Branford Boase Award Shortlist 2020 announced

Published on: 30 April 2020

The Branford Boase Award was set up to reward the most promising new writers and their editors for their work creating books for children aged 7 and up. 2019 winner Muhammad Khan takes a look at the books shortlisted for the award this year...

This year’s longlist of contenders for the prestigious Branford Boase award for debut novelists and their editors presented a stellar line up of children’s fiction from very talented first time authors. So when myself and fellow judges - Layla Hudson, Victoria Dilly and Sue Bastone - had to choose between them to produce a shortlist, we really had our work cut out! Each book represents hours and hours of sacrifice, hard work, dedication and of course sparkling new talent. After lengthy discussions and much deliberation, we arrived at a veritable cornucopia of accomplished titles across a diverse set of genres. This year’s shortlist has something for everyone: humour, thriller, dystopian, fantasy, mental health, murder-mystery and more. Here is our shortlist of seven incredible books:

Little Badman and the Invasion of the Killer Aunties by Humza Arshad and Henry White

A contemporary set story which sees a band of aunties mysteriously take over a school armed with delicious, sugary snacks. The judges thought this was a hilarious debut with a unique voice in its twelve year old wannabe ninja-rapper protagonist Humza Khan. One judge described this as being “full of heart” and recommended it “left, right and centre”.

Read the review

The Space We’re In by Katya Balen

A moving story about Frank and his younger brother Max who struggles with anything unexpected, sounds that are too loud or ambient conditions that are too bright.

The judges felt this was an important book that handled neurodivergence with extraordinary sensitivity. In particular the “insight into the family relationships is excellent” and Frank’s use of coding in each chapter title is a clever touch.

Read the review

A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby

In this debut Safiya finds herself magically transported to Kuwait of the past when her mother falls ill. Bushby has crafted a story that pulls at heartstrings and thrills with its “well-developed central character” on a mission to solve a magical puzzle.

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Bearmouth by Liz Hyder

Newt has worked in Bearmouth coalmine since the age of four, but the arrival of a charismatic rebel begins to stir ideas of a ‘revolushun’.

In this claustrophobic dystopian tale of oppression and hope, Hyder gives her protagonist a unique voice in a dark but provocative world. The judges described it as “interesting, challenging and original.”

Read the review

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Jackson’s debut features a schoolgirl who turns detective in a bid to prove the police have got the wrong guy in the murder case of Andie Bell. The judges called the book “compulsive reading” and were impressed by the fast pacing of the unfolding mystery.

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Frostheart by Jamie Littler

An orphan’s desperate search for home and family in a snowy world filled with terrifying monsters. Kids will gobble up this inventive title. Judges described it as a “fresh and very different fantasy adventure.”

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The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton

Neena’s brother vanished 10 months ago and as she tries to uncover what happened to him her grip on reality begins to slip.

The judges were impressed by Smith-Barton’s “powerful depiction of mental health”.

Read the review

Congratulations to the exciting authors and their editors who made it on to the shortlist. But who will be crowned the overall winner? The search is now on!

Topics: Features

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