On a shortlist that celebrates vibrant new voices and original stories, the Branford Boase Award judges were full of admiration for Muhammad Khan’s ability to create convincing characters, and for the way he combines politics, identity and a universal coming of age narrative. Indeed, they agreed that he doesn’t put a foot wrong in the telling of his story.
Mitch Johnson, a judge for the 2019 award said: “I Am Thunder is a bold, brave, and brilliant debut. There were many things that enthralled me but what really struck me was the voice of the main character – and the voices of those surrounding her. These are genuine, carefully referenced and portrayed characters with life, soul and authenticity and Muzna herself is sympathetic, frustrating, honest and fierce. I believed in her and her story from the first page and through her Muhammad Khan weaves a scarily believable and exciting story.” ··
On winning the award Khan said: “I am absolutely thrilled and humbled by the news that·I am Thunder has·won the prestigious Branford Boase Award. It’s a real pinch-yourself moment! The competition was tremendous, each book magnificent in its own right. Lucy Pearse worked tirelessly and with passion to help me polish I Am Thunder so it’s especially nice to share this incredible accolade with her. Thank you!”
Chair of the judges, Julia Eccleshare, children’s director Hay Festival, said, “2019 is the 20th anniversary of the Branford Boase Award. It has celebrated wonderful books and authors over the years, and we are very proud of all that it has achieved in highlighting new writers and the editors who help them develop their potential. We’re delighted that I Am Thunder has won this year. Muhammad Khan is giving voice to those we haven’t heard from enough and his story will ring true with readers of any background. As demonstrated so brilliantly in her book Fire, Bed and Bone, Henrietta Branford also gave voice to those whose stories need to be told, and was happy to pose questions about politics and society in thrilling adventure stories. We look forward to reading more by Muhammad, and all the writers on this shortlist, and to twenty more years celebrating the exciting new talent in children’s books.”
Winning editor Lucy Pearse said: ‘It was a real honour to see·I Am Thunder·included on this incredible shortlist, and a complete pinch-yourself moment for it to be selected as the winner.· Muhammad deserves this award so much – it is a brave and important book and he has worked enormously hard – and I feel privileged to have been part of its publishing story. Each book on this shortlist is a spectacular achievement and I feel very lucky to be working among such talented authors and editors.’
This year the judges are Sanchita Basu De Sarkar of the Children’s Bookshop, Muswell Hill; Ellen Krajewski, librarian at Hemel Hempstead School, Hertfordshire; Louise Johns-Shepherd, chief executive of CLPE ; and Mitch Johnson, author of Kick, winner of the 2018 Branford Boase Award. The panel is chaired by Julia Eccleshare, children’s director of the Hay Festival.
The 2019 winners of the Award were announced on Thursday 27 June at a ceremony at Walker Books in London which was attended by previous winners including Kevin Brooks, Annabel Pitcher, Marcus Sedgwick, M.G. Leonard, Dave Shelton, and Lucy Christopher. Mitch Johnson presented Muhammad Khan with a cheque for £1,000 and Muhammad and Lucy Pearse both received a unique, hand-crafted silver-inlaid box.