Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month, July 2019
In a caste-divided, dystopian world, two children risk everything in search of a better life. Inspired by current environmental concerns and tackling themes of inequality, courage and social justice, Where the River Runs Gold is an adventure built on the enduring hope of a better, fairer future.
The Queen’s Knickers Award – founded by Nicholas Allan and part of the Society of Authors’ Awards – will recognise an outstanding original illustrated book for ages 0-7 that strike a quirky, new note and grabs the attention of a child, whether this be in the form of curiosity, amusement, horror or excitement.
The new award has been established by Nicholas Allen and named after one of his best-know titles. The the inaugural winner – in 2020 – will receive £5,000, as well as a golden Queen’s Knickers badge, as depicted in Nicholas Allan’s original book. The runner-up will receive £1,000 and a silvered badge.
Nicholas Allen hopes the Award will encourage a sense of fun: “I want to encourage authors and illustrators to take more risks and have more fun. The name of the award reflects how I felt when I began writing the book from which the name is taken. I started it purely for fun, without any sense of plot, moral, purpose – in fact, without sense, and maintained it to the end.”
The work may be any combination or words and/or pictures, or just pictures – and in any physical format including, pop-ups, flap books, and board books. The work must have been first published in the UK and Republic of Ireland between 1 September 2018 and 31 August 2019. There is no submission fee.
The Queen’s Knickers Award is open for entries until 15 November 2019.
When this list was published two days ago it provoked a somewhat hostile response on Twitter. The main gripes were 1) the books were not current novels in need of promotion and 2) they were all American rather than UK publications.
I liked the list (compiled by the Independent’s culture correspondent Clemence Michallon, best known for her interview with Liam Neeson in which he made a controversial unprompted revelation) because it threw up a few titles that were new to me and that as a result I will look out for.
The reflex response of those who got in a steam about it arises from a mindset that would like all coverage of children’s and young adult books to be favourable copy about recently published UK titles. The argument goes as follows: Coverage of children’s/YA books in the national press is so limited that there is no justification for doing anything but put a favourable spotlight on books newly published here in the UK.
The 15 books recommended by Michallon:
- All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
- Luna by Julie Anne Peters
- Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
- Hold Still by Nina LaCour
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
- History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
- This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
- When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
- Forever by Judy Blume
- Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
- Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- The Sun is Also a Star Nicola Yoon
[see end of post for full photo gallery]
The winner of the 2019 Branford Boase Award for outstanding debut novel for children is Muhammad Khan for his YA novel I Am Thunder.
Born in Balham, Muhammad Khan studied engineering, but then trained as a teacher. After publication of I Am Thunder in 2018, he studied for an MA in Creative Writing at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. He is now teaching maths at a secondary school in Sutton. His second novel, Kick the Moon, was published in January 2019.
Like his character Muzna, Muhammad Khan grew up in South London, and his parents are first generation immigrants from Pakistan. Like Muzna, he always knew he wanted to be a writer, though his family were determined he should be an engineer. But he says that Muzna is primarily based on his young students. In fact: “virtually every character in the book has a real-life counterpart”.
With only 4% of all the children’s books published in the UK last year featuring a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) character*, Muhammad was determined to give his students a voice through his character. Muzna’s life as a young Muslim woman is vividly described, while her teenage experience is something that everyone will relate to, whatever their background.
I Am Thunder chronicles the radicalisation of a young Muslim girl growing up in London, the choices she is presented with, and how she develops the confidence to make her own decisions. Muhammad Khan was prompted to write the book by the news that three Bethnal Green schoolgirls had flown to Syria to join the Islamic State group.
Mitch Johnson, last year’s Branford Boase Award winner says of the book: “The sensitivity with which Khan handles such a volatile and emotive subject is astounding, and his ability to create a story that is both gripping and tender is hugely impressive.”
Judge Sanchita Basu de Sarkar of the Children’s Bookshop Muswell Hill says: “Khan’s acute portrayal of Muzna captures both the joy and turbulence of being a teenage girl. His dialogue is fresh, and funny, and keeps the story zipping along, even when the characters are filled with uncertainty. The balance of culture, religion, and following one’s heart have rarely been depicted with such nuance.”
Coincidentally, Helen Cleaves, one of the three school librarians shortlisted for the 2019 School Librarian Award, chose this title as the one she has been most frequently recommending: “I defy anyone to read this stunning debut and not be moved by this powerful coming-of-age thriller that the author, a Maths teacher in South London, felt compelled to write when three British schoolgirls from Bethnal Green flew out to Syria to join IS in 2015. Muzna is a truly unforgettable character – funny, fierce and vulnerable – and, as a multi-dimensional Muslim teenager who dreams of being a writer, a vital foil to today’s relentless Islamophobia and agenda of ‘othering’ by those determined toset us against one another. She is also the much-needed voice of a teenage experience that is seriously under-represented in books. I have recommended I am Thunder to students and grown-ups of all ages: not only is it a compelling story of friendship dilemmas, teen rebellion and first love, but by shattering stereotypes and showing how easily teenagers may become radicalised, it invites empathy and seeks to connect, as all the best books do.”
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Branford Boase Award was set up in memory of outstanding author Henrietta Branford and her editor Wendy Boase of Walker Books, who both died in 1999, and is unique in honouring editor as well as author. It is regarded as one of the most important children’s book awards, thanks to its impressive record in identifying authors with special talent at the start of their careers: previous winners include Frances Hardinge, Marcus Sedgwick, Meg Rosoff and Mal Peet.
Chair of the judges, Julia Eccleshare, children’s director Hay Festival, said, “2019 is the 20th anniversary of the Branford Boase Award. It has celebrated wonderful books and authors over the years, and we are very proud of all that it has achieved in highlighting new writers and the editors who help them develop their potential. We’re delighted that I Am Thunder has won this year. Muhammad Khan is giving voice to those we haven’t heard from enough and his story will ring true with readers of any background. As demonstrated so brilliantly in her book Fire, Bed and Bone, Henrietta Branford also gave voice to those whose stories need to be told, and was happy to pose questions about politics and society in thrilling adventure stories. We look forward to reading more by Muhammad, and all the writers on this shortlist, and to twenty more years celebrating the exciting new talent in children’s books.”
Winning editor Lucy Pearse said: ‘It was a real honour to see I Am Thunder included on this incredible shortlist, and a complete pinch-yourself moment for it to be selected as the winner. Muhammad deserves this award so much – it is a brave and important book and he has worked enormously hard – and I feel privileged to have been part of its publishing story. Each book on this shortlist is a spectacular achievement and I feel very lucky to be working among such talented authors and editors.’
Lucy Pearse began her career assisting children’s agents and quickly moved over to the publishing side as a PA and then an editorial assistant. She has been working as an editor at Macmillan Children’s Books for nearly four years, was selected as a Bookseller Rising Star in 2018 and promoted to Senior Commissioning Editor for the 6+ team in 2019, working on illustrated young fiction, middle-grade and YA.
This year the judges were
- Sanchita Basu De Sarkar of the Children’s Bookshop, Muswell Hill
- Ellen Krajewski, librarian at Hemel Hempstead School, Hertfordshire
- Louise Johns-Shepherd, chief executive of CLPE
- Mitch Johnson, author of Kick, winner of the 2018 Branford Boase Award.
The panel was chaired by Julia Eccleshare, children’s director of the Hay Festival.
The 2019 winners of the Award were announced on Thursday 27 June at a ceremony at Walker Books in London which was attended by previous winners including Kevin Brooks,, Marcus Sedgwick, M.G. Leonard, Dave Shelton, and Lucy Christopher.
Mitch Johnson presented Muhammad Khan with a cheque for £1,000 and Muhammad and Lucy Pearse both received a unique, hand-crafted silver-inlaid box.
The Kings School, Chester
The School Library Association – which is a body committed to supporting everyone involved with school libraries, promoting high quality reading and learning opportunities for all – created the School Librarian of the Year Award in 2004, at the suggestion of Aidan Chambers and in response to the need for recognition of the excellent work that is carried out in school libraries every day. Nominees do not need to be members of the SLA, and may be from any phase of education.
The three shortlisted librarians were:
Ros Harding – The King’s School Chester @KSCLibrarian
What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?
“This has to be the fact that I get to work with amazing people every day, including my assistant librarians, the teaching and support staff in the school and of course the pupils. I have an incredible team of pupil librarians and I love seeing them develop and flourish as they take on responsibility in the library. I love seeing pupils develop from a shy Year 7 into a successful and confident young adult.”
Chantal Kelleher – Herne Bay High School
Which aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
“The best part of my job is working with the young people in my school. I appreciate their sense of justice, lively interest and good manners. I run a lunch time Games Club and have taught many students to play chess, scrabble, Perudo, Yahtzee, Articulate, cards and Cranium over the years. It is a pleasure to promote informal learning in a supportive environment. Successfully matching a student to a book they really enjoy, especially if they would not previously have considered themselves a reader, is a delight that never palls.”
Helen Cleaves – Kingston Grammar School
Which aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
“Nothing beats the conversation with a student who has just finished a book that they loved, and so discovered a new favourite author to explore further.”
Sue Bastone, Chair of Selection Panel, said the field this year was stronger than ever.
There were short video presentations from each of the Honour librarian schools:
Sue described Helen Cleaves as a ‘human dynamo’ who, amongst many other initiatives, established the school’s first poet laureate. Her headteacher says, “When Helen comes to me with a proposal she’s already thought it through thoroughly.’
Ros, we were told, has established a school book award. “All involved with the school were keen to talk about her with the selection panel.”
Chantal’s library is a vibrant and exciting place. She was described as, “An incredibly modest person who is rightfully proud of her library. She carries out her role with quiet effciency. She makes what she does look effortless.”
The invited guests were treated to an Alice in Wonderland themed tea:
Chris Riddell, President of the Association, and Sara Barnard, YA author, delivered warmup talks before the announcement of the winner (Riddell remembering librarians and the lost loves of his youth and Barnard recalling her own experience of libraries as a teenager).
And Sara then announced Ros Harding as School Librarian of the Year 2019.
Fourteen joyous, funny and life-affirming essays about growing up from gal-dem’s talented writers. gal-dem, the award-winning online and print magazine, is created by women and non-binary people of colour. In this thought-provoking and moving collection of fourteen essays, gal-dem’s writers use raw material from their teenage years – diaries, poems and chat histories – to give advice to their younger selves and those growing up today. gal-dem have been praised by the Guardian for being “the agents of change we need”, and these essays tackle important subjects including race, gender, mental health and activism, making this essential reading for any young person.
Sixteen-year-old twins Madeline and Catlin move to a new life in Ballyfrann, a strange isolated Irish town, a place where the earth is littered with small corpses and unspoken truths. A place where, for generations, teenage girls have gone missing in the surrounding mountains. As distance grows between the twins – as Catlin falls in love, and Madeline begins to understand her own nascent witchcraft – Madeline discovers that Ballyfrann is a place full of predators. And when Catlin falls into the gravest danger of all, Madeline must ask herself who she really is, and who she wants to be – or rather, who she might have to become to save her sister.
Winner of the Victorian Premier YA Prize for Literature
Best Young Adult Novel at the Aurealis Awards
(two of Australia’s most prestigious writing awards)
An extraordinary thriller, told from the perspective of two Aboriginal protagonists, which weaves together themes of grief, colonial history, violence, love and family.
“A deeply poignant and original novel.” GUARDIAN REVIEW
Mari Jones is desperate to be a real scientist, even though she’s only eleven. So when she discovers a tiny dragon while fossil hunting on the beach, she’s sure she can find a good scientific explanation – as long as she can keep it hidden long enough to study it.
Unfortunately for Mari, this is one secret that doesn’t want to be kept. And as she starts to form a deeper bond with the mischievous dragon, she might have to admit that, when it comes to friendship, science might not have all the answers…