Kagiso Molope
Kagiso Molope

The English Academy of Southern Africa is an organisation that hands out the Percy FitzPatrick Prize for Youth Literature every two years. This prize goes to a book published during the two years preceding that in which the prize is awarded to a book targeted at children between ages 10 and 14. For Kenyans, you want to think of this award like a Southern African version of the Burt Award only without such a huge payout.
The winner of this years award is Kagiso Lesego Molope for her book, This Book Betrays My Brother, published by Oxford University Press in 2012. The adjudication panel’s decision was unanimous.
The adjudicators noted that
[t]he category ‘books for children between ages 10 and 14’ is a … complex one. This Book Betrays My Brother, like some of the best children’s books that we have, troubles neat readership categories. Think of Little Women, Tom Sawyer and Where the Wild Things Are as similarly challenging such categorisation.
The book is set in township South Africa in the mid-1990s. Naledi, the narrator and protagonist, explores her relationships with friends, teenage boys, family, and especially her relationship with her ‘beloved brother’, Basi. Sensitively, Molope captures the uncertainty and naïveté of thirteen-year-old Naledi caught in a world where attractiveness to the opposite sex is an overriding adolescent concern.
Kagiso Lesego Molope has three novels to her name. Her first Dancing in the Dust, (which incidentally is my favourite of the three) was chosen as the South African English representative for the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Honours List in 2006, and has been translated into IsiZulu and IsiXhosa. Her second novel, The Mending Season, is also widely read in South African schools. She has worked as a counsellor and educator in human rights and violence against women.
The adjudication panel consisted of Elaine Ridge (convener), Eva Hunter (University of the Western Cape) and Shaun Viljoen (Stellenbosch University).