The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award is a prize for radical fiction aimed at children aged 0-12. The 2019 winner was announced at a special ceremony on July 10th.
You can buy all of this year’s shortlisted titles, as well as previous Little Rebels Award shortlistees and winners, from Letterbox Library.
FREEDOM by Catherine Johnson (Scholastic)
There’s no escape – even when you escape. Where can a slave like Nat to run to? Forced to leave his family and move to England with his master, Nat can see only one silver lining. He’s heard that once a slave sets foot on English soil, they’re free. So Nat travels across half the world, from Jamaica to England. But when he arrives, he finds the rumour is false. He’s still a caged bird. Unless he runs… A short, powerful and richly imagined historical novel exposing the UK’s often overlooked participation in the slave trade.
THE GHOSTS & JAMAL by Bridget Blankley (HopeRoad Publishing)
Waking up in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, 13-year-old Jamal tries to piece together what has happened whilst simultaneously trying to evade capture by the attackers. It soon becomes clear that he has been living in a separate outhouse from his family on account of the “bad-spirits” – his epilepsy. In search of the ‘ghosts’ who brought death and destruction to his home, Jamal encounters exploitative adults and misguided attempts at charitable intervention. A powerful book which explores the impact of war on children, and holds up a mirror to violence-driven societies everywhere.
ACROSS THE DIVIDE by Anne Booth (Catnip Publishing)
When a new Army cadets unit opens near her school, Olivia wants to join, causing turmoil both at home and at school. Her ex-army grandfather supports her, but her pacifist mother is ardently opposed. And the students at her school are arguing over the issue too. When her mum is imprisoned for leading a pacifist protest, Olivia is forced to spend time with her dad who lives on Lindisfarne. The island feels far away and detached from the mainland, almost magical. And even William, a young boy she meets there seems different… A nuanced exploration of the legacy and impact of warfare, which shows the importance of independent thought amidst bitter social divisions.
RUNNING ON EMPTY by S.E. Durrant (Nosy Crow)
AJ’s grandfather has always been the one to keep his unusual family together, so when he dies things start to unravel at the edges. AJ is worried about his parents but they don’t really seem to notice. In order to deal with his grief and to keep his anxiety at bay, AJ does what he and his grandfather did best: running. Round and round the Olympic Park, aiming for the cross country trials, running to escape, AJ only seems to be heading ever closer to disaster. A sensitive and powerful story which explores the impact of financial hardship and a poorly functioning welfare system on young people.
THE KING WHO BANNED THE DARK by Emily Haworth-Booth (Pavilion Books)
There was once a little boy who was afraid of the dark. There’s nothing unusual about that. But this little boy was a Prince, and he decided that when he became King, he would do something about the dark. He would ban it.But what happens when nobody can sleep, and the citizens revolt? Will the King face his fears and turn the lights off? A witty picture-book with a lot of contemporary relevance, which skewers government propaganda and the misuse of power.
TOMORROW by Nadine Kaadan (Lantana Publishing)
Yazan no longer goes to the park to play, and he no longer sees his friend who lives next door. Everything around him is changing. His parents sit in front of the television with the news turned up LOUD and Yazan’s little red bike leans forgotten against the wall. Will he ever be able to go outside and play? A beautiful picture-book full of heart, and not without hope, set against the backdrop of the Syrian war.
THE NEW NEIGHBOURS by Sarah McIntyre (David Fickling Books)
When new neighbours move in to the tower block, what will the other residents of Pickle Rye think? They hop, trot and totter down the stairs to share the news throughout the building, and on the way learn just how important it is to leave judgements and prejudices far behind. An irresistibly smart and funny picture-book which satirizes contemporary fears and preconceptions about ‘newcomers’.