4 authors vie for Bocas Children’s Book Prize

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I Write Rhymes by Nadine Johnson – Image courtesy Bocas Lit Fest

Three authors from Trinidad and Tobago and one Jamaican are now vying for the 2022 Bocas Children’s Book Prize. The winner, who will be named at the end of November, will receive a cash prize of US$1,000 courtesy of the Wainwright family.

The Bocas Lit Fest Children’s Book Prize seeks to recognize and celebrate excellent writing and intriguing storytelling done in a way that captures young imaginations and helps establish a lifelong love and habit of reading in young Caribbean people.

The Whisperer’s Warning by Danielle YC McClean – Image courtesy Bocas Lit Fest

It is awarded annually to one outstanding English-language children’s book for young independent readers, written by a Caribbean author.

Bocas Lit Fest in a release said, “The shortlisted authors’ books are the ones that most inspire young readers to love reading and storytelling while addressing contemporary issues and some of the unsettling experiences in children’s lives.”

Zo and the Forest of Secrets by Alake Pilgrim – Image courtesy Bocas Lit Fest

This year’s international panel of judges, comprising writers and literature experts is chaired by retired executive director of Nalis, Joan Osbourne.

Osbourne was joined by Jose Franco, the young reader and putative writer who won the 2020 Dragonzilla’s Short Story Writing Challenge with his piece The Big Fight.

The judges had high praises for this year’s entries. Imam Baksh commented, “The submitted entries cover a wide spread of genre, age suitability and polish… and exhibited flair and serious thought.”

Selected are Alake Pilgrim’s Zo and the Forest of Secrets. It was described by Bocas as “a thrilling Caribbean island adventure with a futuristic twist, suitable for readers aged nine and over.”

The Land Below by Aarti Gosine – Image courtesy Bocas Lit Fest

A Whisperer’s Warning by Danielle YC Mc Clean in which the main character searches for his birth parents and Aarti Gosine’s The Land Below, which draws the reader into a realm of two converging worlds and the possibility of peace or destruction are two other works of children’s literature from TT up for the prize.

Joining the TT-based trio is Jamaican author Nadine Johnson. Her book I Write Rhymes is a story of a young boy who chooses to write poetry to build his confidence. In the story, his poetry writing helps him process and cope with difficult encounters such as racism and microaggression.

Janet Smyth said, “This reading age is one of the most challenging to write for, as ensuring suitability of vocabulary, plot complexity with engaging and relatable characters is a fine balance.”

She said a number of the stories weave Caribbean myth and legend into contemporary tales – using local words and dialect to bring to life the unique voice of the locale.

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