The shortlist for the 2022 Branford Boase Award is announced today, Thursday 28 April 2022. Founded in 2000 to commemorate author Henrietta Branford and influential Walker Books editor Wendy Boase, the Branford Boase Award is awarded annually to the author of the year’s outstanding debut novel for children. Uniquely, it also honours the editor of the winning title and highlights the importance of the editor in nurturing new talent.
Each year the Branford Boase Award identifies the most talented and exciting new authors for the young, with past winners and shortlisted authors include Meg Rosoff, Muhammad Khan, Philip Reeve, Frances Hardinge, Patrick Ness, M.G. Leonard, and Marcus Sedgwick.
2022 saw a record number of submissions. From a longlist of 24, the judges have chosen eight to shortlist, making this the longest shortlist in the award’s history. As ever, the subject matter is very broad and there are books for readers aged 7 to 17: family dramas, fantasy adventure, science fiction and anarchic comedy.
The shortlist for the 2022 award in full:
Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen, edited by Carmen McCullough and Tricia Lin (Penguin)
Rooted in West African mythology and history, Skin of the Sea is a reimagining of The Little Mermaid. The judges admired its epic scale, successful world-building and dextrous use of myth.
Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths by Maisie Chan, edited by Georgia Murray (Piccadilly Press)
When his grandmother arrives from China it feels like a catastrophe to Danny Chung, but his funny, intelligent Nai Nai turns out to be his best friend. The judges admired the depiction of the inter-generational relationship and felt the author’s love for the story she was telling.
The Upper World by Femi Fadugba, edited by Emma Jones, Stephanie Stein & Asmaa Isse (Penguin) YA
A compelling, ambitious sci-fi thriller set on the streets of South-East London, blending theoretical physics with all-too-human tragedy. The judges admired the way the book flips the traditional urban narrative in a dynamic way, the author’s control of the timeline and recreation of teenage voices.
Grow by Luke Palmer, edited by Penny Thomas (Firefly Press) YA
This challenging novel chronicles the grief of Josh and his mother after his father is killed in a terrorist attack and the attempt to radicalise Josh made by a group of white supremacists. The judges found it powerful, an unflinching exploration of an important subject with a raw sense of newness.
The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr, edited by Zöe Griffiths (Bloomsbury) 9+
Evacuated from London to a Welsh valley Jimmy feels out of place. As hidden secrets emerge, the valley becomes more frightening even than the war. The judges describe this as atmospheric storytelling at its best, a story with an unforgettable sense of place.
Digger and Me by Ros Roberts, edited by Ella Whiddett and Ruth Bennett (Little Tiger) 9+
A warm-hearted story that explores the importance of family, love, friendship and finding ways to communicate emotions and fears. The judges admired the strong emotional punch and noted the impact of its many tiny observations.
Billy Plimpton has a stammer, but he’s determined that it isn’t going to dictate how he is viewed at his new school or stop him achieving his dream of being a stand-up comic. The judges felt that readers absolutely inhabit Billy’s world and admired the touches of detail throughout the story.
Grimwood is a paradise for animals (or so it seems) which offers the perfect protection for young fox, Ted, and his protective sister, Nancy when they are forced to flee the city by mobster cat, Princess Buttons. The judges were impressed by the anarchic, irreverent, disrespectful tone, and it made them laugh out loud.
This year’s judges are Struan Murray, author and winner of the 2021 Branford Boase Award; critic Imogen Russell Williams; Farrah Serroukh, Research and Development Director CLPE; and Sonia Thompson, Head Teacher at St Matthew’s C.E. Primary School, Birmingham. The judging panel is chaired by Julia Eccleshare, children’s director of the Hay Festival.
Julia Eccleshare, co-founder of award and chair of the judges says, ‘Each year we are impressed by the quality of new voices and the skilful work done by editors to nurture them. Now in its 23rd year, the Branford Boase Award has become a touchstone for the world of children’s books, identifying not just the most talented and promising new authors but the direction of writing for children. No wonder the 2022 shortlist is longer than any previous year: it reflects a moment of noticeable change in the types of stories being told. The authorial ambition demonstrated in these eight books is inspiring as it reflects the writers’ understanding of the needs of today’s readers; their confidence in those readers’ willingness to read outside their own experiences is exhilarating.’
The winner of the Branford Boase Award will be announced at a ceremony in central London on Thursday 14 July 2022. The winning author receives a cheque for £1,000 and both author and editor receive an inscribed plaque.
The Branford Boase Award is sponsored by Walker Books.
Last year’s winners were Struan Murray and his editor Ben Horslen with Orphans of the Tide (Puffin).