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BBA 2018


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The Branford Boase Award for

Winners - Branford Boase Award 2018

Mitch Johnson and editors Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker of Usborne have won the 2018 Branford Boase Award for Kick.

Sharon Cohen and her editor Sarah Lambert have been awarded a Highly Commended for
The Starman and Me
published by Quercus.




Winning author Mitch Johnson with his editors Rebecca Hill (left) and Becky Walker.


“The narrative voice is so strong, we really get inside Budi’s head."

“It brilliantly captures the way the football-crazy child sees the world.”

“A beautifully crafted story.”

“An important book that will build empathy.”

“The jeopardy Budi is in feels very real.”

“It could be the next Wonder, it has a very broad appeal.”

“It illustrates the relationships that football allows boys to form, even in really difficult circumstances.”

As the dramas of the FIFA World Cup play out in Russia, Mitch Johnson and his editors Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker have won the 2018 Branford Boase Award given annually to the author and editor of the outstanding debut novel for children, for Kick, the socially-charged story of a football-obsessed young boy who works in a factory making the boots his heroes wear on the pitch.

Kick tells the story of Budi, a young boy working in a footwear factory in Jakarta. His family are poor and the working conditions in the factory very hard, but Budi remains positive and optimistic, dreaming of life as a professional footballer. Johnson was inspired to write the story when he found a crumpled energy gel sachet in a shoebox between a brand new pair of football boots and began to wonder who had left it there. Later, as he channel-hopped between Match of the Day and a programme protesting the use of sweatshops, the disparity between star footballers and garment workers compelled him to highlight the issue, and he began writing Kick.

On a shortlist that celebrates vibrant new voices and original stories, the Branford Boase Award judges identified completely with Budi and the way Mitch describes his life and hopes for the future.

Last year’s winner, M.G. (Maya) Leonard, a judge for the 2018 award said: “Kick is a skillfully written and perfectly paced. Mitch Johnston has produced a fantastically original debut that champions hope, dogged optimism in the face of adversity, and friendship. This book needs to be on the bookshelf of every school library, not just because it will encourage empathy, but because it’s a great book. Mitch Johnston is definitely one to watch.”

On winning the award Johnson said: “The Branford Boase Award has recognized many of my favourite authors over the years, and so to receive the award myself is a wonderfully surreal experience. Kick is a novel that I came close to abandoning on several occasions, but the thought that kept me going was that perhaps one day my book would get published, and perhaps if it got published someone might read it, and perhaps if someone read it they might question the way things are made. The plight of garment workers is a global issue affecting millions of people, and yet somehow it manages to remain largely out of sight. My hope is that Kick will make this problem more visible, and winning the Branford Boase will undoubtedly encourage more readers to find out about the subject for themselves, and for this I am extremely grateful.

I am very fortunate that Kick found two brilliant editors, Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker, who understood exactly what I was trying to achieve and shared my passion for telling Budi’s story. Their insight, expertise, and sensitivity improved∑Kick∑immeasurably, and I am thrilled that the Branford Boase acknowledges the crucial role they played in making this book a success.

Winning has given me new confidence, and encouraged me to keep writing books that introduce young readers to complex social issues. I am so happy that the judging panel has chosen to champion a book that has hopes and dreams at its heart; I always hoped that one day my writing might be recognized by such a prestigious award, but I never dreamed that it would become a reality.”

Chair of the judges, Julia Eccleshare, children’s director Hay Festival, said, “Kick is an adventure story that connects UK readers with a boy living a completely different and tough life halfway across the world; it is a book full of humour and heart. At a time when many children’s books seem to be looking inward, Mitch Johnson has written a book about a global issue, encouraging children to think about the way the world works, and even how they could effect change. But each of the seven books on our shortlist would be worthy winners of the award and are proof of the talent of children’s writers and editors in 2018.”

Winning editors Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker said: “Every year it's fantastic to discover the range of new talent on the Branford Boase shortlist, and we are hugely proud to see Mitch’s writing rewarded so early in his career. Working with Mitch we have discovered a true craftsman: someone who makes every single sentence matter and creates characters that you take into your heart and soul. We know this is the start of a long and glittering career for Mitch, and are thrilled to have played a part in bringing this book to readers everywhere.”

box1PPOINTThe 2018 winners of the Award were announced on Wednesday 4 July at a ceremony at Walker Books in London. Maya Leonard presented Mitch Johnson with a cheque for £1,000 and Mitch and Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker received a unique, hand-crafted silver-inlaid box.








Sharon Cohen and her editor Sarah Lambert were Highly Commended for The Starman and Me, about a boy who makes friends with a tiny, prehistoric human and tries to help him.

Leonard said: “The Starman and Me is a well told tale grown from the seed of an ingenious idea, and it grabs you on page one. We’re all excited to see what Sharon Cohen writes next.”


“Cleverly uses science and physics in a beautifully constructed narrative.”

“Features engaging characters with emotional resonance and charm.”

“It surprised me throughout”



Highly Commended author Sharon Cohen (right) and her editor Sarah Lambert



BBA winning author Mitch Johnson and his editors Rebecca Hill (left) and Becky Walker with M. G. Leonard (right)

The Author
After graduating from the University of East Anglia with an award-winning first class degree in English Literature with Creative Writing, Mitch Johnson completed Kick, his debut novel for middle grade readers. He now works as a bookseller at Waterstones, Norwich, and writes in his spare time.

The Editors
Rebecca Hill’s first job after reading English Literature at university was in a bookshop. She then worked in International Sales for Dorling Kindersley, and edited ELT textbooks before discovering her true passion for children’s fiction with Usborne. She became Fiction Editorial Director in 2011. In 2017 she was selected for the Bookseller's Rising Stars, an annual list of the UK book industry's up-and-comers and future leaders of the trade. Rebecca was shortlisted for the 2017 Branford Boase Award for Cogheart by Peter Bunzl. Her win completes a remarkable hat-trick for Usborne who also won the 2018 YA Book Prize with After the Fire by Will Hill and the 2018 CILIP Carnegie Medal for Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean.

Becky Walker read English Literature at the University of Durham, and is currently studying for an MA in Modern Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London. She began her career working as a bookseller in the much-loved children's indie bookshop, The Lion & Unicorn, before joining Usborne in 2011.

The Judges
This year the judges are Urmi Merchant of children’s bookshop Pickled Pepper Books; Helen Swinyard, librarian at Heartlands High School and founder of the Haringey Children’s Book Award; author and reviewer Philip Womack; and M.G. (Maya) Leonard, author of Beetle Boy, winner of the 2017 Branford Boase Award. The panel is chaired by Julia Eccleshare, children’s director of the Hay Festival.

The Awards
Founded in 2000 the Branford Boase Award has an impressive record in picking out future stars. Frances Hardinge, winner of the 2015 Costa Book of the Year won the Branford Boase in 2006. Meg Rosoff, recipient of the 2016 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, is also a previous winner, as are Marcus Sedgwick, Mal Peet, Siobhan Dowd and Kevin Brooks. The Branford Boase Award is the only award to recognise the role of the editor in nurturing new talent.

The Award is the joint idea of Julia Eccleshare MBE and Anne Marley MBE. Julia is the director of the Hay Festival children’s programme. Anne was Head of Children’s, Youth & Schools Services for Hampshire Library & Information Service for many years and helped to found Authors Aloud UK, an author booking agency. She has served on many children’s book award panels, including the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards.

Running alongside the Branford Boase Award, the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition encourages writing talent in young people 19 years old and under. Prizes are presented at the BBA ceremony to the winning youngsters.


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