Six writers from the Caribbean have been shortlisted for the top Bocas Children’s Book Prize, with tales that bring magic, folklore and true historical events to life for the region’s young readers.
The award, sponsored by Unit Trust Corporation (UTC), is the first of its kind to recognize Caribbean books aimed at young independent readers between the ages of seven and twelve, according to a press release from Bocas Lit Fest.
Of the six writers competing for the award, three are from Jamaica and the rest are from Haiti, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
The prize is open to books written by a single author who holds Caribbean nationality or was born in the Caribbean,
A total of 21 submissions were received from across the region and the Diaspora, including Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Antigua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, the US Virgin Islands, Cuba, Guyana and Haiti. .
The long-list selections are now in front of a young reader, Clarisse Kem Lee-Sing, 14, who will comment and help select the shortlist.
Chief Justice Joan Osborne, renowned storyteller and retired deputy executive director of Nalis, said in the statement that the selection process “was similar to trying to select six of the most beautiful flowers from a rare flower garden. Caribbean literature for young readers, while growing, is still not in great abundance, so the delicate offerings of our talented writers are to be appreciated.
Olive Senior, writer and poet laureate from Jamaica, is also a judge, alongside Johnny Temple, publisher and editor-in-chief of Akashic Books.
The award was born out of an observation of the scarcity of books from the region for critical Caribbean children of reading age of seven to twelve, according to the release. This was confirmed by the slow flow of mostly ineligible books when the prize opened.
Marina Salandy-Brown, founder of Bocas Lit Fest, creator of the award, commented on the lack of age-appropriate books.
“We can now confirm that too few age-appropriate books are available for our children, who are then ill-prepared for the next stage of their education,” Salandy-Brown said in the statement.
Books for young children are primarily picture books that parents read to and with children. From around the age of seven, children should switch to less illustrated books, which they read on their own. At age 11, when kids enter high school, their books should be narrative, Lit Fest said.
Natasha Davis, vice president, marketing and operations at UTC, said the award would undoubtedly encourage more authors to publish their work for young Caribbean readers.
“The Unit Trust Corporation is pleased to contribute to the development of literature for young Caribbean readers by offering the US $ 1,000 prize in its first year. The award aims to recognize and celebrate excellent writing and intriguing storytelling that can capture the imaginations of young people and help establish a lifelong love and habit of reading in this very important age group, ”said David in the press release.
Caribbean-born authors residing anywhere in the world of English-language books published, including self-published, between January 2020 and July 2021 were eligible for the inaugural award.
The shortlist will be announced later in October and the winner in November.
Longlist, Bocas Children’s Book Prize 2021:
The year I flew by Marie Arnold – Éditions Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Haiti.
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender – Scholastic Press, US Virgin Islands
Lost in the Cockpit Country by Billy Elm – Blue Banyan Books, Jamaica
When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten – Pushkin Children’s Books, Jamaica
Chaos in Castries by Carol Mitchell – Caribbean Reads Publishing St Kitts & Nevis
A Different Me A Better You by Janet Morrison – Blue Banyan Books, Jamaica