Kereen Getten’s When Life Gives You Mangoes was declared the winner of the Bocas Lit Fest Children’s Book Prize 2021 today, November 29, 2021.
The Bocas Lit Fest Children’s Book Prize is a new prize for an English-language book for children, written by a Caribbean author administered by the Bocas Lit Fest, Trinidad and Tobago’s leading literary festival, and supported by Unit Trust Corporation in Trinidad and Tobago. It seeks to recognise and celebrate excellent writing and intriguing storytelling that can capture young imaginations and help establish a lifelong love and habit of reading in our young Caribbean demographic.
Bocas Lit Fest founder, Marina Salandy-Brown, was keen to shine a light on this weakness in the regional book culture.
“Like so much else of what the Bocas Lit Fest has undertaken, this project came out of the observation of the reading environment in Trinidad and Tobago, in this case, a shortage of suitable reading material for children at a critical stage of their development of reading skills, i.e. when they move from learning to read, to reading to learn. It took us a while to find a sponsor for this important prize that encourages writers to focus on those young readers, and I do hope that the UTC will continue to work with us to improve our children’s reading development.”
The judging panel for 2021 was Joan Osborne, Librarian and Storyteller (Trinidad & Tobago) as chair alongside Olive Senior, Author (Jamaica / Canada) and Johnny Temple, Publisher (USA). They announced the longlist on October 7 and the shortlist on November 5 before the winner was declared today. The winner is When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten (Pushkin Children’s Books) (Jamaica).
The head judge, Joan Osborne, renowned storyteller and former Executive Director, NALIS, was full of praise for Mangoes: “The story takes you through a wide range of emotions – joy, excitement, sadness apprehension, surprise and happiness. The book explores a range of contemporary, complex life situations such as the multi-layered elements of friendships among children, family and community relationships, disability, religion, even the supernatural. All the themes are skillfully woven into a balanced, fast paced, elegantly written story which will certainly hold the interest of all readers.”
Getten, who grew up in Jamaica and now lives in the UK, has previously written short stories for multiple publications including Notts Review and Adhoc Fiction, and was nominated for Best Short Fiction 2018. Her story about Clara, an 11-year old with a penchant for mangoes and a bout of memory loss after a hurricane strikes her island, is captured in When Life Gives You Mangoes.
Kereen Getten responded with the Tweet, “Wow!! Can’t believe Mangoes has won the @bocaslitfestChildren’s Book Award! I am always so honoured when Mangoes is recognised in the Caribbean, my home. Thank you, thank you!”
She receives a cash prize of US$1,000 from the Unit Trust Corporation (UTC).