The 2016 Shortlist

THE 2016 SHORTLIST *with comments by The Little Rebels Award Judges

(For books published in 2015). Any of the shortlisted titles can be bought from the not-for-profit indie booksellers Letterbox Library. This award is run voluntarily and unfunded by Letterbox Library on behalf of the Alliance of Radical Booksellers. To keep this award (and the sister, adult, award Bread & Roses) running, we do ask you to buy from Letterbox Library or from other members of the Alliance of Radical Booksellers wherever possible. Thank you.

Ages given are for guidance only. In alphabetical order:



 The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne

(Doubleday/Penguin Random House UK)

It’s a hat trick for John Boyne- this is his 3rd time on the Little Rebels shortlist, following on from the shortlistings of The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket in 2013 and Stay Where You Are and Then Leave in 2014. In his latest exploration of the cruelties of war, Boyne introduces a boy called Pierrot, orphaned at a young age, who ends up in Hitler’s Austrian house in the mountains, the Berghof. Pierrot starts out as a kind, sensitive child who loathes bullying and shares a magical friendship with a Jewish boy, Anshel (who is also deaf). But then gradually, over the years at Berghof we see Pierrot become Pieter, slowly but surely infected by Nazi ideology, prejudice, and racism- and by the trappings of power. A study of corruption and atonement.

Kim: “John Boyne returns to the Holocaust setting of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. This is the story of Pierrot, who is transported from his happy life in France, leaving behind his dog and his Jewish best friend, to live with his aunt, Hitler’s housekeeper. It maps the changes in Pierrot as he absorbs the attitudes of the Nazi leader, who takes a special interest in the boy”.

Ages 11+ Buy your copy here.


Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis

(Oxford University Press)

Gill Lewis was named winner of the Little Rebels Award in 2015 for Scarlet Ibis and this is now the 3rd time Gill Lewis has been shortlisted (see also Moon Bear)! This is classic Lewis- the interweaving of separate animal and human stories to expose issues around social justice. Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this story explores how the farming of a mineral needed for mobile phones is destroying the gorilla’s natural habitat. Linked to this is the story of two children, Imara and Bob, who are held by a group of rebel soldiers. Fundamentally a story about exploitation (by both rebel soldiers and Western companies)- of children, of animals- for profit.

Catherine: “This is a brilliantly written and important book that tells the story of Imara, a young girl abducted by a militia in the jungle of the Eastern Congo and forced to act as their ‘spirit child’ and Boboto, the young son of a Forest ranger as well as an orphaned gorilla baby.  A meaty yet accessible read that deserves to be very widely read”.

Ages 11+ Buy your copy here.


I’m A Girl! by Yasmeen Ismail

(Bloomsbury Books)

An energetic picture book which takes on gender stereotypes and smashes them to smithereens. Meet a girl who is competitive, noisy, brainy, speedy, messy and, who is consequently… repeatedly mistaken for a boy. Puts paid to all of those tiresome ‘boys are…’ ‘girls are…’ opening lines.

Catherine: “Yasmeen Ismail has created a visually stunning and hugely colourful book. Her effervescent lead character jumps and sings and runs and thoroughly enjoys some of the many different ways to be a girl”.

Age 4-7 Buy your copy here.


I Am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon; illustrated by Viviane Schwarz

(Walker Books)

The finches exist as an undifferentiated flock, going through each day together, doing the same thing, at the same pace. And then…one night, one particular finch, Henry Finch, has a thought. And he hears it. And he knows himself to be Henry Finch. And, therefore, also capable of greatness… A highly original philosophical book for the very young, addressing individualism, bravery, finding your way and, even, existentialism.

Wendy: “An exceptional picture book, deceptively simple yet doing a big thing: introducing the power of ideas and thought to the youngest of children. This is philosophy for beginners. Extraordinarily creative artwork”.

Age 6-11 Buy your copy here.


The Little Bookshop and the Origami Army! by Michael Foreman

(Andersen Press)

Superhero Origami Girl is back and this time she is on a mission to save a local bookshop. Foreman delivers us all of the defining ingredients of a ‘radical’ children’s book; this could have been written for the Little Rebels Award with its themes of: capitalism threatening a local community and independent businesses, the complacency of governments in the face of large corporations, the possibilities of people power and local community action.

The beautiful artwork in this book will draw in adults and children to a thought-provoking narrative about the power of stories to change the world.

Liz: “The beautiful artwork in this book will draw in adults and children to a thought-provoking narrative about the power of stories to change the world”.

Age 4-7 Buy your copy here.


Uncle Gobb and the Dread Shed by Michael Rosen; illustrated by Neal Layton

(Bloomsbury Books)

As the back cover reads, “A completely bonkers book that is not linked to Gobb Education at all”. Malcolm is a sensible 10-year-old full of sensible questions. Which leads to one or two clashes with Uncle Gobb, Uncle Gobb’s world views and his dreaded shed.  Two artists known for their comic touch combine forces to deliver an anarchic story which exposes and shames, hilariously, many aspects of contemporary culture but, in particular, recent educational policies. All done so in a way which nods knowingly to both adults and children.

Kim: “Uncle Gobb and the Dread Shed combines former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen’s brilliant ability to wrap up pithy observations in  screwball humour with illustrator Neal Layton’s  energetic, comics-inspired drawings. Beneath the jokes and digressions are some pointed remarks about the education system, those who delight in power for its own sake and the importance of thinking originally”.

Age 7-10 Buy your copy here.












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