Category Archives: Literature

The Baobab Prize: An African Literary Award

Just saw this on child_lit and thought I’d pass it on.

August 2009 – This month marks the launch of the second annual Baobab Prize, an international literary award established to encourage the writing of African literature for young readers. Issuing a statement to commemorate the launch of the prize, co-founder and director of the prize Ghanaian Deborah Ahenkorah said, “The success of our inaugural year gives us confidence as we launch today. We received entries from nine African countries and our participating writers ranged in age from eleven to sixty-four years. It is clear that the Baobab Prize is here to stay and to revolutionize African literature as we know it.”

The Baobab Prize annually invites entries of unpublished African short stories written for audiences either 8-11 years or 12-15 years. This year the prize will award $1,000 to the best story in each category and $800 to the most promising young writer (18 years and below). Also all short listed stories will be considered for possible publishing. The Baobab Prize is open to African citizens of all ages. Deadline for submission is April 15, 2010.

Rama Shagaya, Senegalese co-founder of the prize says, “the mission of the Baobab Prize is to identify the literary giants of the next generation and produce classic stories that will be appreciated for years to come. This year, we want to challenge African writers to unleash their imagination. Tell us a story we’ve never heard before. A winning story this year will be a story that stands out.”

The winners of the inaugural year of the Baobab Prize were Lauri Kubuitsile from Botswana with Lorato and her Wire Car, the best story written for readers aged 8-11 years; Ivor W. Hartmann from Zimbabwe with Mr. Goop, the best story written for readers aged 12-15 years and Aisha Kibwana from Kenya, the most promising young writer with Strange Visitors that took her Life Away.

The Baobab Prize has lofty dreams about the future of African literature. It envisions that in ten years bookstores all over the world will be brimming with top quality African stories written for children.

The Baobab Prize was founded in July 2008. Two top stories from its inaugural year have been picked up for publishing in Africa. This literary award is made possible with funds provided by Bryn Mawr College, The Global Fund for Children and members of the Baobab Prize administrative team.

Contact: Deborah Ahenkorah    Email:

Website at


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Michael Chabron on the Wilderness of Childhood

Most great stories of adventure, from The Hobbit to Seven Pillars of Wisdom, come furnished with a map. That’s because every story of adventure is in part the story of a landscape, of the interrelationship between human beings (or Hobbits, as the case may be) and topography. Every adventure story is conceivable only with reference to the particular set of geographical features that in each case sets the course, literally, of the tale. But I think there is another, deeper reason for the reliable presence of maps in the pages, or on the endpapers, of an adventure story, whether that story is imaginatively or factually true. We have this idea of armchair traveling, of the reader who seeks in the pages of a ripping yarn or a memoir of polar exploration the kind of heroism and danger, in unknown, half-legendary lands, that he or she could never hope to find in life.

This is a mistaken notion, in my view. People read stories of adventure—and write them—because they have themselves been adventurers. Childhood is, or has been, or ought to be, the great original adventure, a tale of privation, courage, constant vigilance, danger, and sometimes calamity. For the most part the young adventurer sets forth equipped only with the fragmentary map—marked here there be tygers and mean kid with air rifle—that he or she has been able to construct out of a patchwork of personal misfortune, bedtime reading, and the accumulated local lore of the neighborhood children.

Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood – The New York Review of Books

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Revisiting: AS Byatt’s Possession

Okay, it isn’t really quite my revisiting, but I am an AS Byatt fan, loved Possession, and am eagerly waiting for the US publication of her latest, The Children’s Book.  So I very much enjoyed reading Sam Jordison over at the Guardian book club leading a discussion of this title.  Like a fellow Guardian writer, Jordison considered himself a Byatt skeptic due to a problematic experience earlier in his reading career, but this book  changed his mind. He writes:

The first thing that surprised me about an author I had previously pigeon-holed a dry old stick was how witty she is – and how playful. Among (many) other things, Possession is a wonderful comedy of manners. It sends up academics of all stamps (dusty, thrusting, shy, ambitious, greedy, gender-obsessed, sex-obsessed, celibate). It laughs at English eccentricities, foibles and inability to talk about emotion. It lampoons a certain type of overwhelming, over-articulate American. It mocks class mores. Anyone and everything that falls under Byatt’s gaze is a source of fun.

Indeed, the entire book is a clever joke; a sophisticated riff on the manners and tropes of detective novels. It swaps the private dicks for two literary academics – Maud Bailey and Roland Mitchell – who use their skills in textual analysis to follow a series of arcane clues in order to unravel a mystery surrounding two Victorian poets (Randolph Ash and Christabel LaMotte). So it reads like the Da Vinci Code – only with brains and a sense of the absurd.

Since this is a book club, be sure to read the comments.  Fascinating and very smart conversation!


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My Guilty Pleasure

Thanks to Eva, I’ve just come across a new series on NPR with a great premise.  They are asking for confessions of “…your illicit literary (or not-so-literary) love” and they’ve started with Brad Melzer confessing that, ““Real Men Read (And Love) ‘Twilight’ — Really.”

One of my guilty reading pleasures is definitely New York Magazine.  It is full of trashy articles about the unhappy rich, teens doped up on Ritalin, adults too, private school mania, and so forth.  I tell myself I have to read it because of my work (as I teach in a school that is the sort often featured), but who am I kidding?  I read it for pure pleasure — guilt-ridden.

Anyone else want to ‘fess up?


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Lit Trips

So I was reading this interesting article, “You’ve Read the Book, Now Take a Look!” all about literary tourism when I happened across a reference to this video.  So is Wordsworth rolling in agony or amusement?

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Prodigy Lit

Q: Why must all fictional children be geniuses? wonders Stuart Evers in today’s Guardian.

A: Well there are some fictional children today that aren’t — in a whole area that Evers seems to have overlooked — books for kids.

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Thing One, Thing Two, and … Mr. Darwin?

Robert Fulford: Dr. Seuss meets Charles Darwin

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Scary Stories (not Usually) for Me


I was a serious player-with-dolls when very small. As a result I had nightmares after seeing the above poster for the movie, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” and still cannot imagine seeing the movie.   In fact, I’ve always avoided horror and ghost stories as I imagine them so vividly and it takes very little to scare the daylights out of me — still.

However, occasionally I read or hear of something that makes me think I could try to get over my skittishness and attempt to read or view it.  This happened with Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining.  I loved the trailer so much that I decided I wanted to see the movie.  To prepare myself I read the book and then spent most of the time in the theater lobby anticipating the final scary moments of the book (which — spoiler — never came, amusing the popcorn seller enormously).

On my to-read shelf I’ve a copy of Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box. I’ve picked it up and put it down many times, still too scared to read. (Perhaps someone could let me know if I’m being overly worried about this.) And now there is another book to add to this pile — Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger described by Laura Miller at Salon as, “astonishing” and a must-read.   Admiring Laura as I do I may have to overcome my jitters to actually read this one.


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Pen World Voices Festival

This festival is always fantastic, but I think this year the organizers have outdone themselves.  I want to go to everything!  Of course I can’t so here are a few that may be of particular interest to you (and are, of course, to me).  Click on the links for more information or, better yet, go to the festival’s main website to see the whole line-up and specifics as to  time, place, and cost (most are free, but some aren’t and some require reservations).

April 27 | Neil Gaiman in Conversation with Joshua Wolf Shenk

April 28, 2009 | Resonances: Writers on the Great Works

April 28, 2009 | The Rattapallax/PEN World Voices Literary Film Feast

April 29, 2009 | The Inspired Scientist: A Program for High School Students

April 29, 2009 | The Voyage of the Reader: Using Children’s Books to Create a Love of Reading

April 30, 2009 | Personal Evolution, Social Revolution: A Program for High School Students

April 30, 2009 | Leaps and Bounds, Fits and Starts: The Evolution of a Children’s Book Writer

May 1, 2009 | The Translation Slam

May 2, 2009 | Coraline, Sandman: Books and Imagination: A Conversation with Neil Gaiman

May 2, 2009 | 1,000 Words: The Power of Visual Storytelling

May 2, 2009 | Krik? Krak!

May 3, 2009 | Is Nonfiction Literature?

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Is it really and truly Shakespeare?

Funny-looking writers, at least funny-looking male writers, get famous late—Samuel Johnson and Sinclair Lewis and John Milton and Philip Larkin all come instantly to mind—or else they don’t get famous. They get read, but they don’t get celebrated. (The only exception is Alexander Pope, who got famous young and was a humpback dwarf, but he was so good that no one noticed, and anyway he looked fine from the neck up.)

Adam Gopnik: Look Here, Upon This Picture: The Book Bench: Online Only: The New Yorker

via Maude

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