2020 LLL Awards

Announcing the Winners of the 2020 LLL Award
The Extensive Reading Foundation (ERF), an unaffiliated, not-for-profit organization that supports and promotes extensive reading in language education, takes pleasure in announcing the winners of the 16th Annual Language Learner Literature (LLL) Award for books published in 2019. An international jury chose the winning book in each of six categories, taking into account the Internet votes and comments of students and teachers around the world. The judges’ comments are followed by reactions from readers of these books.

All books mentioned on this page can be ordered online in Japan thorough the ETJ Book Service: https://www.etjbookservice.com/extensive-reading-foundation/.

View a 15-minute video of the awards here.

Very Young Learners


Here Come the Unicorns
Author: Adam Kardos
Illustrator: Omar Iván de Loera Chávez
Publisher: AAS Press
ISBN: 9784910155074
Jurors’ comment: The story is set after a robot invasion. Two little kids who are trying to save the Earth from them, with the help of unicorns, are the lead characters. It is a multiple-path adventure style and you have to make choices on which page to read next depending on how you want to treat this adventure. The vocabulary is simple, and the story is engaging with original full-color illustrations that help comprehension. This fun and strange story is both entertaining and educational because it can make little readers think about the importance of keeping our planet alive and well.

Online voters’ comment“For me, this is a wonderful and magical book. Although I don’t believe robots really have feelings, I remain appreciate the importance of environmental protection. Environmental problems are becoming more and more serious, it’s everyone’s duty to protect the environment and the animals. I love our planet; I think that the most effective way to protect environment is in harmony with nature. This book tells me why our planet is the best place to live. With the illustration, it’s easy for me to read.”

Young Learners


The Elves and the Shoemaker
Author: Brothers Grimm
Retold by: Laura Cowan
Illustrator: Olga Demidova
Publisher: Usborne
ISBN: 9781474947862
Jurors’ comment: This is a well-known folk tale that students may have heard or read in their native language, which captures the reader’s attention. The pictures on each page are sweet and colorful and do more than just support the text. They add small details to talk about too. The font size is just right. Not too small as to seem daunting, but not so big that it seems like a kids’ book. The table of contents at the beginning is a feature that is often used with books for adolescents and adults. Having such a feature may make young learners feel a greater sense of accomplishment when they read this book.

Online voter’s comment: The illustrations are wonderful, reminding me of innocence, childhood and sweetness. A beautiful well-known fairytale, attractive to young readers. Beautiful and easy activities at the end of the book make the acquisition of new vocabulary fun!”

Adolescent & Adult: Beginners


The Silver Statue
Author: Paul Shipton
Illustrated by: Berat Pekmezci
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780194634083
Jurors’ comment: The Silver Statue is an interesting story with a nice twist at the end. Readers will identify with the situation and with the issues and values involved. Assisted by excellent illustrations and well-controlled language, low-level readers will find it an engaging, satisfying reading experience.

Online voter’s comment: “Nice, ‘fresh’ teenage story with a clever twist in the plot. Easy to read and follow, it makes the readers want to read further so as to see what comes next!”

Adolescent & Adult: Elementary


Ellis Island: Rosalia’s Story
Author: Janet Hardy-Gould
Illustrator: Thomas Girard
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780194634441
Jurors’ comment: The story is a very interesting historic fiction about the people who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and immigrated to the United States in the early 20th century. The author described their life on board during the journey from Italy to the U. S. and the immigration check-in on Ellis Island. Although this story might be a little too long for the elementary readers, vocabulary and grammar are not difficult. This book will help learners to improve their reading stamina.

Online voters’ comments:
“This book is very interesting because it was an unusual theme of immigrants. It is easy to understand and we can gain knowledge. Vocabulary is good. There’s a happy ending with a small twist.”

“This is an excellent story about a journey of a mother with two children across the ocean. The language is quite easy to read and it is well-illustrated. It helps readers know more about life in the past.”

Adolescent & Adult: Intermediate


The Diary
Author: Heather Dixon
Publisher: I Talk You Talk Press
ISBN:  9784909733351
Jurors’ comment: The story is very exciting and mysterious. It’s about a diary. A young man called Liam finds the diary on a street. The owner’s name and address are found in the diary. The young man wanted to provide the diary to the owner but he has been dead for four months. So it’s a great mystery for Liam to solve it. In the process, Liam gets good opportunities. This book is divided into 11 short and easy chapters woven together with a theme in a clear and well-organized way. So readers can easily understand it. It helps readers to build good personality, especially helping others. We realize that when we help others we help ourselves.

Online voter’s comments: 

“It’s easy to read and chapters are very short. Readers enjoy reading the book.”

“Plot is very interesting and readers like mysteries.”

“Readers would like to see a few illustrations.”

Adolescent & Adult: Upper Intermediate & Advanced


The Age of Innocence
Author: Edith Wharton
Retold by: Nora Nagy
Illustrator: Simone Manfrini
Publisher: Helbling
ISBN: 9783990459423
Jurors’ comment: The writing is lovely and well-paced and a clear portrait of each character is drawn with meaningful details. For me, it does a wonderful job of capturing time and place. I’m not sure our students will grasp all the distinctions about class and society, but they’re there. Some students may be overwhelmed by all the characters introduced early on, but if they can make it through the first few chapters the story becomes much simpler to follow. All in all, this is a commendable effort.

Online voters’ comment: “A well-crafted reader with ample additional material to understand the narrative better. The activities to be done before reading activates schema and also prepared the learner for the text. From a CBI perspective, the text combines linguistic components with literary, cultural, and historic contexts, which makes the reading purposeful. The post-reading activities are aimed at integrated skill practice, which, in a well-managed class will work very productively. The accompanying CD and supplementary material offered online will be valued addition.”

Finalists in Each Category

In addition to the winners, the following books were selected as the shortlisted “finalists” in each category:

Very Young Learners


The Golden Fish
Retold by Andy Prentice
Illustrator: Jesús López
Publisher: Usborne
ISBN: 9781474964029
Jurors’ comment: This is a fanciful fairytale adaptation with a twist about two very poor brothers. One day, the hard-working brother catches a golden fish which promises to fulfil a wish of his in exchange for its freedom. His problem involves asking for wishes for his lazy and avaricious brother. The vocabulary and phrases in the story are reader-friendly for little language learners. This is a story with moral values, beautifully illustrated and a book that children will want to read again and again.


I Can’t Sleep
Author: Herbert Puchta and Gavin Biggs
Illustrator: Francesca Assirelli
Publisher: Helbling
ISBN: 9783990458464
Jurors’ comment: This is an engaging story for little kids that tells them what happens with a boy and a girl who are finding it hard to sleep and how they successfully overcome this difficulty. Thus, it also teaches them what to do when they have trouble falling asleep. The story is suitable for preschool age learners, with appropriate levelling that does not interfere with its flow. The use of simple vocabulary and reflection questions on some aspects of the story add a teachable syntax aspect too. Lastly, its full-page color illustrations and easy to read typeface add to its charm.

Young Learners


The Sick Dragon
Author: Herbert Puchta and Gavin Briggs
Illustrator: Andrea Alemano
Publisher: Helbling
ISBN: 9783990458549
Jurors’ comment: This story is fantasy, and it involves the readers in the story. The illustrations are vibrant and colorful which further captures the imagination. The book judiciously adjusts the color of the writing to help make it stand out clearly from the full-page pictures. It touches on several themes relevant to young learners, including the environment, family, and cooperation without being heavy-handed. Sections inviting the reader to “think” could spark valuable discussion, while remaining rather unobtrusive for those who just want to enjoy reading the story. The post-reading activities give ample opportunity to express creativity and communicate with others through making posters.


Visit Saint Petersburg with Me!
Author: Silvana Sardi
Illustrator: Arianna Operamolla
Publisher: ELi
ISBN: 9788853626325
Jurors’ comment: This story about a child’s life in another country has wide appeal as it is something easily relatable to elementary school students. The vivid photographs hep show some Russian culture’s uniqueness such as differences in food, clothing styles, weather, and architecture. Meanwhile, the text highlights how similar students around the world are. They have hobbies, favorite classes at school, and are proud of places in their home-towns. The format of the story with small relatively independent sections supported by photographs lends itself to project work. Students could make similar stories about their lives, or investigate to learn more about Russia.

Adolescent & Adult: Beginner


Skeleton Island
Author: Sue Murray
Illustrated by: Paul Fisher Johnson
Publisher: ILTS/Hueber Verlag
ISBN Number: 9783190129713
Jurors’ comment: Skeleton Island is an entertaining page-turner. Adequately supported by illustrations, it will keep low-level readers involved to the satisfying end. The vocabulary level and sentence complexity are well controlled and will contribute to a successful reading experience.

Adolescent & Adult: Elementary


Naoko: My Japan
Author: Gabriele Rebagiati
Photographer: Tatsuya Hirata
Publisher: ELi
ISBN: 9788853626424
Jurors’ comment: “Naoko: My Japan” is a story about a Japanese girl named Naoko. She is 14 years old and enjoys her everyday life very much. Through Naoko’s stories at school with her friends and at home with her family, the readers will find loads of information about activities, festivals and customs in Japan. Especially, the audience can also enjoy an interesting love story of Naoko and her male classmate. This storybook is designed with beautiful photos and readable for teenagers who can see themselves in the story of this Japanese girl.


Author: R. J. Palacio
Retold by: Jane Cammack
Illustrator: Daniel Fabbri
Publisher: Black Cat (Cideb)
ISBN: 9788853018359
Jurors’ comment: This is a moving story about a boy with a deformed face, who was reluctant to go to school with fear of being different.  However, with encouragement from the principal and kindness and help of his friends, he overcame a feeling of anxiety and discomfort of nasty words and looks from some mean kids, and enjoyed school life.  Although there are several less familiar words and expressions, simple definition or illustrations are provided at the bottom of each page.

Adolescent & Adult: Intermediate


The Earthkeepers
Author: Elizabeth Ferretti
Illustrator: Lorenzo Conti
Publisher: ELi
ISBN: 9788853626509
Jurors’ comment: It is an interesting story about protecting the world. It contains hilarious and emotionally expressive stories with pleasant illustrations. It helps readers to keep the environment by avoiding or minimizing the use of plastics, saving wildlife like the rhino, and using clean power sources, such as wind, sun, and water. The book also shows readers how to cooperate with different people from various countries and how to use the technology (social media) for a significant issue i.e. protecting the world. The quality of writing is also great; no grammatical errors are found and the diction is appropriate to the level.


Robinson Crusoe
Author: Daniel Defoe
Retold by: Terry Phillips
Illustrator: Global Blended Learning
Publisher: Innova Press Ltd
ISBN: 9781787681422
Jurors’ comment: It’s about an Englishman called Robinson Crusoe who loved travelling and had many adventures in his journey. It’s simple to read and understand. It’s a classic tale retold with engaging and colourful illustrations supporting every page of the text. The story also creates curiosity among the readers so that it encourages readers to read more books.

Adolescent & Adult: Upper Intermediate & Advanced


The Box
Author: Patricia Murrow
Publisher: I Talk You Talk Press
ISBN: 9784909733276
Jurors’ comment: The Box carries a very engaging and interesting plot. The book has good pacing and the elements that surround the story make it a good read. The characters are also well-portrayed and the entirety of the plot was told well. The protagonist’s search for meaning and understanding is one that all readers will be able to identify with. At times, however, one may wish there was a little more action pushing the story along. Nonetheless, the book is very promising.


Not Without You
Author: Gill Harvey
Illustrator: Paul McCaffrey
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780194634359
Jurors’ comment: This is a sci-fi thriller set in the year 2088. Even those who are not real fans of the genre will still find the story to be engaging and well-written. The reader is definitely pulled along by the plot and one is always trying to figure out the final resolution. At times there might not be enough action to keep a younger audience riveted on the story, and the important and contemporary themes of energy wars, government propaganda, and mind control may also be a bit heavy for younger students. However, this still represents a solid contribution to graded reader libraries.

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