…Leopold Blue by Rosie Rowell, edited by Emily Thomas, published by Hot Key Books.
This is the 16th year of the Branford Boase Award, which has an extremely successful record in picking out future stars. Previous winning and shortlisted writers include Marcus Sedgwick, Philip Reeve, William Nicholson and Annabel Pitcher, as well as Carnegie Medal winners Frank Cottrell Boyce, Siobhan Dowd, Mal Peet, Patrick Ness, Meg Rosoff and Kevin Brooks.
Set in South Africa in 1993 in a small backwater town, Leopold Blue tells the story of fifteen year old Meg as her personal tribulations play out against a backdrop of political change. Meg feels stifled by Leopold, resents her mother whose efforts to raise awareness of Aids amongst the local farm workers have made the family outsiders, and is jealous too of her childhood friend Simon, son of the family’s black housekeeper and about to leave for university. A friendship with the new girl at school, the cool and sophisticated Xanthe, doesn’t bring the new possibilities it promises, but helps Meg see her world differently.
Chair of the judges, children’s literature expert and children’s books editor of The Guardian Julia Eccleshare said, “New children’s authors are flourishing in the UK as publishers invest in this growing market. This year’s Branford Boase shortlist was very strong indeed and a number of books on the list have already appeared on shortlists for other prestigious awards. However, in Leopold Blue the judges have found a work of originality, power and intelligence that seems surprisingly to have escaped the notice it deserves. The characters and setting are brilliantly observed and described, and all readers will recognise something of themselves in Meg. The background gives it particular depth and it transcends the coming-of-age genre. We are delighted to name Leopold Blue as the outstanding debut of 2015.”