ISG Special Awards 2015: Information Resources for Young People

Amanda Duffy, Chair Awards Panel


In the event the choice of Information Resources for Young People as our special subject for 2015 presented quite a challenge to us dyed-in-the-wool reference librarians. We quickly realised that there is quite a difference between examining something for its pure reference qualities and examining something for the much broader concept of being an information resource. Fortunately we were greatly helped by colleagues from the Youth Libraries Group joining the panel and guiding us through this learning curve. Thank you all very much for your considerable amount of help before, during and after the judging meeting.

The books for consideration could be published anytime between 2010 and 2014. We judged the nominated titles using many of the criteria we use for the adult reference award. That is physical presentation, scope and coverage, relevance and quality of the illustrations, originality of the work and value for money. But when we came to look at accessibility and arrangement of the information, we had to take a much broader view and be prepared to consider anything that provided potentially useful information in an attractive, accurate and carefully focused way. The relationship between text and illustrations takes on a far more important role than when considering adult materials. The whole exercise proved to be a very enriching and exciting experience.

As before we have three levels – Commended, Highly Commended and Winner – and in our marking the three titles shortlisted were very close.


From time to time there are complaints that not enough children are taking an interest in science. Well perhaps if they had read Tiny: the invisible world of microbes as a young child the situation might be different.

This book describes itself as the first microbiology book for 5-year olds. This sounds a tall order but the perfectly pitched text is straightforward, friendly and accessible, everything is explained in a simple, clear way and is both informative and entertaining. The illustrations are varied and instructive, and also beautifully produced. The true wonder of the scientific world is revealed to young children. It is not surprising that the book has also been shortlisted for the Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize 2015.

It is a stout, attractive book which will delight and inform many young children – and quite a few adults as well.

Tiny: the invisible world of microbes, by Nicola Davies and illustrations by Emily Sutton, published by Walker Books is Commended in the Information Services Group Special Award 2015.


Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance finally sank in the Antarctic on 21st November 1915, 100 years ago this month. Shackleton’s Journey is a re-telling of this expedition that hoped to cross the Antarctic continent via the South Pole. The story begins with funding and recruitment and ends with escape and rescue.

One of the panel said they ‘wouldn’t have thought of it as a reference book, but it works as such’.

The expedition is explained in great detail, we understand how and why things were done. The text is clear, interesting and informative, the author does not talk down to his audience.   As much information is relayed through the illustrations as through the written word. And these illustrations are amazing; the colours are chiefly blacks, blues and browns and they convey the emptiness and harshness of the environment – just look at the page captioned ‘isolation’. There are also some beautiful maps.

There is a comprehensive contents page allowing the reader to access easily what they want to know. There is also a glossary which gives concise and clear definitions of terms such as ‘growler’ or ‘reefing a sail’.

The book is a high quality production. For a very original way of presenting information Shackleton’s Journey written and illustrated by William Grill and published by Flying Eye Books at £14.99 is Highly Commended in the Information Services Group Special Award 2015.


Designed to mimic the experience of visiting a natural history museum, Animalium takes us into six galleries each devoted to a different class of animal. We travel from invertebrates, through fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds to mammals. Within each gallery the species is briefly described and then groups within that species are examined and then finally a particular habitat relevant to that species is featured.

Over 160 animal specimens are covered with informative text and amazing illustrations. These illustrations are in pen and ink plus colour and use a beautiful blend of traditional and modern illustrative techniques. The index covers Latin and English names, and at the end there is a list of websites where the reader can learn more.

The whole work is laid out clearly, beginning with an excellent contents page. The panel noted that the book is expensive at £20 but absolutely worth every penny, especially as it has a very robust, long lasting binding.   It will appeal to 8 year olds up to 88 year olds.

Animalium can be called a superb picture book, a textbook, a coffee table book and an outstanding reference book.

So Animalium: welcome to the museum, illustrated by Katie Scott and written by Jenny Broom, published by Big Picture Press is the Winner of the Information Services Group Special Award for 2015.

Refer 31 (3) Autumn 2015


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