Catherine Johnson fought off competition from Sarah MacIntyre and debut artist Emily Haworth-Boot to win the 2019 Little Rebels Award for Radical Fiction tonight (Wednesday 10th July).
The award for children’s fiction that promotes or celebrates social justice is now in its seventh year.
Johnson's short historical novel Freedom (Scholastic) tells the story of Nat, a young boy enslaved on a Jamaican plantation, brought over to England in the late eighteenth century. Hopeful that, once on UK soil, he will finally be free from bondage, Nat instead witnesses the pivotal role Britain played in building the slavery industry.
Praising the winning title, judge and head of children's books promotion and prizes at BookTrust, Emily Drabble said: “Catherine Johnson brings the horrific history of slavery to life in this important piece of historical fiction for a middle grade audience. A brilliant adventure story that shines a much-needed spotlight on the UK’s role [and which also introduces us to] real life people who should be more famous than they are, including former slave turned author and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano and Shadrack Furman, the first black army Pensioner. A well deserved win from one of the UK’s most fabulous storytellers.”
Johnson's win was announced at an event held in the CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) Literacy Library after a panel discussion with the other shortlisted authors for 2019. These were Bridget Blankley for The Ghosts & Jamal (HopeRoad Publishing); Anne Booth for Across the Divide (Catnip Publishing); Emily Haworth-Booth for The King Who Banned the Dark (Pavilion Books); Nadine Kaadan for Tomorrow (Lantana Publishing); Sarah McIntyre for The New Neighbours (David Fickling Books).
Author Patrice Lawrence; B J Epstein, senior lecturer at the University of East Anglia; Darren Chetty, teacher, writer, researcher; Shaun Dellenty, trainer in LGBT+ inclusive education, joined Drabble on the judging panel.
Last year’s Little Rebels Award winner, Zanib Mian, went on to sign a three-book deal with Hachette Children’s Group (HCG) in late 2018.