2021 LLL Award Winners

Announcing the Winners of the 2021 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 17th Annual Language Learner Literature (LLL) Award for books published in 2020. 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 12-minute video of the awards here.

Very Young Learners


The Tortoise and the Hare
Retold by: Nicole Irving
Illustrator: Irina Golina-Sagatelian
Publisher: Ladybird
ISBN: 9780241401736
Jurors’ comment:A very impressive retelling of a classics story. The story is very well written. The illustrations are classic, yet don’t look outdated. Beginner readers could read this on their own as the sentences are short and the language is graded very well with lots of repetition. I can also see this being useful for teachers who wanted to turn it into a drama activity.
Online voters’ comment:
(edited for length and clarity): “The actions  were illustrated very effectively and the animals’ feelings are also expressed by the illustrations. The teacher can extend students’ understanding of what is going on by asking questions about the illustrations. This is a very good book for students who do not speak English as their first language. Good dialogue and nice book to be able to read aloud and model for students before they read (or try to) it on their own.”

Young Learners


Author: Herbert Puchta and Gavin Biggs
Retold by: N/A
Illustrator: Lorenzo Sabbatini
Publisher: Helbling Languages
ISBN: 987-3-99089-235-0
Jurors’ comment: With colorful artwork that is simple but evocative, this book is written for more experienced readers in terms of length and difficulty of language but is an engaging story that children will likely enjoy.  This book particularly shines in how it communicates actual, real-world survival skills in English to language learners in an easy to understand, example-filled narrative.  The think and speak boxes within the text are interesting questions that get readers to think.
Online voter’s comment: The strong points was the adventure that Ellie and her parents had by going on a holiday in the jungle. It helped to discuss about important topics such as environmental caring and family matters.”

Adolescent & Adult: Beginners


The Cat’s Paw
Author: Gavin Biggs
Illustrator: Elisa Bellotti
Publisher: Helbling Languages
ISBN: 978-3-99089-212-1
Jurors’ comment: Readers at this level may need some orientation on the maze (make your own adventure) story format and some background as to how this story fits into the overall story arc of the series. With these in mind, younger readers should have an enjoyable experience making their way through the adventure, supported by beautiful illustrations, “Guess what happens next” questions and a page-by-page glossary.
Online voter’s comments:
Reader 1: “Although it is a long story I liked it because it had a lot of imagination.”
Reader 2: “The story as quite exciting! I really liked the illustrations!”
Reader 3: “It is a really adventurous book and I was always on the edge of my seat as (to) what was going to happen.”

Adolescent & Adult: Elementary


The Extraordinary Life of Malala Yousafzai
Author: Hiba Noor Kha
Retold by: Hannah Fish
Illustrator: Rita Petruccioli
Publisher: Penguin Readers
ISBN: 978-0-241-44737-6
Jurors’ comment:The story of Malala is told in a way that English learners should find easy to understand because the vocabulary is properly graded, and the grammar is quite easy. The true story of Malala is in itself interesting and inspiring, and this graded reader will help readers understand why. The pictures are simple, but effective. Let’s read about the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize!
Online voters’ comment:
“This book raises the issue of girls’ education. Not all countries in the world allow girls to go to school. The story of this girl tells us that you can change the world by standing up for your rights. A true story about a girl who was almost killed because she wanted to go to school. The illustrations greatly enhance the quality of the book.”

Adolescent & Adult: Intermediate


Hidden Figures
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Retold by: Jane Rollason
Illustrator: Dawn Wilson (Designer)
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1-407-17011-4
Jurors’ comment:This book shares the lived experiences of three Black women engineers working to put people on the moon at the beginning of the space race. Simple but detailed dossiers help to make technical topics related to space flight and events in US society more accessible to learners. Their clearly captioned photos and diagrams are especially helpful. The clearly indicated difficulty level and word count, as well as the title being shown on the spine is convenient for those who are managing a graded reader library, as well as students making their book choices.
Online voter’s comment: 
“It was impressive how the world has been changing for women… The book inspired me to never settle and to prove that women can be as capable of success as men.  My favorite part was when John Glenn said, “If Katherine said the numbers were good, then he was ready to go” because he realized Katherine’s ability and, without caring about where she came from, trusted her.”

Adolescent & Adult: Upper Intermediate & Advanced


Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and other stories
Retold by: Jennifer Gascoigne & Robert Hill
Illustrator: Jesus Aguado
Publisher: V & V Books
ISBN: 978-84-682-6664-0
Jurors’ comment:This interesting collection includes five different stories from five different parts of the world. Each one is quite thought-provoking and extremely well written. They are simply told, yet at the same time quite lyrical and moving. Reading such a book would contribute to learners’ general world knowledge (in addition to their language skills) as well as intrinsically motivate them. When one looks at the table of contents, s/he might think it seems quite odd and random selection, yet we also think s/he would, in the end, would be very impressed. Each story would be sure to spark a lot of classroom discussion, too.
Online voters’ comment: 
“This was my favorite book that I received. I love that it has a variety of short stories from different cultures. I also love the artwork and feel of the cover. I like that new words are at the bottom of the page where the new words occur. I also love the map at the beginning, showing where each story takes place. “

Finalists in Each Category

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

Very Young Learners


Dragon Tales
Author: Jenny Dooley
Illustrator: Stone
Publisher: Express Publishing
ISBN: 9781471596094
Jurors’ comment: This book would be wonderful for shared reading exercises in class, since many very young learners cannot read by themselves yet. It does an excellent job of taking vocabulary sets usually taught in young learner classrooms and putting them together in an interesting story with cute characters. This is a book that would hold the students’ attention, even if the teacher were inexperienced at storytelling. Overall, the theme is interesting, the story is relatable to young children, and the illustrations are very nice.


Author: Richard Northcott
Illustrator: Studio Alaska
Publisher: Stand For/ FTD Educação
ISBN: 9788596028240
Jurors’ comment: A very cute story that incorporates a lot of basic vocabulary in a tale many very young learners will relate to. Who hasn’t had a younger sibling or cousin mess up their puzzle? We can see teachers taking this one step further and using a simple puzzle or a puzzle created by the students to make an original version of the story. Another important point is that this story is simple enough for beginner readers to read on their own.

Young Learners


Gulliver’s Travels
Author: Jonathan Swift
Retold by: R.J. Corrall
Illustrator: Ciaran Duffy and Valeria Valenza
Publisher: Ladybird Readers
ISBN: 978-0-241-40195-8
Jurors’ comment:A retelling of the classic story by Jonathan Swift, this edition has been condensed to telling the story in a handful of pages, capturing the essence of the original novel in an engaging but simple progressive narrative. It does this in language well suited to experienced readers who can comprehend it well, being challenging at the same time. The illustrations are simple but colorful. The font and highlighting of possibly unknown words makes for a simple but effective gloss.


How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Author: Fiona Beddall
Illustrator: Judy Brown
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-1-407-17015-2
Jurors’ comment: This junior novelization captures the fun and adventurous spirit of the movie while making it comprehensible for experienced young readers. The illustrations are captured stills from the movie which help indicate the action in the text well. The introductory pages are interesting and provide useful glosses for uncommon words. The book itself is very durable though the included CD may get damaged unless removed from the book soon.

Adolescent & Adult: Beginner


The Scissor Man Caves
Author: Anna Trewin
Illustrator: Dynamo Ltd
Publisher: Penguin Readers
ISBN: 978-0-241-46340-6
Jurors’ comment: This comic-style reader features frame-by-frame illustrations and level-appropriate language which, together, lead the reader through this engaging mystery. Although the language is simple, readers are challenged to reach their own conclusions, which could lead to fruitful discussion. An illustrated list of characters and glossary also supports understanding.

Adolescent & Adult: Elementary


Garpur: My Iceland
Author: Silvana Sardi
Illustrator: Daniele Garbuglia
Publisher: Teen ELI Readers
ISBN: 978-88-536-2882-4
Jurors’ comment: This graded reader tells the story of a young boy, Garpur, and his country, Iceland. Learning about Iceland this way is engaging, even more so thanks to the beautiful photos illustrating this book. Garpur explains his passion for handball, and shares his worries about an international handball tournament in which he wants to participate. English learners reading at the elementary level should find this story easy enough. Get ready to plan your trip to Iceland!


Urban Legends
Author: David Bohlke
Illustrator: N/A
Publisher: Wayzgoose Press
Jurors’ comment: In this graded reader, you will find many urban stories that will probably scare you, but also make you curious. The stories are easy to read as they are only three to four pages long, and the English level is adapted for English learners reading at the elementary level. You might also enjoy thinking about what you would have done in similar situations. Are you ready for thrills and chills?

Adolescent & Adult: Intermediate


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Author: John Boyne
Retold by: Anna Trewin
Illustrator: David Shephard
Publisher: Penguin Readers
ISBN: 978-0-241-44742-0
Jurors’ comment: This book deals with the history of the Holocaust. This story is consistently told using third-person narrative, but it uses the naïve perspective of Bruno, the young son of a concentration camp commandant, which helps the reader become emotionally invested in the story. Difficult words are conveniently shown in an inobtrusive, bold font. Difficulty level and word count level, as well as the title being shown on the spine is convenient for those who are managing a graded reader library, as well as students making their book choices.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Retold by: Helen Holwill
Illustrator: Matt Rota
Publisher: Penguin Readers
ISBN: 978-0-241-39794-7
Jurors’ comment: This book deals with universal topics of family, loss, and grief. The reader experiences New York City through the eyes of the 12-year-old main character as he tries to solve a mystery about his deceased father. Although the first-person perspective sometimes shifts to letters and messages that the boy finds, these parts are written with different fonts and layouts to clearly set them apart from the main story. Difficulty level and word count level, as well as the title being shown on the spine is convenient for those who are managing a graded reader library, as well as students making their book choices.

Adolescent & Adult: Upper Intermediate & Advanced


Author: George Orwell
Retold by: Fiona Mackenzie
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0-2414-3097-2
Jurors’ comment: A classic that is well-written. 1984 presents a very interesting and timely dystopian plot for readers to follow. Moreover, it showcased a well-paced narrative and, thus, resulted in a good reading experience. The language use, flow and style also helped in the overall experience of reading this classic. The only which issue arose concerns its appeal and interest for young readers; however, with appropriate instructions and motivation it would be enjoyed by young readers. 1984 as a classic proved that classics are not all boring; in fact, for many it will surely be a gripping page-turner.


The Hunt for Jack the Ripper
Author: Samuel Sheehy
Illustrator: Avi Katz
Publisher: Burlington
ISBN: 978-9925-30-6022
Jurors’ comment: This book was quite well done. Even though the topic may be disturbing for some, for others it will be riveting. Its use of multiple narrators was an interesting and under-utilized technique for a graded reader. Sometimes LLL books can be a little too formulaic, but here the narrative was successfully achieved without adding unnecessary cognitive burden for readers. The writing was well-paced and never gets bogged down.

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