The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award

Radical fiction award given by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers

Alexis Deacon invites children to come up with an alternative to capitalism…


©Letterbox Library Alexis Deacon & Viviane Schwarz accept the Little Rebels Award from Judge, Wendy Cooling.

Viviane Schwarz and Alexis Deacon have been named winners of the Little Rebels Award for Radical Children’s Fiction 2016 with their picture book, I Am Henry Finch (Walker Books UK). Accepting the award, Alexis asked for children to give adults an alternative to capitalism.

The Little Rebels Award ceremony took place at the 4th London Radical Bookfair this Saturday May 7th. Author Gill Lewis, winner of last year’s award, was also given a very special commendation for her shortlisted title, Gorilla Dawn. The socialist London choir, Strawberry Thieves did a rousing performance as a lead up to the ceremony.


©Letterbox Library The Strawberry Thieves Choir

Earlier in the day. Judge Wendy Cooling chaired a panel of five of the shortlisted authors and illustrators, including Michael Foreman, Gill Lewis, Neal Layton, Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz.


©Letterbox Library L to R: Neal Layton, Michael Foreman, Wendy Cooling, Gill Lewis, Alexis Deacon, Viviane Schwarz.

In between much laughter and water gulping (wasn’t it hot?) and to a lively audience of children and adults, participants were asked how they felt about being nominated as little rebels; each also gave a summary of their shortlisted title. Michael Foreman brought a mini briefcase of earlier books he’d written which fitted the Little Rebels Award criteria- a particular highlight was his picture book, All The Kings’ Horses, published in 1976 and selected for review by the sadly now defunct feminist magazine Spare Rib. Introducing Gill Lewis, Wendy Cooling told the audience that Gill’s activism was evident from her earliest days- she was found force-feeding bread to a poorly hedgehog before she herself could walk. Gill spoke passionately about the politics which informed her shortlisted title, Gorilla Dawn. Gill (and I hope she won’t mind me saying this) had come on to the fair still carrying a tiny wooden chair she had placed in front of Paddington Station and Downing Street earlier in the day, her own unique contribution to the #3000chairs project which highlights the plight of unaccompanied Syrian refugee children. Neal Layton said how pleased he was to be shortlisted for this award. Talking about the “thinly disguised” protagonist of Uncle Gobb (ahem, Michael Gove) and the Dread Shed, he referred to the current government’s obsession with creating an education system which effectively destroys creativity and “divergent thinking” through worksheets and over-testing.

Alexis and Viviane both talked about the difficulties they’d faced when first trying to get I Am Henry Finch published. This prompted an interesting discussion amongst the authors about what ‘risks’ the children’s publishing industry perceived when deciding whether or not to go ahead with books which some might deem controversial. Alexis talked about the pressures faced by publishers, which then create “a culture of fear in the industry because of the need to make money”. Michael Foreman concurred- in the past, he said, publishers would work with a creator because they felt their work was simply worthy of publication for its quality but that now the industry is far more profit-driven.

It has been another fine year for our favourite children’s award and many, many thanks are due. Thank you to our judges: Wendy Cooling, Elizabeth Laird, Catherine Johnson and Kim Reynolds. Here’s Wendy sharing space on an organ stool with Bread & Roses Judge and Green Party Leader, Natalie Bennett:


©Letterbox Library Little Rebels and Big Rebels Judges, Wendy Cooling & Natalie Bennett.

Thank you to the authors, illustrators and publishers who create and produce books which encourage children to think, to question, to champion fairness and applaud social justice.


©Letterbox Library Shortlisted authors and Judges Wendy Cooling/Catherine Johnson take a bit of time out amongst blossom petals.

As with every year, the Little Rebels Award has had some wonderful support from a range of sources. Special mentions to book bloggers, Playing by the Book, Read It Daddy and Mirrors, Windows, Doors. The Guardian and The Bookseller always give generous support to the award. This year, journalist Natasha Onwuemezi’s The Bookseller on the London Radical Bookfair made the cover page of The Bookseller. Natasha delivered a copy of The Bookseller to us in person on the day of the fair- thank you! The completely wonderful Guardian Children Books Site The Guardian within minutes of the announcement and we’re excited to hear that Books for Keeps will be including a comments piece with Little Rebels Judge, Catherine Johnson, with their next issue.

Thank you to those individuals and organisations who have remained devoted to the award throughout its life. There are far too many to mention but here are a couple of candid shots of some of the award’s most loyal fans, laughing along to the rebellious words exchanged by the shortlisted authors/illustrators:


©Letterbox Library An audience selection including smiling faces of Anne Lazim and Charlotte Hacking from the CLPE.


©Letterbox Library L to R: Patrice Lawrence, Liz Stratton, Jayne Truran, Catherine Johnson

As always, our thanks to Nik Górecki from Housmans Bookshop for asking us (Letterbox Library) to run the Little Rebels Award on behalf of the Alliance of Radical Booksellers. It’s an honour and a privilege. Thank you to the General Federation of Trade Unions who fund the prize money for both the Little Rebels Award and the Bread & Roses Award for Radical Adult Non-Fiction. And a final thanks to Guardian cartoonist and children’s author/illustrator, Ros Asquith, who donated the framed Little Rebels print which is presented to the winner every year. A special “cheers” to Ros this year for tweeting this image on the day of the bookfair; it kept a smile on our faces all day:


Some final images snapped from the Letterbox Library bookstand at the fair:

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Just one sleep left before we find out WHO is the most rebellious…!


…we can barely contain ourselves here! Come join us at the London Radical Bookfair tomorrow at Goldsmiths University from noon onwards.  Pick up your radical adults’ and children’s book wares and find out the winners of the Little Rebels Award for Radical Children’s Fiction. Letterbox Library (us!) will be there selling the shortlisted books at a £1 off the cover price and there will be a host of other interesting, innovative publishers and booksellers. There will be a panel of shortlisted little rebels at 3pm and the winning announcement will be made at approx. 5.15pm. Here’s a quick reminder of the shortlist: here!




Join Us on May 7th for a Radical Children’s Book Fest!

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We’re pleased to announce the Big Rebels who will be joining us on May 7th!

The London Radical Bookfair is taking place on Saturday, May 7th at Goldsmiths University between 12 and 6pm. This is a free event which is open to all; there is no need to book. All the fair details are HERE.

For fans of the Little Rebels Award for Radical Fiction, there will be a special panel of some of the Read the rest of this entry »

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The 2016 Shortlist: all the little rebels have come out to play!!


illustration by Ros Asquith

We are proud to announce the Little Rebels Shortlist for 2016! We have 6 books on the shortlist this year. All stood out as literary rebels on the children’s literature scene for books published in 2015.

Full details of the books are published below. As always all can be bought from the award administrators, Letterbox Library, a specialist children’s booksellers who are also a not-for-profit and a workers cooperative. (And, during #littlerebels season -April to June- the shortlisted books are also listed at a special price).

The Little Rebels judges are meeting this month and the winner will be announced at the London Radical Bookfair on May 7th 2016 at the Alliance of Radical Booksellers’ new fair venue, Goldsmiths University. You can keep on top of the fair at @ARBRadBookfair The event is FREE and open to all. Please join us!

This award is run voluntarily and unfunded by Letterbox Library on behalf of the Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB). To keep this award (and the sister, adult, award Bread & Roses) running, we do ask you to buy from Letterbox Library or from other ARB members  wherever possible. Thank you.

And now, with much, much fanfare (and in alphabetical order), we present you with the shortlist:


 The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne

(Doubleday/Penguin Random House UK)

It’s a hat trick for John Boyne- this is his 3rd time on the Little Rebels shortlist, following on from the shortlistings of The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket in 2013 and Stay Where You Are and Then Leave in 2014. In his latest exploration of the cruelties of war, Boyne introduces a boy called Pierrot, orphaned at a young age, who ends up in Hitler’s Austrian house in the mountains, the Berghof. Pierrot starts out as a kind, sensitive child who loathes bullying and shares a magical friendship with a Jewish boy, Anshel (who is also deaf). But then gradually, over the years at Berghof we see Pierrot become Pieter, slowly but surely infected by Nazi ideology, prejudice, and racism- and by the trappings of power. A study of corruption and atonement. Ages 11+ Buy your copy here.


Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis

(Oxford University Press)

Gill Lewis was named winner of the Little Rebels Award in 2015 for Scarlet Ibis and this is now the 3rd time Gill Lewis has been shortlisted (see also Moon Bear)! This is classic Lewis- the interweaving of separate animal and human stories to expose issues around social justice. Set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this story explores how the farming of a mineral needed for mobile phones is destroying the gorilla’s natural habitat. Linked to this is the story of two children, Imara and Bob, who are held by a group of rebel soldiers. Fundamentally a story about exploitation (by both rebel soldiers and Western companies)- of children, of animals- for profit. Ages 11+ Buy your copy here.


I’m A Girl! by Yasmeen Ismail

(Bloomsbury Books)

An energetic picture book which takes on gender stereotypes and smashes them to smithereens. Meet a girl who is competitive, noisy, brainy, speedy, messy and, who is consequently… repeatedly mistaken for a boy. Puts paid to all of those tiresome ‘boys are…’ ‘girls are…’ opening lines. Age 4-7 Buy your copy here.


I Am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon; illustrated by Viviane Schwarz

(Walker Books)

The finches exist as an undifferentiated flock, going through each day together, doing the same thing, at the same pace. And then…one night, one particular finch, Henry Finch, has a thought. And he hears it. And he knows himself to be Henry Finch. And, therefore, also capable of greatness… A highly original philosophical book for the very young, addressing individualism, bravery, finding your way and, even, existentialism. Age 6-11 Buy your copy here.


The Little Bookshop and the Origami Army! by Michael Foreman

(Andersen Press)

Superhero Origami Girl is back and this time she is on a mission to save a local bookshop. Foreman delivers us all of the defining ingredients of a ‘radical’ children’s book; this could have been written for the Little Rebels Award with its themes of: capitalism threatening a local community and independent businesses, the complacency of governments in the face of large corporations, the possibilities of people power and local community action. Age 4-7 Buy your copy here.


Uncle Gobb and the Dread Shed by Michael Rosen; illustrated by Neal Layton

(Bloomsbury Books)

As the back cover reads, “A completely bonkers book that is not linked to Gobb Education at all”. Malcolm is a sensible 10-year-old full of sensible questions. Which leads to one or two clashes with Uncle Gobb, Uncle Gobb’s world views and his dreaded shed.  Two artists known for their comic touch combine forces to deliver an anarchic story which exposes and shames, hilariously, many aspects of contemporary culture but, in particular, recent educational policies. All done so in a way which nods knowingly to both adults and children. Age 7-10 Buy your copy here.



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Entries for feistiest children’s book award now closed!

Submissions are now closed for the UK’s one and only award for radical children’s fiction, the Alliance of Radical Booksellers’ Little Rebels Children’s Book Award. Perhaps award administrators always says this but…truly, the submissions pile seems bigger than ever. We have at least 4 boxes full of titles submitted by a wonderful mix of UK publishers from the tiniest independents to the biggest children’s book ‘players’. Fingers crossed, this award will continue to thrive and, in doing so, we hope it will begin to trace and showcase a canon of radical children’s book publishing in the UK. Now for the hard work of shortlisting…fig rolls, tea mugs and quite a bit of head scratching. Watch out for a shortlist announcement at the end March/early April 2016. And get this date in your diary for the winner announcement: Saturday May 7th 2016, London Radical Bookfair!


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To all publishers of thought-provoking children’s books…

…Nominations are now invited for the Little Rebels Award for Radical Children’s Fiction 2016. Now in its 4th year, the 2016 prize is for books published in 2015. The closing date for nominations is January 11th 2016. You can find full details about how to make an entry here. Or, for a full set of submission notes, do email the administrators of this award, Letterbox Library, at The shortlist for the award will be announced in April 2016 and the winner will be announced at the next ARB London Radical Bookfair on Saturday May 7th 2016. The fair is an open and free event so do come and join us! If you’d like to be kept up to date with all of the news about this award and the fair, do sign up to receive updates by email at the bottom of this page (you may need to view the full site). You can also hear updates through Letterbox Library’s and the ARB’s twitter feeds @LetterboxLib and @ARB_information , often under the hashtag #littlerebels.

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Welcome to our latest little rebel, author Catherine Johnson!

CatherineJohnsonPubPhotoNov2015We are delighted to announce that we have a new member on our Little Rebels Award judging panel. Welcome Catherine Johnson! Author, scriptwriter, screenwriter and all-round person extraordinaire, we’re delighted that Catherine will be joining us. Some of you may have seen her speak at the London Radical Bookfair back in May 2014 on a panel which looked at the state of radical children’s fiction in the UK. And many, many of you will know her as the author of middle grade and YA novels, including her latest, The Curious Case of the Lady Caraboo, currently nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016. To read more about Catherine’s work, click here and to find out more about our little rebels award judges, click here.

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“This award reminds me to keep on being a little rebel…”

Back on May 12th 2015, Gill Lewis took the prize for the Little Rebels Award for Radical Children’s Fiction with her novel, Scarlet Ibis. Her acceptance speech was both profoundly moving and a positive call to action.  And now we’ve finally connected to YouTube, you can hear the speech for yourself. Get yourself a cuppa, settle down and prepare to be inspired.

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“Go out and have a rebellious day” Gill Lewis Wins the Little Rebels Book Award

Gill Lewis accepts the award from her treehouse!

Gill Lewis accepts the award from her treehouse!

The winner of this year’s Little Rebels Children’s Book Award for Radical Fiction is Gill Lewis for her book, Scarlet Ibis (Oxford University Press).

Little Rebels judge, Kim Reynolds, described Scarlet Ibis as “a story that celebrates the often overlooked courage, loyalty and competence of children.” In a moving acceptance speech, Gill said she was “utterly Read the rest of this entry »

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Which rebel has won the little rebels award?…


ONE MORE SLEEP! The winner of the Little Rebels Award will be announced tomorrow, Saturday May 9th, at the 2015 London Radical Bookfair. And…fanfare…and clashings of cymbals…and tinkling of triangles…we will be joined this year by the following shortlisted Little Rebels authors/illustrators: Bernard Ashley, Chris Haughton, Jessica Shepherd, Anne Booth and Mel Elliott.

Things you need to know:

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