CODE’s Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

CODE's Burt Award for Caribbean Literature recognizes outstanding writing for young adults by Caribbean authors

About the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

The 2017 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature is now closed for submissions

Click here to download the Award guidelines and entry form.

The Burt Award for Caribbean Literature is an annual Award that will be given to three English-language literary works for young adults (aged 12 through 18) written by Caribbean authors. Established by CODE – a Canadian charitable organization that has been supporting literacy and learning for over 50 years – with the generous support of the Literary Prizes Foundation and in partnership with the Bocas Lit Fest, the Award aims to provide engaging and culturally-relevant books for young people across the Caribbean.

The intent of the prize is to champion literacy, build language skills and foster the love and habit of reading amongst youth and young adults. 

Up to three prizes will be awarded each year to the authors of the winning titles: a First Prize of $10,000 CAD, a Second Prize of $7,000 CAD and a Third Prize of $5,000 CAD. Publishers of winning titles will be awarded a guaranteed purchase of up to 2,000 copies (only publishers registered and operating in the Caribbean are eligible). Copies purchased by the program are donated to select libraries, schools and literacy organizations for distribution throughout the region.

Published books, previously self-published books, and unpublished manuscripts are eligible for the award. Books published between 1 November 2015 and 31 October 2016 and eligible manuscripts must be received at the office of the Bocas Lit Fest by 31 October 2016.


Debut novelist Tamika Gibson wins CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature!

Tamika Gibson received the first prize of $10,000 CAD for her first novel, De First Family. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Gibson now lives in the US Virgin Islands. Florenz Webbe Maxwell of Bermuda won the second prize of $7000 CAD for Girlcott, and Danielle Y.C. McClean of Trinidad and Tobago, now based in Tennessee, took home the $5000 CAD third prize for The Protector’s Pledge.

De First Family and Girlcott are unpublished manuscripts, and The Protector’s Pledge was self-published. CODE will facilitate the publication of all three novels by connecting the authors with Caribbean publishers, and will also purchase up to 6000 copies of the winning titles and donate them to schools, libraries and community organizations across the region.

The 2016 shortlisted titles, selected from among 60 submissions of published books and unpublished manuscripts, are:

  • The Demise of the Queen’s College Adventure Club by Imam Baksh, Guyana (manuscript)
  • De First Family by Tamika Gibson, Trinidad & Tobago (manuscript)
  • The Truth Is by Lynn Joseph, Trinidad & Tobago (manuscript)
  • The Protector’s Pledge by Danielle Y.C. McClean, Trinidad & Tobago (self-published)
  • Barberry Hill by Carol Mitchell, St. Kitts & Nevis (manuscript)
  • Girlcott by Florenz Webbe Maxwell, Bermuda (manuscript)

The 2016 judging panel included Alscess Lewis-Brown (Head Juror), Tracey Baptiste and Daniel Jose Older. 

The 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature Judges

Alscess Lewis-Brown (Chief Judge) is an educator and children’s author from the US Virgin Islands. She is editor-in-chief of The Caribbean Writer, an international literary journal with a Caribbean focus published annually by the University of the Virgin Islands. She has over twenty-five years experience as an adjunct English instructor at the University of the Virgin Islands. She has taught courses in Caribbean Literature, Black American Literature, World Literature, Introduction to the Humanities and English Composition. She has presented academic papers in the area of literature and culture. She has written six books for young readers, including the popular Moko Jumbi Majorette series (published by Little Bell/Campanita Books).

TBaptiste_headshot 2Tracey Baptiste was born in Trinidad. Her debut, a critically-acclaimed Young Adult novel titled Angel’s Grace (Simon & Schuster, 2005) was named one of the 100 best books for reading and sharing by New York City librarians. Her second novel, The Jumbies (Algonquin, 2014), mixes a Haitian folktale with creatures from Trinidadian lore into a high-adventure fairy tale. It was featured in the April 2015 edition of Essence magazine. Tracey has also written several nonfiction books for middle-grade readers, including biographies of some of her favourite authors.

Daniel Jose Older Photo 2Daniel José Older is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and composer. He is the author of the Bone Street Rumba novels, including Half-Resurrection Blues; the ghost noir collection, Salsa Nocturna; and the Young Adult novel SHADOWSHAPER (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015, nominated for the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature). He also co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, and his short stories and essays have appeared in, Salon, BuzzFeed, Gawker, New Haven ReviewPANK, and Strange Horizons. His band Ghost Star gigs regularly around New York and he facilitates workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.


The 2015 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature Winners

The second year of winners of this unique literary award that provides thousands of youth across the Caribbean region each year with access to exciting new titles were announced on May 1st 2015 at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest. 

Imam Baksh received the first prize of $10,000 CAD for his first novel, Children of the Spider, Diana McCaulay, from Jamaica, won the second prize of $7,000 CAD for The Dolphin Catchers (published as Gone to Drift by Papillote Press), while the third prize of $5,000 CAD went to Lynn Joseph of Trinidad and Tobago for Dancing in the Rain.

The Award’s book purchase and distribution program will ensure that a minimum of 2,500 copies of each of the three winning titles will be put into the hands of young people through schools, libraries and community organizations across the Caribbean.

The finalists for CODE’s 2015 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature:

  • Children of the Spider by Imam Baksh, Guyana (manuscript to be published)
  • Putting Up a Resistance by Michael Cozier, Trinidad and Tobago (self-published book)
  • Dancing in the Rain by Lynn Joseph, Trinidad and Tobago (manuscript to be published)
  • Prayer to the Motivator by Kamau Mahakoe, Jamaica (manuscript to be published)
  • The Dolphin Catchers by Diana McCaulay, Jamaica (manuscript to be published)

The finalists were selected by a jury administered by The Bocas Lit Fest and made up of writers, educators, and literacy experts from the Caribbean and Canada. 

Children of the Spider - CoverlrMayali is a fugitive from her home world of Zolpash, which is ruled by the Spider gods and their armies, who now have plans to invade Earth—it’s up to Mayali to thwart them. With dialogue that deftly stays authentic while bridging the worlds of Guyana’s colonial past and its modern state, this story is magical realism at its best. 

The story of a 12-year-old Jamaican boy and his search for his beloved grandfather, a fisherman who is lost at sea. An adventure story about a boy confronted with difficult moral choices, inspiring its readers to choose bravery over cowardice and to follow their hearts.

Dancing in the Rain CoverSet against the dazzling beauty of the Dominican Republic, Dancing in the Rain explores the impact of the tragic fall of the Twin Towers on two Caribbean families. It is a lyrical, well-crafted tale about finding joy in the face of loss.

The Inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean Literature Winners

First Place: All Over Again by A-dZiko Gegele, Jamaica

all over again - cover FAW 05JUN2013


All Over Again is an enchanting slice of boyhood. It is a charming story with a bold narrative style that pulls you in. Rooted in over 30 years of theatre, prose and poetry performance writing, A-dZiko Simba Gegele’s exuberantly humorous debut novel masterfully creates the wonderfully turbulent world of a Jamaican youth on the brink of teenage-hood.

A humourous coming of age story, suitable for both the young and the young at heart

Published by Blouse & Skirt Books.



Second Place: Musical Youth by Joanne Hillhouse, Antigua and Barbuda


Zahara is a loner. She’s brilliant on the guitar but in everyday life she doesn’t really fit in. Then she meets Shaka, himself a musical genius and the first boy who really gets her. They discover that they share a special bond, their passion for music, and Zahara finds herself a part, not just of Shaka’s life, but also that of his boys, the Lion Crew.

When they all get roles in a summer musical, Zahara, Shaka, and the rest of the Lion Crew use the opportunity to work on a secret project. But the Crew gets much more than they bargained for when they uncover a dark secret linking Shaka and Zahara’s families and they’re forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about class, colour, and relationships on the Caribbean island of Antigua.

Published by Caribbean Reads Publishing.


Third Place: Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis, Jamaica

Inner city Girl


Martina does the unthinkable: a poor girl from the inner-city gains entry into one of the most prestigious high schools in the country. Milverton High, situated on a hill with its picturesque surroundings, students from the upper echelons of society and teachers who did not necessarily understand, contrasts with the poverty, hunger and family problems which Martina encounters. She is not about to succumb to ridicule, rejection and poverty. Milverton, here she comes, defying all the odds!


Published by LMH Publishing.


Code logoThe other shortlisted titles are:

  • Island Princess in Brooklyn by Diane Browne, Jamaica (published by Carlong)
  • Barrel Girl by Glynis Guevara, Trinidad and Tobago (manuscript to be published)
  • Abraham’s Treasure by Joanne Skerrett, Dominica (published by Papillote Press)