Bocas Lit Fest

From 2013 to 2019, the generosity of the Literary Prizes Foundation and Mr. Bill Burt provided an extraordinary opportunity to make a significant and long-lasting impact on the quality and quantity of young adult books available to readers and educators across the Caribbean. This unique literary award programme inspired Caribbean writers to create fantastic stories; supported publishers to build young adult literature into their lists; gave fantastic resources to teachers and librarians; and young readers now have access to more books than ever before.

We want to sincerely thank all those who contributed their time and efforts to ensuring the success of this programme, especially our dedicated partner CODE, a Canadian NGO whose international programmes encourage development through education around the world.

About the Award 

The CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature, established by CODE in partnership with the Bocas Lit Fest, recognised excellent, engaging and culturally-relevant literature for an underserved readership (12 to 18 years old) in the Caribbean. It was awarded annually to three English language literary works for young adults written by Caribbean authors.

The winning book or manuscript received a cash prize of $10,000 CAD, and there were two prizes of $2,000.00 CAD for each finalist. Most significantly, the Bocas Lit Fest facilitated publishing deals with eligible regional publishers for winning manuscripts, and the award sponsor CODE guaranteed purchase of up to 2,500 copies of each book. Copies purchased by CODE were donated to select libraries, schools and literacy organisations for distribution throughout the region. Since 2014, more than 40,000 copies of the winning books have been distributed across eleven Caribbean countries as part of the Burt Award programme.

Daylight Come

By Diana McCaulay

Published By Peepal Tree Press

2019 Finalist

Jury Summary: "McCaulay tackles themes and issues of current environmental change in ways that do not make the reader feel like a geography or sociological lesson. Educational, compelling and engaging."

Off Track

By Tamika Gibson

Published By Blue Banyan Books

2019 Finalist

Jury Summary: "Wonderfully realized characters with complex lives inhabit this haunting story involving themes of poverty, violence, class, corruption and young love, by the winner of the 2016 Burt Award (Dreams Beyond the Shore)."

The Unmarked Girl

By Jeanelle Frontin

Published By Mark Made Group Ltd

2019 Winner

Jury Summary: "Yara is a compelling protagonist, making us all want the answer to her lifelong question of who and what she is. The author leaves her readers guessing but with a promise to reveal more in one or more forthcoming sequels. Instantly gripping, readable and fun."

My Fishy Stepmom

By Shakirah Bourne

Published By Blouse & Skirt Books

2018 Finalist

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

Published By Blouse & Skirt Books

2018 Winner

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."

A Dark Iris

By Elizabeth J. Jones

Published By Blouse & Skirt Books

2018 Finalist

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."

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 over 60 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. Find out more at code.ngo.

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