand Fleas Under the Sea (Scholastic UK), and Jamie Smart’s Bunny vs Monkey: Multiverse Mix-up! (David Fickling Books). Winners will be announced at a ceremony at London’s JW Marriott Grosvenor House on May 13.

Talking about the line up for the Children’s Illustrated category, the British Book Awards said,

“Graphic novels make their stamp on this year’s shortlist with Alice Oseman’s heart-warming Heartstopper series making a return alongside the latest Bunny vs Monkey adventure from Jamie Smart. The shortlist is rounded off with a seasonal tale, the debut from George Webster and a celebration of King Charles III.”

The British Book Awards comments on each of the graphic novels in the Children’s Illustrated Book of the Year category give some titbits on the success of these books last year:

Bunny vs Monkey: Multiverse Mix-Up!:

“Jamie Smart saw off 2023 as the year’s top-selling graphic novelist and David Fickling Books aimed to cement him as a market leader with Bunny vs Monkey: Multiverse Mix-Up!. DFB’s fun and interactive campaign strategy, which included a large installation at Waterstones Piccadilly over February half-term and a “Laugh Yourself Silly” initiative with supermarkets, made this the best selling Bunny vs Monkey publication yet.”


Dog Man: Twenty Thousand Fleas Under the Sea:

“Dubbed the “godfather of the children’s graphic novel”, the 11th instalment in Dav Pilkey’s hilarious series marked a 27% increase in year-on-year sales for the author-illustrator, despite a two-year hiatus. Scholastic managed a supermarket sweep and support from W H Smith and Waterstones to produce a slew of kid-safe and family targeted advertising to make Dog Man: Twenty Thousand Fleas Under the Sea the second-bestselling graphic novel of 2023 in the UK.”


Heartstopper, vol.5:

“The fifth instalment in Alice Oseman’s iconic series celebrating queer love and friendship became the fastest-selling graphic novel ever in a globally orchestrated publication. Not only did Heartstopper rack up the highest pre-order sales of any Hodder Children’s Book title, but the Waterstones exclusive edition also sold out in under an hour. A cover reveal with Cosmopolitan and a takeover at Hay Festival helped bring readers old and new to the series.”

These bestselling kids graphic novels are joined by three children’s picture books to round out the Children’s Illustrated category: The King’s Pants, by Nicholas Allan (Andersen Press); This is Me, written by George Webster, Claire Taylor, and illustrated by Tim Budgen (Scholastic); and We’re Going on a Ghost Hunt, written by Martha Mumford and illustrated by Cherie Zamazing (Bloomsbury Children’s Books).

Once again, despite the UK’s thriving graphic novel publishing scene, comics are only found in one of the twelve categories – as illustrated children’s literature – so adult graphic novels are completely locked out. As last year, there are two categories devoted to audiobooks (fiction and non-fiction).

The British Book Awards are the main gala showpiece of the British book trade. They are comprised of two components – the Book of the Year Awards, and the Trade Awards. On their website, they describe the British Book Awards as “…a celebration of books” that “affirms, connects and energises the world of reading by showcasing those who create stories and everyone who plays a role in bringing those stories to life.” The Book of the Year categories celebrate the best books (published by a registered UK publisher) of the previous calendar year. Shortlisted titles tend to be bestsellers, with the winners picked by a panel of judges.

The 2023 edition of the British Book of the Year Awards had two graphic novels in the running – Alice Oseman’s The Heartstopper Yearbook (Hodder Children’s Books, UK) and Jamie Smart’s Bunny Vs Monkey: Rise of the Maniacal Badger (David Fickling Books). They ultimately lost out to Harry Woodgate’s picture book Grandad’s Camper (Andersen Press), celebrating LGBTQIA+ families, with Alice Oseman taking away the prize for Illustrator of the Year.