CODE’s Burt Awards Unveils 2017 All- Stars Shortlist

For more than 55 years, CODE, a Canadian based international development organization, has worked in partnership with local organizations to expand literacy in Africa, the Caribbean, and Canada by supporting the professional development of teachers and librarians, by providing children and youth with access to high quality reading materials, and helping to strengthen the local book trade and national publishing capacities.

CODE’s Burt Award is a literary award and readership initiative that recognizes excellence in locally authored literature for young adults aged 12-18. The objective of the prize is to champion literacy, build language skills, and foster the love and habit of reading by ensuring that young people have access to high quality, culturally relevant, and engaging reading materials.

In 2008, CODE established the Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature with the generous support of Canadian philanthropist William (Bill) Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation. First established in Tanzania, the program has since expanded to Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Canada, and the Caribbean.

CODE’s Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature is given annually to three English-language literary works by local authors in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania. Publishers of the winning titles are also awarded a guaranteed purchase of up to 3,000 copies of each title. This guaranteed purchase, combined with a book distribution program, is what makes CODE’s Burt Award unique. It ensures that, in addition to recognizing excellent young adult literature, books are put in the hands of young readers who need them the most, with new titles coming out every year!

In 2017, CODE established the first regional competition in Africa, awarding a grand prize to a book selected from all four counties. This year, the prize is dubbed the ‘All-Stars’ edition because only the first prize winners from CODE’s Burt Awards in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania since 2009 are being considered for the grand prize. 

The new grand prize will be awarded to an outstanding work of English-language, young adult literature by an Ethiopian, Ghanaian, Kenyan, or Tanzanian author, translator and/or illustrator. One title will be named the winner, its creator(s) to receive a prize of $10,000 CAD. A second title will be designated as an “honour book,” its creator(s) to receive a prize of $2,000 CAD. The remaining finalists will each receive a prize of $1,000 CAD. CODE will purchase 3,000 copies of the winning title and 3,000 copies of the honour book for each of the four participating countries, up to 12,000 copies per title. These books will be donated to schools, libraries, community centres, and NGOs. Additionally, the publishers of the winning title and honour book will each receive a grant of $2,000 CAD to support the promotion of their Burt Award titles.

The 2017 All-Stars shortlist is comprised of:

  • Face Under the Sea by William E. Mkufya published by Mangrove Publishers (Tanzania)
  • Aiming for the Summit (sequel to Living in the Shade) by Nahida Esmail published by Mkuki na Nyota (Tanzania)
  • The Step-Monster by Ruby Yayra Goka published by Digibooks Ghana Ltd. (Ghana)
  • The Twelfth Heart by Elizabeth-Irene Baitie published by Kwadwoan Publishing (Ghana)
  • Waiting for the Sun by Elshadai Tesfaye published by CODE-Ethiopia (Ethiopia)

A five-member international jury carefully considered all twenty-two first prize-winning titles from previous national Burt Award competitions when selecting the shortlist. Chair of the jury Mrs. Matilda Amissah-Arthur (librarian and former Second Lady of the Republic of Ghana) said that the jury’s concern was to “…give young adults books they can identify with, learn from, and enjoy even if they do not originate from their country”.

Joining Ms. Amissah-Arthur on the panel is Linda Yohannes (Ethiopian young adult author), Waveney Olembo (Senior Lecturer at the Kenyatta University Literature Department, Kenya), M.M. Mulokozi (Professor of Literature, University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania), and Jacqueline Guest (Canadian Métis young adult writer and Member of the Order of Canada).

At The Storymoja Festival 


On Thursday, September 28, 2017 as part of CODE’s Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature program, the All-Stars shortlisted authors will be on hand at the 2017 Storymoja Festival to present their books. The authors are excited by the opportunity to share their stories with you, the young people they so passionately care about. The authors will form a panel and James Murua will moderate the discussion.

There will be lots of opportunity for you to ask questions and talk with the authors, there will also be prizes and a book signing. We look forward to seeing you there!

The teachers and librarians are not left out! We will have a special session where you can meet the authors, talk about reading clubs and how to engage youth in active reading – and you’ll learn more about the Read with Me campaign.

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