Author Jane Porter and illustrator Maisie Paradise Shearring have won the £2,000 Little Rebels Award for their picture book The Boy who Loved Everyone (Walker Books).
The announcement was made in a live ceremony on 22nd October. The award celebrates radical fiction for children aged 0-12. Presented on behalf of the Alliance Radical Booksellers, it is administered by Letterbox Library and radical bookshop Housmans. It recognises children’s books which "explore political ideas, challenge the status quo, or promote social justice, social equality and a more peaceful and fairer world".
Porter and Shearring will share the prize for their work on the book, which explores different kinds of friendship and love. The synopsis states: "This picture book is a moving and nuanced exploration of love, friendship and emotional expression for the very young. It tells the story of Dmitri, a young boy who says 'I love you' all the time—to his friends at nursery, his teacher, a man feeding birds in the park, and even to the big tree in the playground. Wondering why nobody says it back, and worried that he isn’t loved in return, he soon realises that love takes many forms and can be expressed in all kinds of different ways."
The 2020 guest judges were writers and educators Darren Chetty and Shaun Dellenty, head of children’s book promotion at Booktrust, Emily Drabble, author Patrice Lawrence, and Gay’s the Word bookshop manager Jim MacSweeney
Commenting on the winning book, Dellenty said: “This deceptively simple tale affords a very rich stimulus to engage young children in varied conversations about kindness, trust, non-judgement, consent, friendships, self-care, same sex love and the potential for our own compassion to inspire others to live more loving lives. In these challenging and divisive times, the most radical act of all is surely to love; The Boy Who Loved Everyone brims joyfully with it.”
Drabble called the winner “a deceptively deeply radical book on expressing love, the crushing effect of society’s restrictions and judgements on who we can love even on a tiny and adorable preschooler." She added: "The text is divine and the illustrations are really something to rave about, depicting a gloriously inclusive cast of characters which will bring joy to your heart. A very worthy winner of this year’s Little Rebels award and heartening that it’s a book for the very young, giving promise of a better future.”
The other shortlisted books were: Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts (Abrams and Chronicle); Sneaky Beak by Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Tony Neal (Little Tiger); The Closest Thing to Flying by Gill Lewis (OUP); The Little Island by Smriti Halls, illustrated by Robert Starling; Now or Never: A Dunkirk Story by Bali Rai (Scholastic); and King Leonard’s Teddy by Phoebe Swan (Child’s Play).
Chetty added: “The Boy Who Loved Everyone captures the excitement, the confusion, and the nose-picking that will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time in the nursery classroom. There is a wealth of emotion lurking in this slice-of-life story, the kind of story that children will love to return to and talk about. I think the story's sincerity, and its willingness to embrace uncertainty, make it a quietly radical book.”