Professor Raman Prinja wins Royal Society book prize

’Planetarium: Welcome to the Museum’ by UCL astrophysicist Professor Raman Prinja and artist Chris Wormell has been chosen by children as the winning book for the 2019 Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize.

The prize, which champions the best science books for under-14s, was awarded at a ceremony hosted by CBBC’s Lindsey Russell at the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, on 13 November 2019.

It follows news in October that Professor Prinja, Head of UCL Physics & Astronomy, won the American Institute of Physics’ Writing for Children science communication prize for Planetarium.

Planetarium , published by Big Picture Press, was selected for the Royal Society prize by a record-breaking number of young judges. Over 10,600 young people drawn from 471 schools and youth groups from across the UK cast their votes for their favourite science book from a shortlist of six titles, chosen by a panel of adult judges, including author Michael Rosen and Royal Society Fellow Professor Sheila Rowan.

On receiving the accolade, Professor Prinja (UCL Physics & Astronomy), said: "It is a huge honour to win the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize for my book Planetarium. Knowing that my outreach and public engagement activity is having an impact is very important, and this award is very special indeed because of how many children across the UK took the time to study the shortlisted books and choose their favourite. I’m extremely grateful to everyone who voted and I’m delighted that they enjoyed Planetarium."

Planetarium is a beautifully illustrated, eye catching large format tour of our solar system and beyond - a must for any budding young astronomer. From planets and moons to far-flung exoplanets, all are depicted with stylistic flourish by Wormell, who also illustrated Phillip Pullman’s best-selling La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One.

Alongside each illustration, Professor Prinja, delves into the science and history with text on the array of celestial subjects.

Here’s what adult judging panel member Professor Michael Rosen, some of the young judges, and Chair of the 2019 adult judging panel, Professor Sheila Rowan FRS, had to say about the winning book:

Professor Michael Rosen, said, "Planetarium is a book that takes you into space in a way that mixes art and science. It invites the eye into space and the study of space in what is a distinctive painterly way, full of mood and feeling. Alongside the lush art work, we are given solidly scientific mini-essays for older readers telling us, for example that the ’Sun wobbles back and forth, due to gravitational tugs mainly from Jupiter and Saturn.’ The Sun wobbles’ Really? Yes it does. It’s a great book for peering into and poring over whether as a child, a teen or in groups, schools, or in families. A worthy winner!’"

Professor Sheila Rowan FRS, said, "Planetarium is a truly stunning book that makes science exciting for all ages, blending art and fascinating descriptions to help communicate the wonder of the universe. Its mix of beautiful illustrations and inspiring science makes it a very worthy winner."

Sam, Centre for Life, Age 9, "It is a really informative book with amazingly beautiful illustrations about the solar system...I think I will plead to my mum and dad for a copy!"

Aberdour Primary School student, Age 11, "There were some very good pictures. It made me feel like I was there, like it was actually happening and I was in the moment."

Ava, New Ford Academy, Age 11, "We loved this book the most. It is so beautiful and if you are having a sad day it makes you feel better just looking at the pictures."

The winning authors receives an award of £10,000 and the shortlisted authors each receive £2,500.


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