Patrice Lawrence is the winner of the 2023 Little Rebels Award for Radical Children’s Fiction for her book Needle, published by Barrington Stoke.
Needle tells the story of Charlene Yewless, a young, looked after, teenager who gets caught up in the criminal justice system through a single, grief-driven, act. Charlene’s journey spotlights a range of urgent social justice issues including the treatment of young people by the UK’s welfare and legal institutions and the ‘adultification’ of Black girls.
Little Rebels Award Judge, Jake Hope, described Needle as ‘A masterpiece of control. The prose feels very tactile and sensory. And, it’s very timely in terms of ageing up and Child Q.’ His fellow judge Farrah Serroukh of CLPE said that Needle offers ‘a really important representation of a child in care and the complex challenges of being part of the British care system.’ She praises Patrice Lawrence’s ‘exceptional skill in conveying the vulnerability of the main character and nuances of her character and the wider cast, resulting in a heart breaking insight into the ways in which children in care are often so poorly let down’.
Patrice Lawrence receives £2k prize money plus £250 through the new, annual, Gill Lewis Award, a sum which was matched this year by the 2022 Little Rebels Award Winner, Sarah Hagger-Holt. The £500 additional money will be donated by Lawrence to a charity of her choice (which is also in keeping with the ethos of the award.)
The winner announcement was made at the Little Rebels Award Ceremony, held at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. It followed a panel discussion on creating political fiction and distilling ‘big ideas’ for children, chaired by Jake Hope, attended by most of this year’s shortlistees including Annemarie Anang, Lisette Auton, Az Dassu, Elys Dolan, Natelle Quek, Varsha Shah- and Patrice Lawrence.
This is the 11th year of the Little Rebels Award. The award 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 online bookseller, Letterbox Library and radical bookshop, Housmans. It recognises children’s books which explore political ideas, challenge the status quo, or promote social justice, social equality and a more peaceful and fairer world.
The 2023 Little Rebels Award Judges were: Gay’s the Word bookshop manager, Jim MacSweeney; author-illustrator (and former award shortlistee), Emily Haworth-Booth; reading development and children’s book consultant, Jake Hope; Research and Development Director at the Centre for Literature in Primary Education (CLPE), Farrah Serroukh.
The shortlist in full:
Ajay and the Mumbai Sun by Varsha Shah (Chicken House Books)
Fight Back by A. M. Dassu (Scholastic)
I Am Nefertiti by Annemarie Anang and Natelle Quek (Five Quills)
Mayor Bunny’s Chocolate Town by Elys Dolan (Oxford University Press)
The Secret of Haven Point by Lisette Auton (Puffin Books)
You Need to Chill! by Juno Dawson and Laura Hughes (Farshore)