Boy Everywhere by A.M. Dassu is the winner of the £2k prize for the Little Rebels Award for Radical Children’s Fiction 2021.
The Little Rebels Award, now in its ninth year, celebrates radical fiction for children aged 0-12. Given on behalf of the Alliance of Radical Booksellers, the award is administered by radical children’s bookseller Letterbox Library and the independent, radical bookshop Housmans. The award recognises children’s books which explore extant political concerns, challenge the status quo, and promote social justice and equality.
Boy Everywhere chronicles the devastating journey taken by Sami and his family from Syria to the UK, exposing the unyielding, cruel, and often dehumanising obstacles refugees face in their flight to sanctuary. Reviewers of the book have recognised the meticulous research undertaken by A.M. Dassu to authentically represent the strife of refugees in this journey with empathy and humanity. Letterbox Library’s online review of the book states that, ‘Publishers submit a number of refugee narratives to Letterbox Library every year but very few manage to communicate the pain and lived trauma of the people making those journeys while also according refugees full humanity, dignity, and agency’. This strength of the novel was also remarked upon by the Little Rebels Award judges, with Shaun Dellenty describing it as a ‘detailed and well researched book on a highly contemporary topic’ and with Darren Chetty saying, ‘It reminds us that imagination is so often grounded in knowledge and in knowing the areas you’re exploring. This book is a book that can actually impact on what comes next in children’s publishing.’
A.M. Dassu was presented with the award by the most recent recipient of the Jhalak Prize, Patrice Lawrence, during a virtual ceremony attended by representatives from all nine shortlisted titles. The panel of guest judges for the 2021 competition consisted of writers and educators Darren Chetty and Shaun Dellenty, the head of children’s book promotion at Booktrust, Emily Drabble, award winning author Patrice Lawrence and Gay’s the Word bookshop manager Jim MacSweeney. In 2020 the award was won by Jane Porter and Maisie Paradise Shearing for their picture book, The Boy Who Loved Everyone.
Speaking about the winning title, the Little Rebels Award judge Emily Drabble referred to the novel’s outstanding ability to shed, ‘a light on injustice and unfairness in our society and…encourage radical thoughts and actions of the next generation to hopefully affect some change’. Judge Darren Chetty also emphasised the novel’s political power and remarked upon the astonishing tenderness and beauty A.M. Dassu writes with, saying, ‘Boy Everywhere is everything that I look for in a Little Rebels book- it’s politically interesting, it’s timely, but first and foremost it’s beautifully written. Often with political books we forget that aspect…that the writing itself needs to sing and it really does in this book’.
The other shortlisted books were:
Agent Asha: Mission Shark Bytes by Sophie Deen, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar (Walker Books)
Brand New Boy by David Almond, illustrated by Marta Altés (Walker Books)
Fearless Fairy Tales by Konnie Huq & James Kay, illustrated by Rikin Parekh (Bonnier)
The Goody by Lauren Child (Orchard Books)
Hope Jones Saves the World by Josh Lacey, illustrated by Beatriz Castro (Andersen Press)
It Isn’t Rude to be Nude by Rosie Haine (Tate Publishing)
A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll (Knights Of)
The Soup Movement by Ben Davis (OUP)
Full details of the award, including the shortlist and prize giving ceremony for previous years, can be found online.