The 2018 CODE Burt Award for Young Adult African Literature has gone to Kenya’s Kinyanjui Kombani for his book Finding Colombia. Kinyanjui received a cash prize of $10,000 CDN, while his publisher, Oxford University Press, East Africa Limited, received a guaranteed purchase of 2,000 copies for distribution in Kenya, another 2,000 copies for distribution in Tanzania, and a $2,000 CDN grant to market the title across the continent. The announcement was made at an award ceremony at the Ghana International Book Fair in Accra, where an honour book was also announced.

Established by the Canadian literacy organisation CODE in collaboration with the Literary Prizes Foundation, the CODE Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature is a readership initiative recognizing “outstanding writing for young adults by African authors.” It includes programs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania, as well as beyond the continent in the Caribbean and in Canada.

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The 2018 Prize jury received 17 submissions from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania. “We were all impressed with the varied themes and messages in this year’s submissions as well as the presentation, style and structure,” their statement read. “All of these stories address topical issues that will resonate with young readers.”

A banker, a learning facilitator, an award-winning entrepreneur, and a business mentor, Kinyanjui Kombani is the author of 13 titles. His winning book, Finding Colombia, is “an action-packed adventure story involving the local Anti-Drug Agency (ADA), a covert operation involving a notorious and influential but elusive drug baron, and a young man who is determined to find a purpose in life as he deals with the reality of the drug culture.”

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Ghanaian Ruby Yayra Goka’s To Kiss a Girl was named the 2018 CODE Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature Honour Book. Ruby received a cash prize of $2,000 CDN, and her publisher, Digibooks Ghana Ltd, received a guaranteed purchase of 2,000 copies for distribution in Ghana, and a grant of $2,000 CDN to promote the title on the continent. To Kiss a Girl “addresses the universal themes of relationships along with difficult [but] no less important themes of illness, pain and death.” Following her older sister’s death, its heroine Gyikua Ampofo “loses faith in everything she ever believed in—God, a mother’s love, school and friends. But then she meets Chidi Anukwe and as their friendship grows, she learns to trust again.”

The finalists for the 2018 CODE Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature are: Ghanaian Elizabeth-Irene Baitie’s The Lion’s Whisper, published by Kwadwoan Publishers; Ghanaian Vera Akumiah’s Ebony Girl, published by Kwadwoan Publishers; and Ethiopian Hiwot Walelign’s Somebody’s Daughter, published by Mega Publishing. All three received a cash prize of $1,000 CDN.

Through its local implementing partners and rights sales in each of the program countries, CODE will distribute 12,000 copies each of the winner and honour book to schools, libraries, and community organizations in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania, in 2018 and 2019. The books will lead CODE’s “Read with Me” campaign this year.

Brittle Paper congratulates Kinyanjui Kombani, and Ruby Yayra Goka, and the finalists Elizabeth-Irene Baitie, Vera Akumiah, and Hiwot Walelign.