Jhalak Prize 2023 Children's & YA Winner is Announced!
Danielle Jawando has won the Jhalak Prize 2023 Children's & YA with her powerful YA novel When Our Worlds Collided by (Simon & Schuster).
The awards ceremony, hosted by prize founder, Professor Sunny Singh, took place at the British Library and was attended by a host of book industry peeps. Inaugural Jericho Prize picture book winner, Diane Ewen, was commissioned to produce a piece of artwork as part of the winning writer's prize.
Congratulations to Danielle and all the shortlisted writers, who read extracts from their brilliant work during the event.
To get the full scoop and see who won this year's adult Jhalak Prize, visit the Jhalak Prize website.
It’s been extremely busy here at Jericho Prize HQ, but we’ve just about managed to find some time to read two brilliant new books by Black writers coming out next month. If you’re looking for summer reads, then check these out:
Kofi and the Rap Battle Summer by Jeffrey Boakye, illustrated by Beth Suzanna (Faber Children's)
Eleven-year-old Kofi is an habitual entrepreneur whose innovative, often risky, money-making schemes invariably land him in trouble. His luck changes when the discovery of bestie Kelvin’s hyperlexic skills enables him to produce a ‘phat’ fanzine of song lyrics called Paper Jam, which fast becomes a hit with the music-mad school crowd. As the dosh starts to roll in, how long will the duo’s prolific streak last?
In this highly original tween debut, inspired by his own childhood growing up on a South London estate, author Jeffrey Boakye’s confident, humorous and authentic voice delightfully catapults readers back in time, with exquisitely well-observed retro details woven through a gently comic adventure story.
Set in the early ’90s, where Gameboys and Gladiators precede Switches and Strictly, the story is deftly written in short chapters and has broad appeal, providing a satisfying sense of nostalgia for older Gen X-ers and Millennials, while engaging the current crop of younger readers through relatable topics and characters.
Kofi is an enterprising, cheeky yet thoughtful pre-teen, whose life on the estate is sometimes ordinary but often thrilling, sometimes scary but, mostly, fun. Featuring themes of ’90s hip-hop/rap culture and artistry, with a brief but well-handled depiction of racial profiling of Black males by Met police officers, this is far from the expected urban tale of Black-youth trauma.
Boakye warmly and effortlessly explores tween-boy friendships, Black-British family dynamics and snowballing school-day mischief, all with light and shade and overriding joy.
A truly surprising, refreshing read!
Thanks to Faber Children’s for sending us a book proof and final copy. Note: My review was based on the proof, so I haven't commented on the illustrations - I have only just received the final copy (shown in the pic).
Out 1 June 2023!
Fablehouse by EL Norry, illustrated by Thy Bui (Bloomsbury Children's)
When children become inexplicably ‘changed’ at spurned orphanage Fablehouse, headstrong Heather and three friends make a legendary discovery that leads to a perilous quest in the magical realm of the Fae. Will the fearless foursome defeat the Fae’s leader, save the children and reclaim the one place that feels like home?
Set in 1954, this intriguing middle grade, the first in a series, is an extremely moving, magical adventure which uniquely combines lesser-known historical events and Arthurian legend.
Fablehouse is inspired by an actual nursery school, Holnicote House, which, during the 194Os, was commandeered by Somerset County Council as a children’s home for ‘brown babies’ born, largely illegitimately, to African-American soldiers and white-British women, during and soon after WWII.
Norry, who was herself brought up in care, portrays the orphaned children’s often conflicting feelings of anger, abandonment/loss, betrayal, love, reverence and hopeful nostalgia towards their estranged families with sensitivity and, at times, heartrending accuracy.
She demonstrates a nuanced understanding of what it’s like to navigate complex mixed-heritage identities, during an increasingly hostile post-war climate. Although racism and colourism are rightly explored throughout, these themes are handled in a well-balanced and thoughtful way for confident young readers, offset by the thrilling otherworldly encounters experienced by Heather and her fellow outcasts — ancient Black Knight of the Round Table Palamedes and the elusive Lady of the Lake are particular favourites.
In addition, Norry gradually builds memorable dual realms rooted in glorious nature imbued with magic. In the human realm, her richly descriptive while easy-to-read prose provides a vivid sense of the homely-yet-eerie atmosphere at Fablehouse — a mansion home of faded grandeur. The mysterious ancient woodlands, the treacherous stony coastline and the atmospheric moors that surround the estate are also wonderfully depicted. We get a clear sense of vast wild expanses where the four young heroes are free to become ‘Roamers’. As much loving attention is given to the sinister decaying underbelly realm of Fae Feld, that lies beyond the cairn, whose devious inhabitants tantalisingly infiltrate human spaces.
With strong themes of abandonment and banishment but also of family, friendship and belonging, this impressive novel, with a strong lead in Heather, gives a voice to the unwanted brown babies of the past and will inspire every child to think about where they belong in the present.
Thanks to Bloomsbury for sending us a proof copy.
Note: This book was produced in collaboration with StoryMix. I can't comment on the illustrations as I don't yet have a copy of the final book. Update: I have just received the published book so have added a photo.
Out 8 June 2023!
Reviews written by our prize founder Fabia Turner.
Jhalak Prize 2023 Children's & YA Shortlist is Out!
This year's Jhalak Prize Children's & YA shortlist features the following brilliant titles from minoritised writers including two picture books:
In Our Hands by Lucy Farfort (Tate)
When Our Worlds Collided by Danielle Jawando (Simon & Schuster)
Mia and The Lightcasters by Janelle McCurdy, illustrated by Ana Latese (Faber)
Ellie Pillai Is Brown, Christine Pillainayagam (Faber)
Rebel Skies, Ann Sei Lin (Walker)
Dadaji’s Paintbrush, Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane (Andersen)
The winner will be announced on 25 May. Read more here.
Oscar's Book Prize 2023 Winner Announced!
The winner of the 10th Oscar's Book Prize for picture books for young readers was announced on 9 May at a London-based ceremony.
A beautiful story about friendship, The Boy With Flowers in His Hair (Walker Books) was created by accomplished author-illustrator Jarvis. Jarvis was chosen from a wonderful list of six shortlistees, to take home the £10,000 prize.
Read the full story here.
Oscar's Book Prize 2023 Shortlist Announced!
Oscar’s Book Prize is an annual award recognising the very best picture books for preschoolers, published each year in the UK. The prize is given in memory of a young boy, Oscar Ashton.
Here is this year's fabulous shortlist:
Billy and the Pirates by Nadia Shireen
Frank and Bert by Chris Naylor Ballesteros
Can I Play? by Nicola Kinnear
The Gecko and the Echo By Rachel Bright and Jim Field
The Boy With Flowers in His Hair by Jarvis
The winner will be announced on the 9th May 2023.
Announcing the Jericho Prize Picture Book Shortlist 2022/23
All 12 longlisted picture book stories have now been thoroughly pored over and assessed by our shortlisting judges. We are delighted to announce the final five, and they are...
Friday Night Cake
Stir De Pot
Timi and the New Yam Festival
Where Are You From?
Massive congratulations to all the five shortlisted writers! All your scripts perfectly encapsulated the ethos of the prize and were enjoyed immensely. We know this news is exciting — enjoy it — but please continue not to identify yourself publicly (see below). You should have received a phone call from us already, and we will update you, via email, about the showcase for our awards ceremony.
The shortlist features story titles only, without revealing the writers’ identities. This is because the competition is judged anonymously during the final phases.
To those longlisted writers whose scripts are not on the shortlist, please know that it was an incredibly tough decision for the second-phase judges, who thought all the scripts had enormous potential. We will email your script feedback to you this week, and hope that you will find it helpful in further developing your work, to make it as strong as it can be.
Thanks to our three shortlisting judges who gave up their time to read the scripts and did a fantastic job in creating the final five.
The five shortlisted scripts will now be passed to our final judges Caroline Carpenter, Stella Hine and Simone Taylor who will decide the overall winner and allocate the runner-up prizes, during a meeting in mid-May.
Our online awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday 27 June 2023 and a limited number of free tickets will be released nearer the time. We would love Jericho Prize writers, family and friends, interested book industry peeps and members of the public to attend.
The winner will be announced at the Jericho Prize online awards ceremony on 27 June 2023 (time TBC), so do check back nearer the time for an update.
Jhalak Prize 2023 Children's & YA Longlist is out!
Sister book award to the adult Jhalak Prize, the Children's & YA Prize is a fairly recent important addition that recognises the work of British minority-ethnic writers for younger audiences.
This year, it's wonderful to see so many Black and mixed-Black British authors dominating the longlist, and they are:
John Agard for a picture-book adaptation of his poem Windrush Child
Patrice Lawrence, winner of the inaugural 2021 award, for Needle
Lucy Farfort with another picture book, In Our Hands
Joseph Coelho for Creeping Beauty
Janelle McCurdy with her debut middle grade, Mia and the Lightcasters
JP Rose The Haunting of Tyrese Walker
Tola Ogokwu for her debut novel, Onyeka
Danielle Jawando for When Our World's Collided
Also, one of our fave friends of the Jericho Prize, Rashmi Sirdeshpande, is listed for her picture book Dadaji's Paintbrush! We wish them all the very best of luck with the next phase of the competition.
You can see the full selection of longlisted titles in the image below And, if would like to find out more, and check out the adult longlist, visit the Jhalak Prize website.
Image, courtesy of the Jhalak Prize
Announcing the Jericho Prize Picture Book Longlist 2022/23
After carefully reading all 105 picture book stories by new writers, 12 scripts have been longlisted for the Jericho Prize for Children’s Writing 2022/23, and they are...
Ada's Afraid to Fly
Friday Night Cake
Malachi's Caribbean Adventure
Motherland, Sweet Motherland
Mummy, Can I Be...Everything?
My Brother's My Best Friend
Stir De Pot
The Elephant in the Room
Timi and the New Yam Festival
Where Are You From?
Huge congratulations to all the longlisted writers! Do a little happy dance or shout and scream in private but please do not identify yourself publicly (see below).
Stories that deserved a special mention
The task of selecting only a dozen stories to go through to the next stage proved so difficult that this year we decided to give another four scripts a special mention in recognition of their amazing potential. Well done to the writers of the following four stories:
Gboyega Never Gives Up
The Incredible Onesie
The Race to Sports Day
You may notice that the longlist only features story titles, without revealing the writers’ identities. This is because we have introduced anonymous judging for the next two phases.
The three second-phase readers will not know whose scripts they are selecting for the shortlist of five and neither will the final judges who will read the shortlisted scripts to select the overall winner in April.
Thank you everyone for being brave and submitting your work to us. If you don’t see your story on the longlist, please don’t be discouraged. Another unique feature of our process in 2022/23 is that our six first-phase readers have prepared feedback for each script, which you will receive in an email over the coming days. We hope their valuable, constructive comments, with a few suggestions for improvements and lots of encouragement, will guide you along your creative journey. Thank you to our volunteer expert readers, who included children’s authors, teachers and community leaders; they’ve offered a range of perspectives on each of the submitted scripts.
The shortlist will be announced on this blog around 11 April 2023 so do check back then for an update.
Longlisting judge blog: Crystal Norbert
The Jericho Prize for Children’s Writing closed for submissions on 9 January 2023, and we were thrilled to receive 105 picture book scripts. Since then, every script has been read at least twice: all 105 had an initial eligibility read by two members of the Jericho Prize team and then the eligible scripts were passed to our longlisting team comprising six expert readers. So, there are two stages of reading even before the shortlist is created.
In today’s blog, longlisting judge Crystal Norbert reflects on her experience of being a Jericho Prize reader for the first time.
Having run the community project See Me On The Page for a year, it’s safe to say that I’m committed to ensuring that Black children and young people are featured as main characters in books.
It was a no-brainer then that I’d want to get involved when the Jericho Prize put a call out for judges for their writing competition. I would get to support an organisation that closely aligns with my project and be part of an initiative which promotes Black and Black-mixed authors and their amazing stories.
I put myself forward and kept my fingers crossed. About a month later, I received an email confirming that I had been selected as a longlist judge. I was nervous as I’d never judged for the Jericho Prize before, but I was keen to get stuck in. I received 70 submissions and had a month to read them.
I thought that judging picture books without illustrations would be difficult, but it made things simpler. When the writing was good, the illustrations were easy to visualise. When marking, I thought not only about how the story would be received by the target audience of three-year-olds but also about what I would have benefited from reading at that young age.
I really enjoyed seeing themes of family, culture and everyday life in many of the scripts but it would have been nice to read stories with more magic or that highlighted parts of the diaspora that aren’t usually mentioned (many of the scripts featured the same countries in Africa or the Caribbean).
I found that, in some cases, representation wasn’t very strong and the characters appeared a bit generic. This was surprising to me given the focus of the competition. I also felt that there were some entries that didn’t leave space for the illustration.
I really appreciated my experience as a judge and the guidance from the Jericho Prize team made the process smooth. All the stories were enjoyable to read and showed the importance of this platform in creating a space for writers to advance.
I wish all entrants the best of luck and, for those who didn’t make it to the next round, don’t give up! Hopefully the feedback will help you on your journey as a picture book writer.
About Crystal: Crystal is the founder of See Me On The Page, a community project which seeks to promote Black and Black-mixed main characters in print. She runs an outdoor library and events to highlight the initiative. Follow her on Instagram: @SeeMeOnThePage and Twitter: @SeeMeOnThePage1.
Image: courtesy of See Me On the Page
Waterstone Children's Book Prize 2023: shortlists announced!
This annual prize, chosen by Waterstones' booksellers, celebrates the very best in new talent in children's writing. We are thrilled to see a couple of our favourite Black-British writers in the Illustrated Books category. I'm Not A Prince by Rachael Davis, illustrated by Beatrix Hatcher and the surprisingly wonderful The Missing Piece by Rizzle Kicks star Jordan Stephens.
In the Young Readers category, JT Williams has been shortlisted for her first novel in the Lizzie and Belle mystery series, The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries: Drama and Danger, illustrated by Simone Douglas. (JT Williams is the pen name of author Joanna Brown.)
There are three categories for these prestigious awards: Illustrated Books, Younger Readers and Older Readers. Click here to see full details of all three shortlists.
February’s hot picks!
Introducing an exciting new feature for our blog!
From now on and every month, Jericho Prize team member and booklover, Rachel, will bring you a handpicked selection of the best Black children’s books releasing in the UK from picture books to YA. All the books will feature the work of Black authors and/or Black illustrators. Here are February’s hottest releases:
Unspoken by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dare Coulter (Anderson Press)
Unspoken is a powerful and vitally important non-fiction book about the history of slavery. A perfect introduction to the topic for both children and adults, this accessible book never shies away from the horror of slavery. Told through the lens of a teacher speaking to their pupils, this is a very important and impactful book.
This book is out on 2 February 2023.
The Missing Piece by Jordan Stephens, illustrated by Beth Suzanna (Bloomsbury)
Another beautiful picture book out in paperback, in February, is The Missing Piece. This is a lovely picture book about family and friendship, as Sunny goes on a journey to find the final piece of her jigsaw puzzle.
This book is out on 2 February 2023.
Secret Beast Club: The Unicorns of Silver Street by Robin Birch, illustrated by Jobe Anderson (Puffin)
Robin Birch is the joint pen name of author Rachael Davis and StoryMix series producer Jasmine Richards, and this is their first chapter book in an exciting new series filled with magic, friendship and magical creatures. Aisha and Jayden find themselves members of the Secret Beast Club, an ancient club that protects mythical creatures, and are thrown into a whole world of new adventures! This book is inspired by the life of Pablo Fanque, who was the first Black circus owner. Perfect for younger readers aged 6+
This book is out on 16 February 2023.
Kyan Green and the Infinity Racers by Colm Field, illustrated by David Wilkerson (Bloomsbury)
Featuring the artwork of Afro-American illustrator Dave Wilkerson, this chapter book, perfect for younger readers, is an action-packed adventure novel about a magical racing-car game. When Kyan finds an old racing game in his loft, little does he know he is about to be pulled into a racing game that will have him travelling through the Universe!
This book is out on 16 February 2023.
Preorder it, here, from Bookshop
If you've got a great book coming out by a Black creative (author or illustrator) that you'd like us to feature, do get in touch. We'd love to hear from you!
Rachel Gray is an Edinburgh-based book lover with a real passion for children’s literature. She volunteers as social media and comms assistant for the Jericho Prize and currently works for Scottish Book Trust, a Scottish charity encouraging reading across the country. Rachel runs a book blog A Cascade of Books and social-media accounts where she shares her love of books!
The 2023 Newbury and Caldecott Medal winners have been announced!
John Newbury Medal (Newbury Medal) is the most prestigious award given to an author deemed to have made the most outstanding contribution to American children's literature.
The 2023 Newbury Medal winner, announced earlier this week, is Amina Luqman-Dawson, who has won with her debut, historical middle-grade Freewater (published by Little, Brown/Patterson), edited by Alexandra Hightower.
It's actually a double celebration for Afro-American author Amina, who has also won a Coretta Scott King book award. The Coretta Scott King awards are given annually to Afro-American authors and illustrators 'who demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values'. What a fantastic achievement!
Another prestigious American award, the Randolph Caldecott Medal (Caldecott medal), is given to the most distinguished children's picture book of the preceding year, and Doug Salati has won the 2023 Caldecott Medal for his joyful work Hot Dog (published by Knopf), edited by Rotem Moscovich.
The Newbury and the Caldecott awards are given annually by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC).
Founder Fabia Turner’s initial thoughts on Jericho Prize 2022/23
Jericho Prize 2022/23 closed for submissions midday on 9 January. We received a whopping 105 submissions which is more than double our inaugural year, far exceeding our expectations considering we are a niche award.
More writers outside of London and the South East engaged with the project this year including a small proportion from Wales and Scotland, but just like in 2021, there were no entrants from Northern Ireland. As you can see from the pie chart, below, we still have more to do in terms of spreading the word across the UK to engage members of Black communities:
Out of the 105 submissions, the majority were new, original pieces of writing with a small percentage of self-published scripts.
A higher proportion of stories were written in prose this year and, as expected, the most popular genre by far was everyday/familiar settings, ie realistic stories featuring children with their families at home. There were not many submissions in the funny or imaginative (out of this world) categories — we would have loved to have seen more of these. That said, a significant slice of submissions (18.6%) were unclassified. There were far fewer stories about Afro hair but many of the scripts focused on loving grandparent-child relationships just like in 2021. Numerous submissions featured Caribbean and West African food/recipes with the common theme of handing down knowledge to the younger generation. Interestingly, we received a handful of traditional tales/retellings, which we did not see at all in 2021:
I am reassured by all the pretty pie charts above that the Jericho Prize is fast becoming an important launchpad for emerging Black-British writers with a serious desire to create inclusive books for young children. That said, only nine writers returned from the 2021 cohort which is lower than expected but, hopefully, this is because some have been offered new writer development opportunities. I know of at least nine Jericho Prize 2021 longlisted writers who have gone on to find literary agents, are working with mentors or have been shortlisted for other competitions, plus a couple who have even secured publishing contracts. Approximately 10 of the writers who either attended our free Scholastic UK picture book workshops/author talks or our monthly reading group submitted scripts – most of the 105 submissions were from complete newcomers.
This year's award focuses entirely on picture book scripts, a very special format that presents stories in a unique way, quite different to chapter books or novels. In great picture books (apart from wordless picture books) the text and images are more equally weighted, dovetailing to convey a story, often in a layered way, for the reader.
The best picture book stories are like theatre primarily because, like plays, they are designed to be read out loud and have cracking plots with lines delivered by characters and narrators (actors), but all conveyed concisely, in 32 pages, rather than a two-hour stage play. There are other similarities too. The front and back endpapers of a picture book are like a theatre backdrop (curtain-up/curtain-down). The single or double-page spreads are like stage scenes and, instead of set design with backgrounds and props, picture books have page design (layouts) and scene-setting illustrations. All the drama of a stage play can be found in a picture book, through more than just the characters’ actions. It can come from suspense-filled page turns or surprising wordless pages; variation in pace or line length; or climactic central spreads. Even more deliciously, drama can often be found in the intriguing contradictions between what the text says and what the pictures reveal to the audience.
The Jericho Prize is looking for writers who not only demonstrate potential to write these captivating pieces of mini-theatre but who also have some market awareness, crafting stories that, with development, 21st-century children will want to read time and time again.
Writers who are willing to improve their craft by reading current picture books; who are non-precious about their text; who are flexible and imaginative in their thinking; who consciously leave space for the illustrator when writing; who understand that picture book magic happens between the writer and illustrator — these are the people we are looking for as they are likely to become the best picture book writers of the future.
We are looking forward to reading all 105 submissions with the above considerations in mind. More updates soon!
The Yoto Carnegie 2023 nominations announced!
The annual Yoto Carnegie 2023 nominations have just been announced and it's an exciting, diverse selection of books and creatives this year! It is particularly brilliant to see so many Black creatives on the lists including Dean Atta, Natasha Bowen, Yaba Badoe, John Agard, Alex Wheatle and Dapo Adeola. Click on the links below to view the nominees for both categories:
Yoto Carnegie 2023 nominated titled for writing
Yoto Carnegie 2023 nominated titles for illustration
Formerly known as the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the Yoto Carnegies is the longest-running and most-loved children’s book awards in the UK.
Run nationally, including a wonderful shadowing scheme for schools and libraries, it offers two main awards for outstanding work in writing and illustration in books for children and young adults.
Last year's winner for illustration was Danica Novgorodoff with a graphic-novel edition of Jason Reynold’s 2019 Carnegie-shortlisted title, Long Way Down (Faber).
Image: Tom Pilston
For writing, Katya Baylen (above), won with her exquisite middle-grade novel October October (Bloomsbury). She also won the Shadower's Choice Award so it was a double celebration for her!
The winner of the shadower's choice award for illustration was Mariachiara Di Giorgio for her glorious wordless picture book Midnight Fair, which is on our Jericho Prize picture book reading list.
The 2023 longlist will be announced on the 15 February so watch out for that!
Reflections from Jericho Prize 21 shortlisting judge: Emma Norry
The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) ‘Reflecting Realities’ report on diversity in UK children’s publishing came out in November 2020 and, at the time, publishing seemed a discouraging space for Black-British writers. But then, in May 2021, I became aware of the Jericho Prize, set up to specifically encourage Black-British writers. What a fantastic and necessary initiative! When Fabia approached me to create a five-minute video for their website, encouraging authors to enter their writing contest, I jumped at the chance.
I loved that the award was so inclusive by being free to enter. Keeping it free definitely helps to make the contest accessible. The Jericho Prize is also open to self-published writers. Sometimes the industry can seem like a closed, almost impenetrable, shop if you aren’t from a creative or publishing background, but the last few years have proved that self-publishing can be an amazing way to reach an audience on your own terms as successful, popular writers Tọlá Okogwu and Kandace Chimbiri have proved!
I asked if there was any other way I could be involved with the Jericho Prize, apart from creating video content. In the end, I helped with the shortlisting judging stage of the Chapter Book category. I wanted to show my support – I honestly don’t know how Fabia does it all – she’s a powerhouse!
I really enjoyed the judging process. It was wonderful to see the wealth of talent that’s out there now. In each script I was specifically looking for a strong hook and a voice which carried me along. I also wanted to see a strong sense of cultural identity, so that our Black-British children, who perhaps might read these stories one day, would recognise themselves and their cultures on the page. The entries did not disappoint!
I’m not a picture book writer and so didn’t feel qualified to help with judging this year, but I’d say that all good stories – whether in a picture book or chapter book – will have elements in common. We need characters that we care about and can root for.
Our youngest readers need to see themselves reflected in the books available and what better way to begin than with those first books we all love to share together? I’m so excited to see the Jericho Prize grow and can’t wait to see the winner pair up with Scholastic UK this year!
Review: The Book of Legends by Lenny Henry, illustrated by Keenon Ferrell
“An effortlessly witty delight that transports readers to a new world.”
By Tennille Rolingson
From the moment I picked it up to the moment I set it down, one thing remained ingrained in my mind: this is the book I wish I’d had growing up.
Lenny Henry has successfully offered middle grade readers, particularly Black kids, an insight into a world that previously seemed inaccessible.
The thoughtfulness put into making the story relatable to Black-British children is evident from the fictional setting in the diverse South Midlands town of Ruthvale, to the descriptions of the homemade jollof rice and stew. It’s deliberate and relatable without trying too hard.
A newcomer to children’s fiction having only previously written The Boy with Wings (Macmillan Children’s, 2021), Henry quickly gains his balance within the first few chapters establishing loveable characters, twelve-year-old twins Bran and Fran. From here onwards, all the unique characters hold their own weight within the story.
As the story gains momentum, we find ourselves navigating an exciting adventure, alongside the twins, in an imaginary realm created by their storyteller-mother Effiya. This other world, the Nine Dominions, is filled with wonderfully eccentric characters, from the wicked ‘handsome’ prince to the talkative Zebracorn, ensuring there is never a dull moment.
The fantasy of the Nine Dominions directly contrasts with their real world which is temporarily in shambles. However, more than a means to escape, the twins’ journey into this world is one of discovery. In fact, it’s the key to solving all their problems (and finding their mum).
Henry’s charming wit comes through masterfully on every page, his inner child fully in tune with young readers. It’s fair to say that The Book of Legends is filled with magic and Henry has certainly earned his status as a ‘comedy legend’. It’s also telling how his words speak to those who tend to get lost in their imagination. In a way he is telling us it’s okay to do so, once in a while, and as someone who tends to drift off ‘to another planet’, I rather enjoyed that concept.
At the same time, Henry tackles difficult real-life situations in digestible bitesize scenes which aren’t too forceful for their young audience, reminiscent of books by one of my favourite childhood author’s Jacqueline Wilson. To finally see topics such as loneliness and family drama explored by characters that resemble me, brings joy to the little Black girl I once was. From laughing one second, to tearing up the other, this novel left me thoroughly entertained and wanting more.
As the plot reaches its crescendo and all the loose ends are perfectly tied up, you’re struck by how much the twins’ mother’s words hold a lingering power through magic. The Book of Legends is a much-needed book about friendship, family and imagination. It truly is an effortlessly witty delight that transports readers to a different world.
The Book of Legends by Lenny Henry, illustrated by Keenon Ferrell, is out on 13 October!
Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books for sending me a proof copy. (I haven’t commented on Keenon Ferrell’s illustrations, although the few roughs that I saw were brilliant!
Klaus Flugge Prize 2022 Winner announced!
Joseph Namara Hollis has won the Klaus Flugge Prize 2022 with his joyful picture book Pierre's New Hair. Read more here.
Klaus Flugge Prize 22 shortlist is out!
The Klaus Flugge 2022 shortlist has been announced! Click this link to watch a video and learn more from the judges about the six chosen picture books.
Oscar's Book Prize 2022 winner announced!
Chris Haughton has won the 2022 Oscar's Book Prize with his hilarious picture book Maybe... Find out why the book is a winner here by visiting their website.
Update on the Woke Babies 2022 Book Awards
My Dad Is a Grizzly Bear by Swapna Haddow and Dapo Adeola has won the Woke Babies 2022 Picture Book of the Year Award.
Update on the Klaus Flugge Prize 2022
The longlist for the 2022 Klauss Flugge Prize has been announced. Take a look at Judge Mat Tobin's longlistee presentation to find out about the best newcomers in picture book illustration as well as their beautiful books.