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CODE has announced the shortlist for its All-Stars Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature. Unlike its previous editions, this one considered “all of the first prize winners of CODE’s Burt Award in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania since 2009.”

Founded in 2008 in Tanzania by CODE, “Canada’s leading international development organization uniquely focused on advancing literacy and education globally,” CODE’s Burt Award “recognizes excellence in young adult literature, addresses an ongoing shortage of relevant, high quality books for young readers, and promotes a love of reading and learning at the upper primary and secondary school levels.” The program, sponsored by William (Bill) Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation, has since expanded to Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Canada, and the Caribbean.

Here are the shortlisted works.

  • Face Under the Sea, William E. Mkufya (Mangrove Publishers, Tanzania)
  • Aiming for the Summit (sequel to Living in the Shade), Nahida Esmail (Mkuki na Nyota, Tanzania)
  • The Step-Monster, Ruby Yayra Goka (Digibooks Ghana Ltd., Ghana)
  • The Twelfth Heart, Elizabeth-Irene Baitie (Kwadwoan Publishing, Ghana)
  • Waiting for the Sun, Elshadai Tesfaye (CODE-Ethiopia, Ethiopia)

The panel of judges comprises: Ethiopian author Linda Yohannes; Waveney Olembo of Kenyatta University Literature Department, Kenya; Professor M.M. Mulokozi of the University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania; the Canadian YA writer Jacqueline Guest; and the chair, former Ghana Second Lady Matilda Amissah-Arthur. The panel’s concern, said Matilda Amissah-Arthur, is to “give young adults books they can identify with, learn from, and enjoy even if they do not originate from their country.”

CODE’s Executive Director, Scott Walter, has this to say:

Reflecting on the Burt Award program over the past nine years, we see the demand for high quality, informative, and entertaining young adult literature growing as fast as the population itself. Africa, more than any other, is a continent of youth and young people are hungry for new opportunities to learn and to expand their options for the future. Developing the love and habit of reading not only advances foundational language and literacy skills, it enhances the cognitive skills that today’s employers demand—critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and communication.

Working alongside our partners to support the writing, publishing, and distribution of young adult literature in African countries, we see how our collective efforts to rewrite the story for global literacy
are taking hold, and we’re very excited to see how the top winners from each national Burt Award competition will fare in this All-Stars competition. Authors and publishers whose titles made it to the
shortlist should be very proud of their achievement—the competition was stiff. We look forward to the distribution of the winning title and the honour book and I have no doubt a great many young people are going to fall in love with the written word and the art of storytelling as a result.

In an email to Brittle Paper, CODE’s Director of Fund Development & Marketing, Allen LeBlanc, stated:

The winning author will receive a cash prize of $10,000 CAD and the honour book author will receive $2,000 CAD. Up to three finalists will each receive a cash prize of $1,000 CAD. CODE will make a guaranteed purchase of 12,000 copies each of the winner and honour book and the respective publishers will each receive a $2,000 CAD grant to support the promotion of these titles. The books will be distributed to schools, libraries, community centres, and NGOs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania.

To celebrate their achievements, CODE, together with NBDCK, has organized a series of literary events in Nairobi, Kenya for the shortlisted authors. On September 28, the authors will engage secondary school students, librarians, and teachers in a panel discussion and Q&A at the Storymoja Festival

On September 29, they will be at the front and centre of CODE’s “Read With Me” campaign event at the Nairobi International Book Fair grounds.

The winner and one honour book will be announced on September 29, 2017, at a ceremony to be hosted by the National Book Development Council of Kenya (NBDCK) as part of the Nairobi International Book Fair week.

Congratulations to the shortlisted authors.

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Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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