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Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature 2017 All Stars unveiled

Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature 2017 All Stars Clockwise from top left: Nahida Esmail, William E. Mkufya, Ruby Yayra Goka, Elizabeth-Irene Baitie. Centre: Elshadai Tesfaye
Clockwise from top left: Nahida Esmail, William E. Mkufya, Ruby Yayra Goka, Elizabeth-Irene Baitie.
Centre: Elshadai Tesfaye

The shortlist for the Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature 2017 All Stars has been unveiled.

The Burt Award was started in Tanzania in 2008 to recognize excellence in young adult literature, address an ongoing shortage of relevant, high quality books for young readers, and promote a love of reading and learning at the upper primary and secondary school levels. The program funded by William (Bill) Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation expanded to Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Canada, and the Caribbean in the following years.  In Kenya some of the previous winners of the awards are Alice Muthoni (2016), Chris Okemwa (2015), Elizabeth Kibui (2014), Argwings Otieno (2013) and Antony Mugo (2012).

The Burt Award, administered by the CODE, has announced its Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature shortlist in celebration of International Literacy Day. This regional competition is called the “All-Stars edition” because all of the first prize winners of CODE’s Burt Award in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania since 2009 are being considered for this grand prize. The All-Stars shortlist is comprised of:

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

A five-member international jury carefully considered all twenty-two first prize-winning titles from previous national Burt Award competitions when selecting the All-Stars shortlist. Chair of the jury Mrs. Matilda Amissah-Arthur (librarian and former Second Lady of the Republic of Ghana) said that the jury’s concern is to “… give young adults books they can identify with, learn from, and enjoy even if they do not originate from their country.”

Other members of the jury were Linda Yohannes (Ethiopian author), Waveney Olembo (Senior Lecturer at the Kenyatta University Literature Department, Kenya), M.M. Mulokozi (Professor of Literature, University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania), and Jacqueline Guest (Canadian Métis young adult writer and Member of the Order of Canada).

“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,” shared Scott Walter, CODE’s Executive Director. “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,” added Mr. Walter.

One All-Stars winning title and one honour book will be announced at an award ceremony on September 29, 2017, hosted by the National Book Development Council of Kenya (NBDCK) as part of the Nairobi International Book Fair week. 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 National Book Development Council of Kenya, 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.

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