The CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature 2019

Literary award and readership initiative recognizing excellence in Caribbean Young Adult literature

Do you have a great novel, creative non-fiction, or graphic novel for youth ages 12 to 18?

Now in its sixth year, this literary award and readership initiative recognizes excellence in Caribbean-authored literature for young adults, ages 12 through 18. Founded by the Canadian literacy organisation CODE, the Bocas Lit Fest oversees the submission and adjudication process of the Caribbean award. The jury is composed of writers, educators, and literature specialists, and this year a new addition – a young adult reader. With the generous support of the Literary Prizes Foundation based in Canada, the winning title is awarded $10,000 CAD, and two finalists are awarded $2,000 CAD each. Publishers of winning titles are awarded a guaranteed purchase of up to 2,500 copies, which will be donated to schools, libraries, and literacy organizations throughout the region. To date, over 37,000 copies of award-winning YA novels have been distributed throughout the Caribbean to young readers.  

For the 2019 edition of the award, eligible manuscripts and books published between November 1, 2017 and October 31, 2018 were submitted to the Bocas Lit Fest by October 31, 2018

Download the award guidelines for eligibility details or contact us at with queries. 


The 2019 Burt Award Judges

Jury Chairperson

IAN RANDLE, O.D., B.A. (Hons); MSc, LL.D. (Hon) is Chairman of Ian Randle Publishers Limited, the 26-year old company which he founded in 1990, now recognized regionally and internationally as one of the leading publishers of books on and about the Caribbean. Ian Randle has over 45 years experience as a local, regional and international publisher across all genres and at all levels. Active in publishing development, Ian Randle was one of the founders and the first President of the Caribbean Publishers Network (CAPNET) and is the recipient of several awards and accolades for his services to publishing and literature.

I am a novelist and short story writer and sometime poet. I teach creative writing at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine where I am the coordinator of the MFA Creative Writing. I gained a PhD at Lancaster University in creative writing and also taught in the department for over seven years. I moved on to Kurdistan, Northern Iraq and taught at Soran University for four years, developing the curriculum and heading the English department. In addition to university teaching, I have ten years experience working in the community with writing projects. I was co-editor of The Suitcase Book of Love Poems and the anthology Migration Stories. Recent publications include a short story, Streamlining, in Closure Anthology, Peepal Tree, 2016. My debut novel, A House With No Angels will be published by Crocus Press.

Ayesha Gibson-Gill B.A (Theatre Studies), M.A (Arts Management) has been the Cultural Officer for Literary Arts at the National Cultural Foundation Barbados since 2012 where she coordinates and produces literary workshops, competitions, festivals and events.  She conceptualised and artistically produced Word for Word- Night of the Literary Masters, a signal event at CARIFESTA XIII in Barbados along with other literary engagements. She is an arts administrator, artistic director and producer, writer, actor, former radio announcer, sometime vocalist and mother.   


Saajid Hosein is a 21 year old MPhil student of Gender Studies at the University of the West Indies. His passion for books and reading has prompted him to create and run the YouTube channel, Books are my Social Life.

A Dark Iris by Elizabeth J. Jones (Bermuda) Jury summary: “A sophisticated ‘speculative fiction’ story that reveals the realities of adolescence; crushes, family problems, and school. The main character is real and relatable.”
My Fishy Stepmom by Shakirah Bourne (Barbados) Jury summary: “A delightful story that is charmingly funny. With a folktale antagonist, the shenanigans that result as the main character fights to preserve her bonds of family and friendship are heartwarming.”
The Dark of the Sea by Imam Baksh (Guyana) Jury summary: “A compelling page turner, this fantastical adventure story follows the journey of a young man who is rebellious, unimpressed by education and religion, cynical about the future, and obsessed with girls. The humour is dark, the morality complicated, …and the victories bittersweet.”

2017 Winner


The Art of White Roses by Viviana Prado-Núñez (Puerto Rico/USA) — Self-published.

“In 1957 Cuba, in strong, evocative and emotional prose, Prado-Núñez tells the story of a girl discovering truths about her family, and her country, that force her to grow in unexpected ways.” — Burt Award Judges

2017 Finalist

2nd Place
The Beast of Kukuyo by Kevin Jared Hosein (Trinidad & Tobago) – Manuscript

“Hosein’s vivid imagery and descriptive language bring you right into the narrative from the very first. You’re standing alongside Tiki and running next to Rune at the same time, looking for clues in the forest and admiring the beautiful Trinidadian landscape as you move through this adventurous tale.” — Burt Award Judges

2017 Finalist

3rd Place

Waiting for the Bus by Lisa Allen-Agostini (Trinidad & Tobago) – Manuscript.

“This story of a young woman’s journey to “home, home” is a poignant tale for anyone who has ever felt displaced by family, illness or migration, and goes beyond the obvious issues of depression to examine carefully the concepts of home and family.” —  Burt Award Judges

Tamika Gibson serves up a fascinating and stirring debut novel about growing up and accepting who you are, regardless of who your parents may be. Buoyed by the rhythms, heat and lyrical lilt of contemporary Trinidad and Tobago, Dreams Beyond the Shore is a heartwarming story declaring that decisions matter far more than destiny. First place winner of the 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature Published by Blue Banyan Books. Read more here
Florenz Webbe Maxwell takes a little known fact about Caribbean history and weaves an engaging tale that speaks eloquently to the contemporary experience. Girlcott takes you beyond the image of Bermuda as a piece of paradise and charts a narrative of resistance, hope and the importance of fighting for change.  Second place winner of the 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.  Published by Blue Banyan Books. 
A fast-paced adventure set deep in a Caribbean forest with a hero who must risk everything to save the forest and his village. For ages 9 – 12.  Third place winner of the 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature Published by CaribbeanReads. Read more here
Children of the Spider - CoverlrChildren of the Spider by Guyanese writer Imam Baksh is a hearty combination of folklore, myth adventure and sic/fi.  It fits comfortably within dystopian literature as well. This is the story of Magali, who leaves behind her home in another world, Zolpash, as she journeys to Guyana where she meets Joseph, a boy who cannot speak. In many ways this YA West Indian novel is a dystopian takeoff on traditional anancy tales. It has an important message about communication, packaged in a riveting read.  There’s nothing quite like this book.  If you liked Lisa Allen-Agostini’s sci/fi novel The Chalice Project, you’ll love this book.
Gone to Drift CoverGone to Drift by Jamaican writer Diana McCaulay is a beautifully written mystery/ adventure set on the island of Jamaica.  Here, Lloyd, a poor boy from a fishing village, is devastated when he learns that his grandfather is missing at sea.  Everyone wants Lloyd to accept that his beloved grandfather is gone, but Lloyd refuses to give up.  Instead, he enlists the help of a girl who studies dolphins, his best friend Dwight, and a mad man called Slowly to find his grandfather.  This novel addresses the problem of boys growing up without a father. A fast-moving plot, beautiful imagery and compelling characters make this book a winner.
Dancing in the Rain CoverDancing in the Rain by Trinidadian writer Lynn Joseph is a touching story of a 12-year-old girl from the Dominican Republic. Elizabeth’s life changes when a family member dies after terrorists bring down the Twin Towers in New York on 9/11.  Determined to find happiness – even when those around her unhappy – Elizabeth finds new meaning for her life when two boys arrive on the island.  This too is a beautifully written story of faith, friendship, happiness and loss.  It is a special story that transcends Caribbean boundaries and becomes international literature.
All Over Again by A-dZiko Simba Gegele, 1st place winner of the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

All Over Again by Ad-Ziko Simba Gegele, 1st place winner of the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

Musical Youth by Joanne C. Hillhouse, 2nd place winner of the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

Musical Youth by Joanne C. Hillhouse, 2nd place winner of the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis, 3rd place winner of the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis, 3rd place winner of the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

About CODE

If you can read and write, you can learn to do, and be anything. That’s the idea behind CODE. A Canadian NGO with 59 years of experience, CODE advances literacy and learning in Canada and around the world. CODE’s international programs encourage development through education with support to libraries, professional development for teachers, as well as national and local book publishing in over 20 languages.