Bocas Lit Fest

Kereen Getten, Carol Mitchell and Janet Morrison are now contenders for our first Bocas Lit Fest Children’s Book Prize! The winning author will receive a cash prize of US$1,000 from the Unit Trust Corporation (UTC).

The prize judges — Joan Osborne, storyteller and retired deputy executive director at NALIS; Olive Senior, writer and Poet Laureate of Jamaica; and Johnny Temple, publisher and editor-in-chief at Akashic Books — were joined by 14-year-old Clarisse Lee-Sing, who added her youthful perspective to the deliberation process for the shortlist.

This prize aims to address a noticeable dearth in Caribbean books for young independent readers aged 7 -12, and was open to books written by Caribbean-born or naturalised authors. The shortlisted writers represent various Caribbean islands and publishing interests, but all have books that are engaging, emotionally and culturally relevant, and engender a love of storytelling in children.

When Life Gives You Mangoes, Kereen Getten’s debut novel, is based on the author’s own childhood in Jamaica, and was described by the judges as a “heartwarming read…taking you through a wide range of emotions – joy, excitement, sadness, apprehension, surprise and happiness.”

Carol Mitchell’s Chaos in Castries is the fifth instalment in her Caribbean Adventure Series, and transports readers to St Lucia for the Jounen Kwéyòl festival in the 1920s, presenting “a historically illuminating tale wrapped up in an engaging and adventurous narrative of beauty and resistance,” as cited by the judges.

A Different Me, A Better You, Janet Morrison’s celebration of inclusivity, is a collection of stories about differently-abled children, and has been making waves in her native Jamaica. The judges effused that “Morrison’s gift is to teach valuable lessons without seeming to, by presenting in a seamless way, highly-engaging stories of challenges that are met and overcome by the determined and formidable protagonists.”

This prize aims to support the development of excellent books for Caribbean children, ages 7 to 12, and to encourage a lifelong love of reading as they transition into independent reading. These were also reasons for including a young reader on the judging panel. At 14, Lee-Sing, a home-schooled avid reader, brought to the judging table a keen awareness of current issues of concern to today’s Caribbean children, their reading tastes, and how they engage with books. She read and reviewed the six books which were previously announced on the prize longlist in early October.

Expressing her appreciation for being part of the inaugural Prize’s judges line-up, Lee-Sing said that the books were a source of inspiration to her: “The books were longer than I expected, but I enjoyed reading most of them. Some were a real joy to read for me. This was an interesting experience, and I learned a lot about writing. I never thought I could write a book, but maybe now I might.”

The winner will be announced at the end of November!

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