Powerful Refugee Story wins new award for radical children’s fiction

azziToday the Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB) announced that the winner of the inaugural Little Rebels Children’s Book Award is Sarah Garland for her book, Azzi In Between (Frances Lincoln).

Commenting on today’s announcement, guest judge and children’s author Elizabeth Laird said, “Azzi tells a simple and powerful story, one with which we should all be tragically familiar, with a text and pictures that are rich, appealing and satisfyingly detailed”. Booktrust founder and guest judge Wendy Cooling added, “The graphic novel style gives it freshness and immediacy. The text and illustration work together brilliantly as they invite children to enjoy the story and to think about the lives of other children”.

In a marked departure for the author, best known for her warm narratives of family life, Azzi In Between is in a graphic format and tells the powerful story of a family forced to flee their homeland and settle in a strange and unfamiliar country. The book is based on the author’s own experience of working among refugee families and is endorsed by Amnesty International. Kate Kellaway of The Observer described Azzi In Between as “a masterpiece”. Fen Coles, director of Letterbox Library who administered the award, said, “At a time when there are so many damaging myths circulating about refugees and asylum seekers, it is heartening to see a book which tells the truth- and in a way which children can relate to”.

The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award winner was announced today at the first London Radical Bookfair, convened by the ARB and held in Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London. Wendy Cooling, Booktrust founder and guest judge, presented Sarah Garland with a cheque and a framed picture created by Guardian cartoonist, Ros Asquith.

Earlier in the day, Wendy Cooling chaired a discussion on ‘progressive children’s writing’ with two of the shortlisted authors, Sarah Garland and Jeanne Willis. Elizabeth Laird described Willis’ shortlisted book, Wild Child (Walker) as “a truly radical work, celebrating freedom and originality on every page”. The two other shortlisted titles were John Boyne’s The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket (Corgi Children/Random House UK) and Yokococo’s Hans and Matilda (Templar Publishing).

The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award is a new award given by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers and administered by specialist children’s booksellers, Letterbox Library. The award recognises children’s fiction for readers aged 0-12 which promote social justice and is the brainchild of Nik Gorecki, Housmans Bookshop; speaking about the award, Nik said, “The Alliance of Radical Booksellers is working hard to promote radical publishing and children’s books are an important element of that. There’s still lots of plans in the pipeline for the future and next year we hope to introduce a category for teen readers”. The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award is run parallel to the ARB’s award for radical non-fiction for adults; guest judges for the adult award include Nina Power and former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone.

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