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Here are the seven longlisted writers for this year's Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books:

b2ap3_thumbnail_Mary-Okon.jpgMary Okon Ononokpono is a British based writer, artist and illustrator. Born in Calabar, Nigeria, Mary moved to the United Kingdom as a baby and has lived there ever since. Mary has a passion for African arts, culture and history. With a background in design and journalism, Mary has been featured in numerous Pan-African publications. Following a brief return to Nigeria in December 2012, Mary turned her hand towards creative writing.

Mary says, “I'm delighted to discover that I've been long-listed for this prestigious award! This is the first story Children's story I've written so it comes as a complete shock. My daughter, who happens to be my inspiration for the story is even more delighted than me.”

Talulah the Time Traveller - Talulah Taiwo is an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Talulah is an inventor that happens to be obsessed with coding. She lives with her Mum (an independent architect) and with her trusty sidekick, Karma, an intelligent jet black cat. Talulah's latest app has been entered into the 'Minds of Tomorrow' science fair, but Mum is unable to take her due to a looming deadline and poor organisation skills. Disappointed at the thought of Mum letting her down again, Talulah decides to take matters into her own hands. She creates a shock inducing time management app to help Mum keep to time. However in her haste, she accidentally enters part of the code incorrectly. Upon testing the app, Talulah finds herself suddenly transported to an ancient Egyptian city. The trouble is, the unexpected power surge has drained the battery on her tablet. Aided by Karma, a gang of cats, and a curious Egyptian boy, Talulah sets about finding a solution to her problem. Will they get the tablet to work so that she can get back home in time for the fair?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Jayne.jpgJayne Bauling's Young Adult novels have won the Macmillan Writer’s Prize for Africa, the Maskew Miller Longman Literature Award and the Sanlam Gold Prize for Youth Literature. The most recent, Dreaming of Light, was chosen for the 2014 IBBY Honour List. Her short stories for adults and youth have been published in a number of anthologies. She lives in White River in Mpumalanga, South Africa. 

“As a long-time admirer of Golden Baobab’s commitment to African stories, I’m honoured and thrilled that my story should have made the 2014 long-list for this prestigious award. Congratulations to everyone else on the list and good luck to us all.” Jayne remarked after receiving news she had  been longlisted for the Golden Boabab Prize for Early Chapter Book.

The Saturday Dress - Mavi isn’t too happy about being sent to live with his grandparents in Kabokweni, and discovering that one of his teachers, Ms Mabuza, is their next door neighbour adds to his woes. Things aren’t exactly easy at his new school either, where his only friend seems to be Gcina, but he soon finds himself distracted by a number of mysteries. Matchboxes and money are being hidden in some strange places in his area, and then there’s the child’s dress that hangs on Ms Mabuza’s washing line every Saturday – when there is no child in the house. In trying to solve the matchbox mystery, Mavi makes a mistake which leads to him being misjudged, and he does something terrible in response. How will he ever put things right?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Ricky-Dankwa-Ansong.jpgRicky Dankwa Ansong was born in June, 1990 in the bustling city of Accra, Ghana. Ricky developed a love for reading at an early age but he didn’t think he was good enough to write something worth reading. It was only in his second year of high school in Saint Augustine’s College (Cape Coast) that he ventured to write his first novel “Basic Interest” which he never published. In his third year at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, while studying Business Administration, Ricky decided to share his talent with the world.

“I had to take a walk to calm my racing heart. While I did that, I kept repeating the words: God, I thank you.” That was what Ricky did when he received the news he had been longlisted for the Golden Baobab Prizes.

Kweku Ananse: The Tale of the Wolf and the Moon - Sakraman, the wolf, is poor and has no friends. He has nothing to harvest from his farm and, thus, suffers the wrath of Kweku Ananse due his inability to pay the cunning spider what he owes him. The Wolf’s bad luck ends when the Moon hears his plea and decides to offer him help. Soon, the Wolf and the Moon become best friends and the wolf becomes very rich. The cunning spider, Kweku Ananse, follows the Wolf around the Kingdom to discover the source of Wolf’s good fortune. When Ananse discovers the truth behind the Wolf’s wealth, his greedy heart hatches a plan to take it all for himself.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Dina.jpgDina Mousa was born in 1984 and grew up in Cairo, Egypt. She graduated from business school majoring in business administration. She started traveling at the age of 24 and moved to South Korea in 2010. She's a wife, animal lover, author, and a traveler.

Dina narrated,  "I was checking my inbox as I do every morning. I saw the email from Golden Baobab, I read it and couldn't believe that I made it to the long list. As I stared at the email my heartbeat got faster and my eyes filled with tears."

The Sunbird and Fatuma - One day a little girl who lives with her loving father in the woods discovers a magical forest. A friendship begins between the little girl, Fatuma, and the Sunbird. When Fatuma finds out the painful truth about her father, how will she protect her friend?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Hillary.jpgHillary Namunyu  is a publishing editor in Nairobi, Kenya. He is also a reading ambassador with Start-A-Library, an organisation that promotes installation and stocking of libraries with creative books as well as championing reading in primary schools. He occasionally contributes literary commentaries to The Saturday Nation.  

"Wow! Unbelievable! ...I now believe in that saying, that there is a sense of greatness in every person." Hillary exclaimed when he received the news he had been longlisted for the Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Book.

Teddy Mapesa and the Missing Cash - Teddy is about 12 years old, lives in Nairobi with his parents and goes to a city council school. Like many children, he has a group of friends from different cultures. Some are mischievous, others terribly honest; Teddy is their consciousness. Amidst the challenges of growing up in the city, the desire to perform well in school and appease his parents whilst keeping the company of his friends, he finds himself in the thick of things when his classmate and best friend Muthoni is caught in a tragedy in the hustle and bustle of Nairobi life

b2ap3_thumbnail_Mamle-Wolo.jpgMamle Wolo is a writer of Ghanaian and German parentage, was born in Ghana and educated in both Ghana and the United Kingdom, graduating from the University of Cambridge. She is currently resident in Ghana and works as a consultant in social development issues. In 2011, she won the Burt Award for African Literature in Ghana with her young adult novel ‘The Kaya-Girl.’ She is a co-director of the Writers Project of Ghana and a mother of two.

 "Great news!" Mamle exclaimed when she received the news of  her story being longlisted for the Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Book.

Flying through Water  is the story of a boy who escapes from bonded labour in the fishing industry into a great adventure on the Volta Lake. Inspired by his grandfather’s stories, he has learned that his family’s history is bound up with the creation of the lake and the dam. His own adventure reunites and brings back to life the different strands of this history, including the legend of the mysterious creature of the lake, ‘Maame Water.’ This is a story of adventure and of triumph over adversity that is firmly grounded in both historical and present-day realities of Ghana.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Bontle_20140917-123900_1.jpgBontle Senne  is a writer, blogger, speaker and literary activist on the board of two education NGOs: Puku Children's Literature Foundation and READ Educational Trust. She is a minority shareholder of publishing house Modjaji Books. In addition to writing for children, Bontle regularly speaks children's literature at international literary festivals and conferences .She wrote her first story at 6 years old: it was about a brother and a sister rabbit who were naughty and wanted to stay up late.

"I am incredibly honored to be on the Golden Baobab longlist. It is certainly the most exciting moment of my life as a writer." Bontle says.

The Monster at Midnight - Phila is stuck in her grandmother's small village for the school holiday. Between bossy big sister Thando and irritating little brother Musa, she's not having a very good holiday. On top of that, there are strange things going on in the village after dark. Things for Phila only get worse when she discovers that there's a monster after her - and he's coming at midnight.

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Here are the seven longlisted writers for this year's Golden Boabab Prize for Picture Books:

b2ap3_thumbnail_Katherine-Graham_20140915-145150_1.jpgKatherine Graham - A wordsmith by profession, Katherine fills her days writing articles for magazines and looking after her two boys, husband and ginger cat. She started her career as an economics reporter for the South African Broadcasting Corporation and, after a gap year in the UK and a brief interlude as a primary school teacher, has remained in the world of media ever since.

Katherine says, "I am delighted to be selected as one of the finalists for this prestigious competition. It's such a wonderful idea to be focusing more attention on African children's literature. African children need stories that reflect their unique circumstances and celebrate the wealth of beauty on this continent."

The Lemon Tree: A rainy day is the perfect time to make pancakes, or so Gogo thinks, although would you believe there is no flour, eggs or milk left in the house? Lungi and Sipho are sent off to find the missing ingredients, making sure they take some lemons from their tree to distribute to their kind neighbours. A gentle tale with a slight twist at the end which perfectly illustrates the uniquely African concept of ubuntu

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Mike_20140915-145334_1.jpgMyke Mwale is a Zimbabwean and member of the Dominican Order, just finished his studies and currently teaching in Kroonstad, South Africa. He is also a contributor to the Weekend Witness, a newspaper based in South Africa.

Myke remarks, “Great stuff! I am flattered to be longlisted amongst the story listeners and tellers of our children’s imagination and reality”.

The Big Ball: It all started one afternoon when Chiedza asked to join in and play soccer with the boys. Girls do not play soccer with boys. However, Chiedza persists and soon she can kick the plastic paper ball just like the boys. A few days later, Tendai’s father buys him a real big ball. Everybody is excited to play soccer with Tendai’s ball. Will Chiedza play this new big ball? Only Tendai, the owner of the ball, can decide this.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Mandy_20140915-145429_1.jpgMandy Collins is an award-winning South African journalist who has always had a passion for language, and in particular, the multilingual environment of South Africa. Mandy is involved in many aspects of writing. She also provides individualized writing coaching for children and adults. Mandy lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with her family and two slightly demented dogs.

According to Mandy, “I am absolutely thrilled to be longlisted again for a Golden Baobab Prize. I had such fun writing and researching the story, and writing it in verse. I absolutely love the idea of promoting authentically African literature for children, written by Africans from every country, and every walk of life – it’s so important to create a culture of reading in our children.”

There’s a Hyena in my Kitchen: Juma is something of a fussy eater, and when he pushes his plate away one evening, the food uneaten, his mother warns him that he will have to eat the food for breakfast the following day. But in the morning, the food is gone, and they realise they have a hyena in the kitchen. Three times they chase the hyena away, but each time it returns to eat Juma’s leftovers. Juma is starting to get hungry, so he devises ways to trap the hyena. But the hyena is wily and nimble, and it escapes. Finally Juma finds the solution: he eats his dinner, and the hyena slinks off into the night.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Kwame-Aidoo_20140915-145539_1.jpgCharles Kwame Aidoo is the founder and manager Inkfluent; which has over the years collaborated with National Theatre, People of Equal Thoughts and Ehalakasa on several projects and events including poetry, arts and cultural festivals, open mics, flash mobs, slams and workshops in Ghana.

Kwame says. “I am quite new to the art and hereby acknowledge that Golden Baobab’s master-class for writers of children's stories which featured Mamle Wolo has sharpened my quill in this direction. I am happy to be included on the long-list of the 2014 Golden Baobab Prizes and look to achieve more with my works.”

The Tale of Busy Body Bee: It is a story about two friends - Ant and Bee. There was drought and Ant always worked himself out to produce enough but whenever he brought the harvest home, he would wake up to an empty stock. An advice from the wise Kwaku Ananse led Ant to add a magic pea to the subsequent harvest that got stuck in mischievous Bee’s tail.

b2ap3_thumbnail_shaleen_20140915-145631_1.jpgShaleen Keshavjee-Gulam was born and grew up in Nairobi. Her current occupation is a Property Developer, both commercial and residential. She is the creator and an administrator of "Kilimani Mums", a popular social media support group for Kenyan Mothers.  Shaleen lives in Nairobi with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys writing, especially for children. 

Describing how she felt when she received news she had been longlisted for the Golden Baobab Prizes, Shaleen says, "I was absolutely thrilled and incredibly honored."

Malaika's Magical Kiosk: Michelle is not a very happy little girl. Her mother has gone away to take care of her grandmother and left her with her bossy big sister. Everyone in the village is bad tempered because the rains are late and the food crops may die. But then a mysterious stranger arrives and sets up wonderful kiosk. There is a change in the air and incredible things begin to happen.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Portia-Dery_20140915-145717_1.jpgPortia Dery is writer/blogger, a community development worker and social entrepreneur with focus on writing activities in Ghana. Her love for books has dared her to become a writer. She enjoys gardening and meeting people.

“Thank you Jesus, I shouted to my walls. I thought things like this happen to people on magic lands, perhaps I drunk some magic potion.  Very excited to contribute to African children’s literature but the real joy would be when a child picks up my story to read and smile with satisfaction at the end. That would be sheer bliss!” Portia exclaimed when she received news she had been longlisted for the Golden Baobab Prizes

Grandma’s List: Everyone has problems but Fatima an eight (8) year girl has the biggest, she is tired of been treated as a child. For a long time now she has been looking for an opportunity to show everyone especially her family that she is smart like any other grownup…and then the day arrives when Fatima has the change to be a superwoman and save the day! She gets the opportunity to run errands for Grandma from grandma’s list of to-do-things and waits eagerly to be praised but things turn out differently and she learns an important lesson.

b2ap3_thumbnail_aleya-2_20140915-145806_1.jpgFrom Kenya is Aleya Kassam. Aleya is a writer, performer and storyteller. She is the co-creator of the Storymoja Publish Your Own Book series (which has published over 300 children); she delights in finding new ways to excite children about writing and exploring stories.

Aleya says, “I am absolutely thrilled to be part of a movement that celebrates African Children's Literature. My hope is that kids around the Continent will have an abundance of incredible, juicy, fantastical, thrilling stories to read, stories that they see themselves in, that speak of their reality, their dreams, their worlds; and that this will drive an insatiable appetite for reading, just for sheer the pleasure of it!”

The Jacaranda Tree is about little Zawadi's quest to make her father smile again, after her mother passes away. The story is about a young girl, grappling with the death of her mother, and calling out to Nature to help bring happiness back in their lives. When Zawadi asks The Jacaranda Tree for a favour, she doesn't realize the consequences may be permanent. 

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Africa Writes 2014, an annual festival of literature that is considered as ‘UK’s biggest celebration of contemporary African writing’, had a special focus on Ama Ata Aidoo, a playwright, poet, novelist and academic from Ghana. Aidoo’s address—conducted in the form of a moderated interview or conversation with translator and critic Wangui wa Goro—was preceded by a short film on her life and literary achievements. Dr. wa Goro had in her introduction said that the aim of the conversation, that she hoped would be ‘our fireside conversation’, was to reflect on Aidoo’s expansive literary career and the main themes that have emerged from her work. 

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Aidoo is a member of the Advisory Board of the Accra (Ghana)-based Golden Baobab Prize for African Literature. Also attending the annual festival that features book launches, readings, author appearances, panel discussions and workshops for children and youth was Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, a member of the 2014 Golden Baobab Prize for African Literature evaluations team. In describing the event, Zahrah said, “I was fortunate enough to attend Africa Writes with Ama Ata Aidoo - it was one of those situations where you cannot believe you are in the same room and listening to her speak. She is so funny and at the same time seemed like a strong woman who speaks her mind - it was one of those things that I will always remember.” Davida Wulff-Vanderpuije, who provides Public Relations support for Golden Baobab was also present and speaks about the 2014 Africa Writes Festival.

Africa Writes is an annual event; do you attend often?

This year was my second time at Africa Writes festival. I first participated in it in 2013.

What was your impression of Ama Ata Aidoo's interview with wa Goro?     

This segment was the highlight for me. I was in enthrall of Ama Ata Aidoo’s verve and engaging personality. She spoke with feeling about each of her works, including an anecdote on how people still haven’t forgiven her for the death of Anowa. As an interviewer, my personal opinion is that wa Goro did not make the most of the broad scope of questions she could have asked AAA. The segment was interspersed with a docu-film on AAA (shot by YabaBlay), and it seemed to me some of her questions had already been addressed by AAA in the film, thus we could have benefitted from other perspectives not covered by the film. In fact, to some of her questions, the witty AAA told her people could easily Google that, confirming to a certain extent, the feeling that parts of the conversation were ‘wasted’ on questions we already knew answers to. However, AAA more than made up for it. She was introduced as a ‘living literary legend’ by wa Goro, and appreciative laughter and applause from the audience say we all agreed. From the moment AAA started to speak, it was obvious we were in the hands of a master storyteller, taking us on the journey of her early life and school days in Wesley Girls High School, to the body of works and teachers who fuelled her passion for writing. Naturally, the WGHS old girls in the audience hooted delightfully with a most unladylike sound at the mention of our great school (or maybe that was just me..:-) In all, it was a great conversation, leaving us feeling like time flew by too quickly and it was over before we knew it.

What were the effects of seeing Ama Ata Aidoo, a Ghanaian, on that platform being interviewed by wa Goro?

I had a very proud moment, because this was the main event of the entire festival. For me, it was the double draw of having not only a Ghanaian, but a leading author whose protagonists have often been women who make radical choices and defy traditional gender roles at that. As she reflected on the main themes of her works of fiction, I got a real sense of her heart and work for the empowerment of women, and it was inspiring too.

What are some of the impacts you think such events will make on the literary scene in Africa?

Africa Writes is fertile ground for showcasing established and emerging talent from Africa and the diaspora, so it brings the knowledge of these writers to a wider audience. The festival has become a big celebration of contemporary African writing that is expanding and pushing new boundaries. This bodes well for the literature scene in Africa. African writers are diverse in their approach to telling their stories, and challenging the very notion of ‘African literature’. This is exciting for the continent and its diaspora because we get the benefit of the rise in genre fiction and the development of different narratives. Crucially, it challenges us to be the authors of our own stories.

It was a real delight when Davida came into contact with the 2013 winner of the Early Chapter Book Prize, Ivor Hartman. Answering the question on how the two of them connected at such a big event, Davida responded:

He was a panelist on a segment titled 'Imagining Future Africa' which discussed the impact of innovation and technology on African sci-fi, speculative and fantasy writing. This was a bold discussion on a genre that writers on the continent are engaging with as they imagine their own futures. After the talk, I approached Ivor and introduced myself in connection with Golden Baobab.

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Any concluding remarks?

I'm looking forward to the time when Golden Baobab pitches camp at Africa Writes.

 

 

 

 

 

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Executive Director, Miss Deborah Ahenkorah, inspired participants of this year's Ashesi Innovations Experience (AIX) with her story on how she started Golden Baobab during her second year at the University. She described the numerous challenges she faced while setting up an organization at that stage of her life. She went further to advise, "You are likely to fail after your first try but try again."

About Ashesi Innovations Experience (AIX)

The Ashesi Innovation Experience (AIX) is a two (2) week-long programme targeting Senior High School students in Ghana. It aims at giving participants the tools and skills necessary for success in the 21st Century. This year, the program brought together 90 High School students who explored various opportunities in Entrepreneurship, Robotics and Design while being groomed to be ethical leaders in their societies.

The programme comprised of peer evaluations, coaching sessions and motivational talks. Miss Ahenkorah together with Golda Addo and Solomon Martey shared their experiences on social entrepreneurship to motivate the students gathered. Participants had firsthand knowledge on how to start and sustain businesses as well as how to tackle various challenges in one's community.

In sharing her thoughts, Miss Ahenkorah said, “It was an honour to be part of AIX2014.  I could see eagerness on the faces of the participants and I hope they go to inspire their generation with the knowledge and skills they have acquired. I want to congratulate Ashesi University for organizing this programme.” 

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Golden Baobab has begun evaluating stories for the 2014 Literature Prizes. This year, the Prizes received a total of 210 stories from 12 different countries across the continent. The reading season of the evaluation process is in its third week.

The Evaluation Process

The evaluation process is made up of two sessions: the reading season, which spans from July to August and the judging season in October. Before the reading season, stories that were received for Literature Prizes are put into packs: four stories per pack for the Early Chapter Book and eight stories per pack for the Picture Book. Each week, a reader receives a pack of stories and a score sheet to record evaluations. At the end of the week, stories are returned and readers receive new packs of stories. Evaluation of the stories is guided by The Golden Baobab Evaluation Handbook Book, a 22-page document which spells out responsibilities of the readers and the criteria for grading stories.  For diverse perspectives, a story is read at least twice by different readers. Stories that get the lowest scores during the reading season are dropped and the highest scoring stories make the longlist. The judging season begins after the longlist is selected. During the judging season, the longlisted stories are evaluated by six judges to select a shortlist and winners of the Golden Baobab Prizes for African Literature.

Meet the 2014 Reading Team

Members of the reading team are volunteers dedicating two months of their year to sift through stories that were received during the Call for Submissions to select a longlist.  This year, 22 readers from Kenya, Singapore, India, Canada, Germany, South Africa, USA and Ghana form the panel. They consist a physician, a primary school librarian, a publisher, an English Teacher, a drilling fluid engineer, students and graduates. The diversity of readers is to enable Golden Baobab select stories which will be lauded and appreciated by a wide variety of readers all over the world.

Our reading panel had a little chit chat to know each other better. Below are snippets of the conversation and some of the responses will definitely make you smile:

If you were God for a day, what is the first thing you would do?

  • Press the earth's reset button.
  • Create harmony and love
  • Make everyone honest.
  • Give me more hours in the day please!
  • I'd instill some intrinsic motivation in all my jaded students. 
  • I would probably take away the concept of violence from human minds.
  • Rainbow colored beaches. And then I would take us all back to the Garden of Eden and save a ton of complications.
  • I’ll give the title back to God. I think He’s doing a great job.
  • Wow, I don't think I have the strength, patience or wisdom to be God, but I think I would pause the world and sprinkle love dust on everyone (yes, I said love dust), I think if we all remember to love others above ourselves most of the problems we are facing will seize to exist.

Interesting things about you that you dislike?

  • I say a lot of things I don't mean. I seriously need a filter. 
  • I am a perfectionist. Really drives me mad when I have an important assignment to undertake.
  • My ability to touch my nose with my tongue. That must mean my tongue is way too long, right?!
  • None or very few of the things I pursue in life seem to have any correlation with being a real-life adult making real-life money... is quite worrying at this point. 
  • I am a worrier by nature - and I have extremely "thin skin" and tend to take everything too personal. I have tried to "toughen up", but it hasn't worked so far and since I am heading towards the 50s, I have kind of given up on it ;)
  • I have an unexplainable dislike for peas. I don't know why, but I see peas and I just can't eat them.
  • I am a huge over thinker. I like to ponder and nit-pick at every angle which can quickly get exhausting.
  • I don't often think ahead, and recently that's come to bite me in the backside.
  • Boring habits of mine that can be annoying to others is my tendency to be nitpicky.

 

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