Branford Boase Award 2018

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars

It's always worth keeping an eye on the Branford Boase Award. It's an excellent talent spotter, highlighting some of the best novels for young people by first-time writers.

In fact, the Branford Boase shortlist has just been announced, and a winner will be picked this summer. In the meantime, take a look at our reviews of the seven brilliant books – and let us know if you've got a favourite...

  • A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars

    Author: Yaba Badoe
    Publisher: Head of Zeus
    Interest age: 12-14
    Reading age: 12+

    Real and supernatural threats mingle as a girl saved from a shipwreck tries to find justice for her dead parents. Romance and magic combine with a powerful setting and subject to make a unique, enjoyable read for teens.

  • Fish Boy

    Author: Chloe Daykin
    Publisher: Faber
    Interest age: 9+
    Reading age: 9-12

    Billy is an odd boy: he's quiet, different from other children, and his skin's always wrinkled from swimming in the sea. At heart, this is a story about friendship in the face of adversity, and Chloe Daykin's writing is clear, poetic and grips you from the start.

  • Kick

    Author: Mitch Johnson
    Publisher: Usborne
    Interest age: 10-12
    Reading age: 10-12

    Budi works in a footwear factory in Indonesia, making the football boots he longs to wear but is unlikely to ever be able to afford. The harsh divide between rich and poor is examined sensitively in this moving book about one child’s struggles. 

  • Knighthood for Beginners

    Author: Elys Dolan
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    Interest age: 6-11
    Reading age: 7-11

    This brilliantly illustrated and truly hilarious yarn about Dave the dragon (who is terrible at being a dragon) is great fun to read out loud. It will also make a fabulous first chapter book for a child to read alone.

  • Potter’s Boy

    Author: Tony Mitton
    Publisher: David Fickling Books
    Interest age: 9-12
    Reading age: 9-12

    This wonderful story of a boy who yearns to be a warrior has an underlying theme of mindfulness and being in the moment. It may be a worthwhile read for tweens and upper primary children, who will enjoy Ryo’s adventure but also be suffering school burnout.

  • The City of Secret Rivers

    Author: Jacob Sager Weinstein Illustrator: Euan Cook
    Publisher: Walker Books
    Interest age: 8-12
    Reading age: 9+

    Hyacinth Hayward is on a mission to save her kidnapped Mum. Unfortunately, this involves travelling the length and breadth of London's sewers and meeting some very unsavoury characters... A delightfully silly, surreal and addictive adventure.

  • The Starman and Me

    Author: Sharon Cohen
    Publisher: Quercus
    Interest age: 9-12
    Reading age: 9-12

    Twelve-year-old Kofi discovers Rorty Thrutch, a prehistoric human, on a supermarket roundabout. Themes of bullying and friendship run alongside those of science and the possibilities of DNA in this clever debut novel for upper primary or Year 7/8 readers.