'Vibrant new voices' from seven publishers make Branford Boase shortlist

'Vibrant new voices' from seven publishers make Branford Boase shortlist

Titles from seven different publishers — Head of Zeus, Quercus Children’s Books, Faber, Oxford University Press Children's, Usborne, David Fickling Books and Walker Books — have been shortlisted for the Branford Boase award, annually recognising the author of a debut novel and their editor.

Ghanaian-British documentary filmmaker Yaba Badoe is shortlisted for Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, edited by Fiona Kennedy for new House of Zeus imprint Zephyr, a book which features people-trafficking as well as African fairy-tale and folklore. Although Badoe wrote a novel for Jonathan Cape in 2009, it is her first book for readers aged 12 and above.

Scientific writer Sharon Cohen is shortlisted for The Starman and Me, edited by Sarah Lambert (Quercus Children’s Books). The middle-grade novel follows 12-year-old Kofi who spots a prehistoric human, Rorty Thrutch, on a supermarket roundabout.

Chloe Daykin is in the running with Fish Boy, edited by Leah Thaxton (Faber), a book she wrote whilst studying for her MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. The strapline for the book, with illustrations by Richard Jones, is "a crazy talking mackerel changes EVERYTHING". 

Elys Dolan is shortlisted for Knighthood for Beginners, edited by Clare Whitston and Elv Moody (Oxford). Aimed at readers aged 7+, this first-in-the-series is about Dave the Dragon’s quest for knighthood, with his trusty steed, a goat called Albrecht. Dolan previously published several picture books with Nosy Crow. 

Mitch Johnson makes the cut with Kick, edited by Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker (Usborne), a debut endorsed as "brilliant" by John Boyne about football on the streets of Jakarta, Indonesia.

Cambridge-based author Tony Mitton is shortlisted for Potter’s Boy, edited by Anthony Hinton (David Fickling Books), a book for young adults and adults invoking the arts and cultures of Japan and China. 

And US comedy writer Jacob Sager Weinstein, who has written for HBO and the BBC, is shortlisted for The City of Secret Rivers, edited by Gill Evans (Walker Books), the first book in a London-set children’s adventure trilogy.

This year the judges are Urmi Merchant of children’s bookshop Pickled Pepper Books; Helen Swinyard, librarian at Heartlands High School and founder of the Haringey Children’s Book Award; author and reviewer Philip Womack; and M.G. (Maya) Leonard, author of Beetle Boy, winner of the 2017 Branford Boase Award. The panel is chaired by Julia Eccleshare, children’s director of the Hay Festival.

Eccleshare commented: “Each year the Branford Boase Award discovers authors with outstanding talent and promise: this year is no exception. The BBA also celebrates the lively state of children’s publishing in the UK and we were excited that no less than 26 different publishers entered books with seven making the shortlist. By concentrating on the most exciting new voices, the Branford Boase consistently highlights trends in contemporary children’s fiction: our 2018 judges were struck by the huge predominance on the longlist of domestic dramas. Children’s adventure it seems has become internal, the setting no longer the outside world but frequently the family, with narrative tension and action arising from issues such as mental health and individual trauma. Nonetheless, our seven shortlisted books have new stories to tell and vibrant new voices to tell them.”

The winner of the 2018 Branford Boase Award will be announced on Wednesday 4th July at a ceremony in London. The winning author receives a cheque for £1,000 and both author and editor receive a "unique, hand-crafted" silver-inlaid box.

Read Julia Eccleshare's blog analysing this year's Branford Boase Award submissions here.