CODE’s Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature

OTTAWA, CANADA – SEPTEMBER 7, 2017. In celebration of International Literacy Day, CODE is delighted to announce its Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature shortlist. This first regional competition is dubbed the All-Stars edition because all of the first prize winners of CODE’s Burt Award in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania since 2009 are being considered for this grand prize.

The 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)

Book covers

A five-member international jury carefully considered all twenty-two first prize-winning titles from previous national Burt Award competitions when selecting the All-Stars 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 is to “… give young adults books they can identify with, learn from, and enjoy even if they do not originate from their country.” Other members of the jury were Linda Yohannes (Ethiopian 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).

“Reflecting on the Burt Award program over the past nine years, we see the demand for high quality, informative, and entertaining young adult literature growing as fast as the population itself. Africa, more than any other, is a continent of youth and young people are hungry for new opportunities to learn and to expand their options for the future. Developing the love and habit of reading not only advances foundational language and literacy skills, it enhances the cognitive skills that today’s employers demand -- critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and communication,” shared Scott Walter, CODE's Executive Director.

“Working alongside our partners to support the writing, publishing, and distribution of young adult literature in  African countries, we see how our collective efforts to rewrite the story for global literacy are taking hold, and we’re very excited to see how the top winners from each national Burt Award competition will fare in this All-Stars competition. Authors and publishers whose titles made it to the shortlist should be very proud of their achievement – the competition was stiff. We look forward to the distribution of the winning title and the honour book and I have no doubt a great many young people are going to fall in love with the written word and the art of storytelling as a result,” added Mr. Walter.

One All-Stars winning title and one honour book will be announced at an award ceremony on September 29, 2017, hosted by the National Book Development Council of Kenya (NBDCK) as part of the Nairobi International Book Fair week. The winning author will receive a cash prize of $10,000 CAD and the honour book author will receive $2,000 CAD. Up to three finalists will each receive a cash prize of $1,000 CAD. CODE will make a guaranteed purchase of 12,000 copies each of the winner and honour book and the respective publishers will each receive a $2,000 CAD grant to support the promotion of these titles. The books will be distributed to schools, libraries, community centres, and NGOs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania.

To celebrate their achievements, CODE, together with NBDCK, has organized a series of literary events in Nairobi, Kenya for the shortlisted authors. On September 28, the authors will engage secondary school students, librarians, and teachers in a panel discussion and Q&A at the Storymoja Festival ( On September 29, they will be at the front and centre of CODE’s “Read With Me” campaign event at the Nairobi International Book Fair grounds.

About CODE and the Burt Award

CODE is Canada's leading international development organization uniquely focused on advancing literacy and education globally. By establishing and igniting engaging learning environments through the development and publishing of locally-authored and designed children books, training teachers and teacher-librarians, resourcing libraries and distributing high-quality reading materials, CODE focuses on inspiring young people to improve their literacy and comprehension so that they become critical thinkers and life-long learners.

Administered by CODE and made possible by the generosity of William (Bill) Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation, CODE’s Burt Award recognizes excellence in young adult literature, addresses an ongoing shortage of relevant, high quality books for young readers, and promotes a love of reading and learning at the upper primary and secondary school levels. Established in Tanzania in 2008, the program has since expanded to Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Canada, and the Caribbean.

For more information contact:

Claire Bolton
Program Officer, Literary Awards 
1-800-661-2633 or 613-232-3569 ext. 233


Friday, September 8, 2017
News Type: 
Burt Award News
In the News
Press Release