Golden Baobab

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"Gloria Steinem said “Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” Entering this competition and WINNING it encourages me to keep dreaming of the possibility of reaching children through the magic of books and the excitement of writing. What a dream come true to be able to contribute to the wonders of the imagination in such a way" - Liza Esterhuyse, 2013 Winner of the Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books.

Liza Esterhuyse is a qualified occupational therapist with a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Intervention. Things you should know about Liza: She is a daydreamer, a book junkie, a red wine drinker, a world lover, a tree hugger, a dog enthusiast, a horse admirer and a Capetonian.

Due to her passion for the children of South Africa and the vast need in her country, Liza and a friend started a non-profit organization in 2010, called The Kula Foundation, with the aim to support vulnerable children growing up in adverse conditions. She is currently working for another non-profit organisation called Cape Mental Health where she is the coordinator of three special education and care centres in three different townships in the Western-Cape.

Find out a little more about Liza in this interview we had with her!

When you were young did you like to read?

Yes I loved reading books as a child, I still do! And even before I could read my, parents used to read to us every night before bedtime.

If you could bring one thing into the world, what would it be and why?

Laughter -laughter knows no boundaries, no politics, no race, no religion. For a moment you forget and forgive and you see life as it should be- beautiful.

What music do you listen to and who are your favourite bands or artists?

I listen to a diverse genre of music, but the CD’s you’ll currently find in my car include: The National; Muse; Florence and the Machine and Shortstraw. I am a huge 80’s fan and will not hesitate to bust a move on any one of that era’s greatest hits.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about life so far?

To pick your battles, dream big and to follow your curiosity and intuition

What inspired you to write The Little Hippo?

I was on a Safari with my family in the Serengeti and saw a teenage hippo (according to our guide) grazing under an umbrella thorn tree in the midday sun. The sight intrigued me as it’s very unusual for a hippo to be out of the water during the day. So I started wondering why?  

What other writers inspire you and in what ways?

This is such a difficult question to answer. When I think of five of my most beloved books, the authors and the stories are all so different, but I think CS Lewis and his endless imagination inspired me to keep dreaming and to become part of the story which you are trying to tell.

When did you write your winning story?

The Little Hippo was born in April 2011, but I only started writing the story, 16 months later in August 2012.

What are you most passionate about now?

I’m passionate about horse riding (I wish I could do it every day); saving our beautiful planet, drinking coffee and the people I love.

What is your dream for African children’s literature?

I hope it grows and becomes strong, so that it can climb over all the obstacles Africa throws at it and reach each and every little inquisitive mind out there.

We hope for the same things Liza. Thanks for the interview!






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"Nestling against my mother for a bedtime story under the veil of a mosquito net was a magical time. The best stories were told when my sister and I pleaded for our mum to tell us a story from her head" - Karen Hurt, 2013 Winner of the Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books.

Karen Hurt is a South Africa based independent writer, editor, materials developer and writing workshop facilitator. She is also the winner of the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books for her story,What’s Going on at 179 Jabulani Street

Apart from addressing current topics in a way that children will find engaging, Karen has learnt to shed her protector role and free her young protagonists when she is writing fiction. Esi Sutherland-Addy, professor at the University of Ghana African Studies Department and 2013 judge commented on Karen's story, “The protagonists of this gripping adventure story are depicted as true children; up to pranks and trying to outwit grownups.” 

We had a nice little chat with Karen and she told us about some of her favourite books. Read the interview below to find out what they are!

Describe your childhood. What were you like, what was your family like, and what did you like to do?

My parents encouraged natural curiosity and for us, their daughters, to take an interest in current affairs; and to see the world as our classroom. I never once heard them tell me that there was something I couldn’t do because I was a girl. They did not doubt the imaginary horses I galloped around on nor my imaginary friends. My mother crawled into the tent-style houses we made out of sheets pegged onto chairs set on a carpet that floated on rivers, and she pretended to drink the muddy-water tea we concocted.

 Playing with marbles and cars, setting up a classroom for my dolls and making them tiny school books (I have no recollection what I taught, if anything), climbing the huge tree in our garden and observing the world below,putting on spontaneous shows, and playing with friends were amongst my favourite things to do.

My parents were avid readers and through them I developed a taste for reading. These values; and childhood experiences growing up in Zambia (where I was born), the UK, and South Africa shaped my formative years.

On what I was like, I just called my 82-year-old mother. She said I was, ‘never in trouble and easy-going.’ I guess I live out the life of getting up to mischief through the characters in my stories.

 When you were young did you like to read?

I loved reading on my own, and listening to stories that my parents or teachers read aloud. The family reading tradition continued when I had children – we’d gather together mostly in the evening or when on holiday for story times. We read the Harry Potter series, Eva Ibbotson’s wonderful Journey to the River Sea, and Mike Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time this way. Even today, in conversation, we refer to those books we traversed together.

Actually, I still love being read to – a story, a newspaper article, something my children have written for school or university.

What types of books did you read? What was your favorite book as a child?

I read mostly detective, mystery and adventure stories. Enid Blyton’s adventure/fantasy The Magic Faraway Tree was a favourite. And the very sad Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by Ursula Moray Williams. After many tearful chapters, at least it had a happy ending. I believe this book has recently been republished.

How did you come to start writing?

As a child I wrote little stories and letters to family from the time I learnt how to write. Whenever my family travelled, diary writing was part of the journey. I still have some of the entries.

What other writers inspire you and in what ways?

I’ve been inspired and moved by so many writers both in fiction and narrative nonfiction. Most recently, however, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being – shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize – has caused me to think about time, and being, in a new way. It’s a breath-taking multidimensional story with a fascinating teenage protagonist. The story has lingered and I hope it will motivate me to be more experimental and perhaps more daring in how and what I write in future. NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel We Need New Names – shortlisted for the same prize – inspires me to want to craft harder and more creatively at dialogue, description and the creation and sustaining of vivid children characters and their voices.

I get much food for thought from reading or listening to/watching interviews with authors. Philip Pullman comes to mind here, as does Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, especially her TED talk The Danger of a Single Story.  

What does winning the Golden Baobab Prize mean for you?

It means the world to me. Being told the news still feels unreal. When I think about it, my heart does a quick cartwheel. I hope it will mean networking and possibly collaborating in some way with authors who share the Golden Baobab’s passion, mission and goals. And to have the story published would be absolutely fabulous!

What inspired you to write What’s Going on at 179 Jabulani Street? 

I tend to start with place, a faint scent of a theme or plot, and then characters. With What’s going on at 179 Jabulani Street? I wanted to set a story on the side of Johannesburg where I live, beneath the gaze of two tall buildings that dominate our skyline day and night in a compass-like way. Ponte Tower is a 54-storey donut-style apartment building which has a red crown at night, and the Hillbrow Tower’s top shines blue. Most of the story takes place nearby in Yeoville, where Sophie, one of the two protagonists, lives.

There have been regular ads on the radio and TV saying we all need to do something about stopping rhino poaching and many news stories about how many rhino have been killed; and debates around how to stop the poaching and decrease demand for rhino horn powder. How do children whose concerns are more survivalist relate to these rhino stories and being urged to do something?

I decided to explore this through the story. The research was fascinating and in some cases visually violent. I found out about poaching and smuggling techniques and routes. On the internet I came across an interview with a cleaner in one of the big game reserves about the impact of poaching on her life. This gave me some insight that I was looking for.

What inspires you as a writer?

  • Places.
  • Authors whose writing is of a quality that takes my breath away. It makes me want to learn more about the craft of writing.
  • Quirky things when walking or driving around my district and the city – or anywhere. Story ideas pop up this way but many fizzle out. One image that has remained with me is watching a grown man running down the street at high speed pushing a pink toy pram. Why? It seemed to me there were so many possibilities. I still want to get to that story.
  • When, after drafts and drafts, the story begins to coalesce and there’s that feeling that it’s going to work.

What is your dream for African children’s literature?

We need a deliciously wide range of genres written by African writers, set in African contexts with characters that African children will be excited by and identify with. I think it is overdue that children all over the world had the opportunity to read stories like these.

What legacy would you as an African children’s writer want to leave in improving the reading and writing culture in Africa?

It feels presumptuous to talk about leaving a legacy. But I am passionate about promoting a love for reading and creative writing. I think campaigns to encourage reading and telling stories in families is one way to do this. Aside from enjoyment, it can also help children and parents/guardians open up discussions on topics that are sensitive and often avoided.

 I’m a big fan of promoting journal writing from a young age and encouraging writing as an enjoyable activity that helps children become confident at it, just like practicing a sport does. Journal writing can help children express themselves, and for them to find their own authentic voice when it comes to writing for school and pleasure.

 Children’s enthusiasm for writing can easily be squelched by teachers’ red ink corrections and focus on grammar and spelling. It would be great if we could spend more time in classrooms making space and time for children’s imagination to evolve, to write drafts and get feedback from peers and the teacher, and for editing to be done as the final part of the writing process.

Thanks for speaking with us, Karen. We've enjoyed our chat!


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“Why do I write? I write to inspire other people and to create my own characters and bring them to life.” – Kanengo Rebecca Diallo, Winner of the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers.

Kanengo Rebecca Diallo is an incredible twelve year old writer  who lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with her parents and two siblings. She is a seventh grade student at the International School of Tanganyika (IST). Her story, Pieces of Africa, is about four children with diverse backgrounds who come from different parts of Africa. They have been chosen to find all the magical puzzle pieces scattered around Africa in order to save the world. 

We had the opportunity to chat with Kanengo and find out how she developed her passion for writing at such a young age. Read our interview with her below!

What is the first thing you remember writing and how old were you?

I wrote a story about how lying had consequences when I was ten years old. That is the story I remember vividly. I started writing stories when I was as young as seven.

 At what age did you realize you wanted to write?

I realized writing was what I wanted to do for a long time when I was in fourth grade. I was about the only person in my class who would write pages and pages of stories when our teacher handed out writing assignments. Not only did I like writing the stories, I would admire them when the teacher put them up on the wall. The best compliments I treasured were the ones people would give me about my stories. I didn’t realize I liked writing so much until the day my teacher read out one of my stories to the class and every one said I should become an author.

 How did you find out about the Golden Baobab Prizes and why did you decide to enter?

I found out about Golden Baobab when I was in the sixth grade. An announcement about the competition was posted on the school bulletin board. I was actually late to school that day and my friends told me I should enter a story. I thank a lot of people for encouraging me to enter the competition. I also decided to enter because I wanted to finally get a chance to fulfill my dream of becoming an author. Now I'm one step closer to that dream! 

 What does winning the Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers mean for you?

It is the greatest honor to be Golden Baobab’s winner for the 2013 Rising Writer’s award. I will never forget this day. Winning the competition means a lot to me! Having had my story read and evaluated by so many incredible people is a huge plus. I am also very excited to be one of the judges on the panel for the 2014 Golden Baobab writing competition.

 What inspired you to write Pieces of Africa?

I was inspired by a previous story that I had started to write in fifth grade. It was about the four seasons instead of the four elements of earth. I thought this would relate more to African children. The stories had very different characters and settings but the central idea was common to both stories. One day I hope to turn the story I wrote in fifth grade into one of my series.

 What is the most important thing you’ve learned about life so far?

Life is a gift from God. It is very valuable because it is short and we should use that time to do great things that will leave a mark on this planet and in people’s lives.

 What is your favourite local meal?

 I have so many! I quite like chapatti and choroko (green grams). I usually like eating it on a cold day to warm my belly.

 What is the last book you read and liked and why did you like it?

The last book that I read and liked a lot was the Winnie Years series. I liked it a lot because it was told in a child’s perspective and it talked about the challenges of growing up. Another reason I liked the book was because I could relate to the main character when she was twelve years old as I am also twelve years old.

 What are your writing ambitions for the future?

 I will write the second book of the Pieces of Africa series and hopefully get it published. After that, I am hoping to start a new series and draw comics too. I think I will write five books in all for the Pieces of Africa series.

Thanks for chatting with us, Kanengo. We know you will go on to write amazing African children's stories!






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2013 Shortlist for the Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books

The Princess with a Golden Voice by Philip Begho (Nigeria)

But the great head just swayed and swayed, and then the eyes of the beast closed. The monster was enchanted by the song! Quietly, it laid its huge head down on the ground. Without stopping her song, Ese snatched a huge sword from a guard. With her two hands, she swung it at the snake. And cut off its head!

Philip Begho is an award-winning author who has published over a hundred books, including the critically acclaimed Jelly Baby (a novel about boy soldiers), Songbird (a young adults novel about career choice), and the blockbuster Penny for an Orphan. Philip appeared twice on the longlist for his stories, The Princess with a Golden Voice and The Two-Headed Monster. However, it was The Princess with a Golden Voice that made it onto the 2013 shortlist. 

"How exciting to make the 2013 shortlist for the Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books!” he said. “The news came as I was pondering where the greatest stories lurked. In films? On the stage? In real life? In bestselling novels? No, they are to be found in the best children's stories. For no story is as timeless, as universal, as revealing or as helpful as the best of the world's children's stories.”


The Little Hippo by Liza Esterhuyse (South Africa)

But how amazing” The Little Hippo thought, “that although we are all so very different we can still work together to keep each other safe. We can be a part of the same herd, even though we don’t look the same. And so the Little Hippo said goodbye to his new little friend (who was still very tired after her swim) and happily and SLOWLY plodded his way back to his pond and pod. 

Liza Esterhuyse is a qualified occupational therapist with a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Intervention who loves children’s books.  

“Gloria Steinem said “without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” Entering this competition and being shortlisted encourages me to keep dreaming of the possibility of reaching children through the magic of books and the excitement of writing. What a dream come true to be able to contribute to the wonders of the imagination in such a way!” 


 Grandma Mimo's Breakfast by Carol Gachiengo (Kenya)


“Sweet beetles!” Grandma Mimo exclaimed, shaking her head. “Why won’t my red hen come out of the tree? Why won’t my white hen come out from under the store house? Where is my black hen hiding? Why won’t the goat give milk? I’m really very hungry and I need to have my breakfast. Her stomach agreed by grumbling and rumbling so loudly that it scared her shaggy cat. The cat gave a loud meow and ran under the bed.

Carol lives in Nairobi, Kenya, and works as a journalist and lawyer. Despite her busy schedule, she wrote a story, Grandma Mimo’s Breakfast, for the 2013 Golden Baobab Prizes.

“The news that I was shortlisted for the Golden Baobab Award absolutely made my day! I’m honoured to be part of a movement to create more beautiful African stories that our children can relate to.”


2013 Shortlist for the Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books

Seven by Sabina Mutangadura (Zimbabwe)

“I know you’ll do really well,” Mama said, opening her door. She got out, opened my door and smiled at me. I undid my buckle and gave her a half smile. She took hold of my hand and led the way round the back of the building. Some of the people on the benches looked at us. I looked back at them. I wanted to say, “Stare, stare like a a sausage in the air!” the way Emma had taught me. But I said nothing. 

Sabina Mutangadura lives with her husband and daughter in Harare where she works as a full time writer of children’s and young adult novels. Sabina is the author of  Unfashionably in Love, a Nollywoods romance novel.

“I am enormously pleased to have made the shortlist. Really, enormously pleased. What an honour and a privilege!” 


Rhino by Richard Street (South Africa)

“What are we going to do now?” asked Makena anxiously. “They’re getting closer.” “We can’t stay here,” said Tafari. “We’ll have to hide. There’s plenty of thick bush and if we stay quiet they’ll never find us. They can’t see us yet. Better move quickly." Makena and Tafari bent low as they scampered away and into the safety of the bushes. 

Richard Street is a retired junior high school teacher and avid nature lover. Like many, Richard is horrified by the increase in rhino poaching activities in South Africa which is home to most of the world's rhinos.

 I feel enormously proud and humbled that my story has been judged to be worthy of this honour – particularly as it touches on a theme which is precious to me – the preservation of Africa’s treasure of wildlife in all its magnificence and variety, especially the majestic rhino which is in danger of being wiped out within a generation.”


 What's Going on at 179 Jabulani Street? by Karen Hurt (South Africa)

Sophie and Jama huddled together under the trap door for about half an hour. By the time The Colonel had gone into another room to look for the spare keys to the house, packed the crates into the van and driven away their legs were stiff and they were dusty and tired. Mr Chirindza opened the trap door and they climbed out. 

Karen Hurt is an independent writer, editor, materials developer and writing workshop facilitator.

“For quite some time I had been thinking about rhino poaching and the smuggling of rhino horns. There are regular ads on the radio saying we all need to do something and frequent news stories on how many rhinos have been killed. I wondered, “how do children relate to these rhino stories and to being urged to do something?” I decided to explore this through my story."


2013 Shortlist for the Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers

The Little Secret by Fego Martins Ahia (Oghenefego Ahia), 

When her Papa opened the door to check if she was still awake, she closed her eyes and covered her face with the free end of the bed linen. He disappeared without a sound, except for the soft noise of the wooden door. Kamila opened her eyes again and wondered what pigeons ate for dinner. "Do they eat white rice, like us?" she asked herself, a little too loudly, as if she were talking to someone else, someone she couldn't see in the dark.

Fego Martins Ahia is a first year student at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts (USA). He grew up surrounded by his father’s small library which ignited his imagination and encouraged his passion for writing.

“I feel deeply honoured and humbled to have made the shortlist of this year’s Golden Baobab Prizes. This is indeed a big dream come true as it was such an illuminating experience writing a children’s story that spoke to my roots in gentle whispers. Thank God for Golden Baobab!”


Pieces of Africa by Kanengo Rebecca Diallo (Tanzania)

Oh no! I overslept. I quickly slid on my combats and ran out the door still in my bed-rumpled pajamas. There was a Jupon waiting outside the hall way to guide me to the dinning room but I just zipped past her and made my way around to the dining, popped myself down on a chair and dug in to the food.

Twelve year old Kanengo, who is the youngest person on the 2013 shortlist, lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with her parents and two siblings, and is a seventh grade student at the International School of Tanganyika (IST).

 “When I received the news that I was on the shortlist, it was one of the happiest days of my life. The day before the shortlist was to come out was a very nervous one for me. I constantly bit on my nails and I could barely sleep that night. I finally got the news on Wednesday evening while doing my maths homework. So much relief and excitement washed over me that I threw my math book on the floor out of sheer joy! I was overjoyed!”


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Of the 180 stories submitted to this year’s Golden Baobab Prizes, 25 made it onto the longlist and 8 to the shortlist. The 8 shortlisted stories are:

The Golden Baobab Prize for Picture Books

The Princess with a Golden Voice by Philip Begho (Nigeria)

The Little Hippo by Liza Esterhuyse (South Africa)

Grandma Mimo’s Breakfast by Carol Gachiengo (Kenya)

The Golden Baobab Prize for Early Chapter Books

Seven by Sabina Mutangadura (Zimbabwe)

Rhino by Richard Street (South Africa)

What’s going on at 179 Jabulani Street? by Karen Hurt (South Africa)

The Golden Baobab Prize for Rising Writers

The Little Secret by Fego Martins Ahia (Nigeria)

Pieces of Africa by Kanengo Rebecca Diallo (Tanzania)

To read the full press release visit our press release page.

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The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award rewards authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and reading promoters. Organizations from all countries in the world are invited to nominate, thereby promoting literature for young readers and stimulating reading promotion. The nominations for the 2014 Award were announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair on Thursday 10 October. The list includes 238 candidates from 68 countries. Of this year’s candidates, 54 are first-time nominees.

The nominees list includes Carol Ottley-Mitchell, author from St. Kitts and Nevis, 2011 Golden Baobab Prizes judge and one of a few authors from the English speaking Caribbean who have been nominated for the prize in the last ten years. Carol was nominated for her popular Caribbean Adventure Series, four books which feature the adventures of three Caribbean children and a mischievous vervet monkey.  

Other nominees include Piet Grobler who is a South African illustrator and artist and Niki Daly, also South African, who is a writer-illustrator, oral storyteller and promoter of reading. Daly has played an instrumental role in the designing of the Golden Baobab Children’s Illustration Prize which will be launched later this year.

The award amounts to SEK 5 million and is given annually to a single laureate or to several. 


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The 2013 Golden Baobab Prizes Longlist

Longlist for the Picture Book Prize



 GRANDMA MIMO’S BREAKFAST by Carol Gachiengo (Kenya)

Mimo is a very old but really fun, self-sufficient grandma with a great attitude. She has a little kitchen garden, some chickens and a goat. She’s got all she needs to take care of herself, but she’s having a bit of a rough morning. Her animals seem to have gone on strike, and she’s very hungry. Can she get them to give her the eggs and milk she needs for her breakfast?

Carol Gachiengo is a journalist and lawyer who lives in Nairobi, Kenya. She remembers, as though it were yesterday, the first book she read as a child. “It was like discovering magic and time travel all at the same time,” she recalls. “Writing for children is incredibly fulfilling because it allows me to unleash a greater level of creativity and just have fun with it. It’s also an opportunity to bring a little magic into a child’s life.”



DAD GOES TO SCHOOL by Mandy Collins (South Africa)

One day when Nandi’s dad drops her off at school, she feels lonely and asks him to stay. To her surprise, he promises to stay the following day. It sounds like a lovely idea, but Dad has quite a difficult time at school, and gets himself into all kinds of trouble. Eventually Nandi realises that it’s not nearly as much fun having Dad at school with her and that she can manage quite fine by herself.

Mandy 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 – not only does she continue to provide feature articles for consumer health and general publications, but she also teaches business writing at various large companies and NGOs, is an editor for a variety of writers from academics to novelists and non-fiction authors, and ghost-writes books for others. She also provides individualised writing coaching for children and adults. Mandy lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with her husband, two daughters aged 11 and 14, and two slightly demented dogs.




A grateful kingdom allows a princess to become the first female monarch of the land when her golden voice succeeds in enchanting a terrorizing monster cobra so that she can slay it.


When a rampaging two-headed monster sets eyes on a so-called useless girl child, a spell is broken and the monster changes back into what it really is -- the young king of a neighbouring kingdom. The grateful king grants the land its long-sought desire -- all because of the girl child.

Philip Begho is an award-winning author who has published over a hundred books, including the critically acclaimed Jelly Baby (a novel about boy soldiers), Songbird (a young adults novel about career choice), and the blockbuster Penny for an Orphan. He has worked as a journalist, a lawyer, a banker and a university lecturer and has also engaged in film and theatrical production. But he is now a full-time writer, doing what he likes best, writing children's stories. When he is not writing, he engages in career coaching and teen counselling and finds time to run informal play-and-learn groups for children. His hobbies include swimming, walking, and playing lawn-tennis and badminton.



THE LITTLE HIPPO by Liza Esterhuyse (South Africa)

Faraway in the savannah a little hippo sighed. The rains were late and the hippo-pool was getting very crowded. Then he notices the wildebeest, zebras and antelope gathering for their annual migration and he decides to join them. However, the little hippo quickly realises that the journey is not as easy as he thought and that it’s filled with danger. Luckily, he meets friends along the way who help and guide him through the migration.

Liza Esterhuyse is a qualified occupational therapist who has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Intervention. Liza is many things: a daydreamer, a book junkie, a red wine drinker, a world lover, a tree hugger, a dog enthusiast, a horse admirer and a Capetonian. She stumbles in high heels, can be bribed with coffee and Country Road and dreams of seeing the world and becoming a famous writer. Liza loves pretty photos and children’s books. She also likes to laugh and has a big heart for the children of Africa.



THE BUTTERFLY TREE by Regina Malan (South Africa)

Itumeleng was very special. He could see the shy forest nymph, Serurubele, who brought thousands of white butterflies and life-giving rain to the village. After four years of scorching drought the village people were overjoyed at the boy’s news that Serurubele and her delicate butterflies had arrived. They started ploughing and sowing and at night sang songs around the fire. Itumeleng was a happy boy.

Regina Malan is a born and bred South African. She grew up in the ‘platteland’ or countryside and as a child never even visited Johannesburg. After her university studies, however, after a short stint in Cape Town, she moved to Johannesburg and started work with a publishing company where she has been ever since. She appreciates the city’s energy and the array of options it offers for life’s enjoyment. Regina and her husband, Johan are the proud parents of two wonderful children. Her love for books and literature led her to do post-graduate studies in literature and she obtained a Ph.D. in this field. To this day words can suddenly jump up and enchant her. She earns her living as a freelance magazine journalist and as a translator and editor.



THUMISANG AND PULANE by Ansie Nel (South Africa)

Thumisang lives in the woodlands and he loves the animals. He is Pulane’s big brother and he feels responsible for her. When she is ill, his mother sends him for medicine and he runs to town to get medicine from the doctor. The naughty crow steals the letter and he and the go-away-bird make fun of the letter. Thumisang has to explain what’s wrong to the doctor himself. The wise old owl scolds the crow for being naughty and the go-away-bird decides to help Thumisang. When Thumisang comes back and he falls over a stone he nearly loses the medicine. The go-away-bird swoops down to save the medicine and all ends well. Thumisang takes the medicine home and Pulane can get better.

Ansie Nel is married with three children who became four when her son got married. Ansie and her husband stay on a farm in the Zeerust district which is about 90km from the Botswana border in the North West Province of South Africa. Ansie did bookkeeping for several years before she landed in the Zeerust library. That was when she found her real calling; she was a librarian for fourteen years in the local library. At the moment Ansie teaches Afrikaans and English at a Home Schooling Centre for a small number of children. She cannot picture her life without books or children.


THE LITTLE YELLOW FROG by Ayibu Makolo (Nigeria)

This story is about a little frog who comes to know that people are not special because of their skin colours but because of who they are.

Ayibu Makolo writes stories that are humanistic and personal. She also writes humour. Ayibu Makolo is her pen name. She enjoys reading classics and travelling around the world. She presently lives in Scotland with her family but has lived in both Nigeria and the Netherlands. She speaks four languages fluently and two other languages passably. She has been writing since she was a child but only began to make her work public this year. Ayibu is also a medical doctor.



 BIBO LEARNS TO SPEAK THE TRUTH by Nahida Esmail (Tanzania)

 This story is based around the importance of speaking the truth. As Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.” 

Bibo is a young and playful zebra who enjoys playing tricks on people. His mother, Lulu, does not like when Bibo lies and tells him to always tell the truth but Bibo does not take her advice immediately. He decides to play one last trick, this time on his cousin, Mili. He ends up putting her life in danger. Does Bibo learn a valuable lesson or does he continue to play tricks?

Nahida Esmail grew up in DaresSalam, Tanzania. She left for the UK to pursue a Bachelors degree in Psychology and also completed a Masters in Child Psychology. Her hobbies include reading, travelling, keeping fit and photography. She has two daughters who keep her on her toes all day long and inspire her to write. She has been writing for several years now and has published seven books. In 2013 one of her children’s books was translated into Maa (the language of the Maasai people), which was a great achievement for her. She has been shortlisted for the 3rd time for the Burt Award. In 2010 she received 2nd prize for her book “Living in the Shade,” and in 2011, she received an award for “Lessilie, the City Masaai.” At the moment she is working on a text book and some non-fiction children’s books.


ELELENMA by Nneoma Ike-Njoku (Nigeria)

In a village where everything speaks, three friends, Elelenma, Olariche and Bokobo, all beautiful, are so close that everyone calls them sisters. As the prince looks for a bride, the three friends get into an argument as to which of them would make the most suitable wife. As everything, including the mountain, sea, sky, and yam barn concludes in favour of Elelenma, jealous Olariche and Bokobo try to get rid of her by pushing her down a hole.
Cold and afraid in the hole, Elelenma soon realises that she is not alone. Because of her previous kindness to the marketplace ants, Agbiriba, the leader of the ants, decides to make her the most beautiful girl in the village and thus ruin the plans of the evil Olariche and Bokobo by ensuring that the prince, unable to resist her beauty, falls in love with and marries Elelenma. Agbirigba and the ants, with the help of the witty and mischievous spider, Ananse, are able to transform Elelenma so completely that it is at first difficult for the villagers to recognise her when she rides in on a giant cockerel to halt the wedding of Olariche to the prince.
The evil plan of Olariche and Bokobo is uncovered and they are duly punished. Elelenma, however, finds herself unable to settle into the mundane life of a fairytale princess, unable to do anything but eat and sleep all day. Because of her knowledge and love of them, she alone is put in charge of all the insects and animals in the land, and is very happy to help them solve all their problems. Elelenma does not forget the kindness of Agbirigba and Ananse, who continue to visit her in her old age.

Besides writing, Nneoma enjoys drawing, sculpting and attempting to cook.  She loves food and traveling; she enjoys how a new place makes you breathe somewhat differently. Her decision to study Liberal Arts and Sciences (at St John’s College in Santa Fe), is the extension of a childhood desire to ‘’know everything’’ that never completely disappeared. Her style is vintage and modern because she takes from the old and the new.


Longlist for the Early Chapter Book Prize


KAY CERA CERA by Fawa Conradie (South Africa)

Kay is a simple daughter of one of the thoroughbred farm labourers. She lives in Kay-world with her animals and her best friend is the farmer’s intellectually handicapped son, Anton. The two of them love Asjas, the farm donkey, who is somewhat out of place on this exclusive farm. The awkward threesome have a unique, strange bond; growing up through their teens living on the fringes of mainstream society, each for their own reasons. When Anton gets attacked by a swarm of bees, a string of events lead to the routine on the farm changing forever. Not only does Kay bring about social change, but she stimulates a much-needed examination on how farmers approach their workers. Life will never be the same again and no-one can guess what the future holds, but as Mrs Smit says: “Que Sera Sera . . .”

Having spent his first five years in Zambia (Northern Rhodesia), Fawa Conradie moved to South Africa with his parents where he matriculated at Grey College in Bloemfontein in 1975. He established his own company in digital animation, editing and special effects but sold the company and in 2002 and moved to the Garden Route to raise his young family while renovating old buildings, designing, teaching and making art. Fawa started writing and illustrating children’s and youth stories and has since been published in various collections of short stories and poems for South African schools.  He also writes a regular column for a glossy magazine, South: Life in the Garden Route. Fawa is heavily involved in the arts; he paints and writes full time. He is also an active sportsman and has a collection of bonsai trees.



 SEVEN by Sabina Mutangadura (Zimbabwe)

When Simi is uprooted from Victoria Falls to live in a run-down mining town far away, she is crushed.  Having left her best friend, the Immaculate Emma behind, she finds that new pals are hard to come by especially if you are different.  Just before her seventh birthday, she makes a decision which leads her to uncover a secret that affects everyone living at the mine. Before she knows it, Simi finds her life in grave danger with no one to help. That is, until an unlikely friend comes to her rescue.

Sabina Mutangadura is a Zimbabwean writer whose work includes stories for children and young adults. Sabina studied journalism at Rhodes University before working for a while in public relations. She subsequently gained experience in other areas within the field of communication as well as advertising and film. Sabina lives in Harare with her husband and daughter.



CHRISTMAS IN KEMAH’S HOME TOWN by Uchenna Edith-Susan (Nigeria)

Kemah’s ninth birthday on Christmas day is the most exciting ceremony of her life. Her quest to become a great dancer and make her mother proud propels her to discover her unique dancing skills which lead her to greater surprises. She is determined to conquer the challenges of an exciting talent hunt and emerge into a life of fame and great adventures….

Uchenna Edith-Susan is a graduate of Microbiology and a freelance writer. Her greatest passion is to inspire and empower the African mind through her writing and she is currently working on her biggest project to date, several chapter books for children as well as contributing articles to her favourite websites and blog posts. Uchenna loves reading books and browsing on the internet.



RHINO by Richard Street (South Africa)

Makena is the son of a game ranger. One day he overhears two rhino poachers planning to kill a rhino for its horn. He tells his friend, Tafari, a tracker who has the gift of being able to talk to animals. The two boys decide to stop the poachers. Makena with the help of Tafari and his animal friends, finds the poachers and they take their jeep. At first their plan does not go too well and they are nearly shot. A hole in the jeep’s petrol tank makes things worse but Tafari has more clever ideas. Just when it looks like they might be killed, the rhino appears.

 Richard Street is a retired Junior School teacher, happily married with four adult children and four grandchildren. During his teaching career he wrote and produced many plays and musicals for the schools at which he taught. Since retiring, he has pursued his interest in writing for children. Having spent many years in the senior primary phase he finds it easy to identify with children and their concerns and interests. His many interests include playing the harmonica, photography, water-colour painting and video editing. He is an avid nature lover and passionate about conservation so when not writing or spending time with his family, he is happiest hiking or spending time outdoors.



KWAME GETS A JOB by Sedem Abla Agbolosu (Ghana)

Kwame gets a job is a story about a crafty young boy who tries to avoid chores by hiding out in town. He ends up hiding in Mr. Koomson’s electrical store and before long, Kwame actually finds himself working! Does Kwame find yet another way to avoid work or does he lay down his bag of tricks and decide to find out exactly what hard work means?  

Sedem Agbolosu is a twenty two year final year student of the University of Ghana, Legon, studying English and Archaeology. She resides with her family in Accra, Ghana. She enjoys reading and writing short stories and poetry and also tutors young children.



IN THE END by Tunji Ajibade (Nigeria)

This is a story about a young and physically-challenged school boy who dreams of becoming a politician. He begins by being fully involved in school politics. He looks up to politicians who are highly placed, but in the end he sees angles to them that he least expects, and  as shocking as is revealing; he has a task to settle all of this in his mind, as well as channel a course for the realization of his dream.

 'Tunji Ajibade is a Communications (Writing/Editing) Consultant, Literary Administrator and newspaper columnist. He lives in Abuja, Nigeria. He has published short stories, dramas and children stories – many of which have either won, or are nominated for awards. His short stories are published in Chamberfour, The Fear of Monkeys and a host of other online sites. He also has several collections of short stories ready for publication and is working on a novel. His first love is mentoring a new generation of writers.



 WHAT’S GOING ON AT 179 JABULANI STREET? by Karen Hurt (South Africa)

 Jama’s life is upside down and going down further until he reluctantly accepts the pink jacket his father insists on buying him from a secondhand clothes seller on a freezing evening in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. He finds keys and an address in Yeoville in the pockets. This is the beginning of a dangerous adventure that leads to a new friendship with a girl called Sophie who Jama discovers the jacket had belonged to. Parting with the truth when it comes to telling their parents what they are up to, Jama and Sophie discover a Mozambican craftsman at 179 Jabulani Street who has been trapped in the rhino horn trade by a fierce poacher. They come up with a plan to help him escape and get the syndicate bust. Along the way they make partners with and inherit a dog they rename Licks.

Karen Hurt is an independent writer, editor, materials developer and writing workshops facilitator. She was born in Zambia where she spent her early childhood before moving to South Africa. She lives in Johannesburg. Whenever Karen can carve out the time, she loves to slip into her ‘other world’ and write fiction.



MADAM’S MAID by Ayibu Makolo (Nigeria)

Madam's Maid tells the story of a young girl, Acharu, whose father died and left the family in penury. The family suffers a lot and at the end Acharu is sent off to be a maid with a family in a big city. 



OF GHOSTS AND GRAVE-ROBBERS by Derek Lubangakene (Uganda)

 Of Ghosts & Grave-robbers is a story about a boy, Ethan, who stops speaking when his sister, Ethele dies and only resumes when he receives a mysterious letter from her, postmarked: Heaven. The two siblings then start communicating regularly. Problem is, Ethan still misses her so much that he decides he wants to be a ghost so that he can be nearer to her. But because no one around him knows how to become a ghost, Ethan resorts to going to a cemetery at night to try and ask an actual ghost how to become a ghost, but he instead runs into a girl, Thalia and her dog, Boris, and together the three of them stop two grave-robbers from getting their filthy paws on two precious coins.

 Although Derek Lubangakene trained as a Purchasing officer, his passion is writing. He is currently working on his second fantasy book but he also writes poetry, and has been published in The Proposal, an anthology Black Rainbow Poetry. His poetry has also been published in the Kalahari Review and his poem, Jailor, was selected as one of the top 5 poems of the month of July 2013, for The Missing Slate.



 GRANDMA’S HENS by Olurunfunmi Temitope (Nigeria)

Grandma is a typical traditional African woman and mother who would go to any length to protect her family. This does not sit well with her eldest son, Sanmi, who holds a grudge against his mother’s protective hens for costing him the opportunity of becoming a reverend father. When he reluctantly acquiesces to go to the village to join the family for Funke’s wedding, and his cheeky first daughter, Bimbo, comes to the village on holiday from the university, it seems all might end well or possibly not.

 Olorunfunmi Temitope was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He is a graduate of Fine Arts (Art History.) from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He is the Lagos Liaison Officer of Life in My City Arts Festival. He writes poetry, short-stories and is presently working on his debut novel. His short story Our Dreams Have Gone Out was one of the highly commended short-stories in the Sentinel Nigeria All-Africa Short Story Competition 2013. He has had his writings on and


 Longlist for the Rising Writer Prize


SONGS OF THE GODS by Jennifer Sarfo (Ghana)

  Adu is a young boy who’s had nothing but loneliness and silence to play with since infancy. As a teenager, his dream is to associate with the other children in the village but the harder he tries to befriend them, the further they draw from him. One sacred day, Adu is ordered by his mother to go and fetch firewood. Little does he know that this little journey would change his life forever.

Jennifer Sarfo was born in Kumasi. She is a former student of International Community School where she had her A level education. Jennifer is from Akyawkrom in the Ejisu Duaben district. She comes from a family of six who all live in Ayeduase in Kumasi.



PIECES OF AFRICA by Kanengo Diallo (Tanzania)

“Pieces of Africa” is a story about four children who are from different parts of Africa with diverse backgrounds. They are chosen to find all the magical puzzle pieces scattered around Africa in order to save the world. They were chosen because they all came from a long lineage of puzzle finders that started since the beginning of time. In trying to find the pieces, all their ancestors failed and died. Now it was up to them to gather all the pieces within a set period of time or else they, and the whole world will perish.

Kanengo Rebecca Diallo was born in 2001 in the city of Dar-Es-Salam, Tanzania. She lives with her mother, Nuru, her father, Anthony, and her two siblings. Since she was eight years old, Kanengo’s dream has been to become a world renowned author of books and if lucky, best-selling books. Kanengo discovered that she has a unique talent of drawing manga or anime comics. Usually when she writes her stories, she turns them into anime cartoon drawings.



THE LITTLE SECRET by Fego Martins Ahia (Nigeria)

Kamila is from a beautiful town called Kenema and she sees the world with small brown eyes. One day she meets Pa Camara, a friend of her father’s who talks to cats, and he offers to take her on his journey to search for a cat named Anis.

Fego Martins Ahia was born in Lagos, Nigeria in mid-1995. He was shortlisted twice for the Litro/IGGY International Short Story Award, received a bronze essay award from the Royal Commonwealth Society as well as won the inaugural Ugreen Foundation Short Story Prize.



THE BUSTING OF THE GREEDY GANGSTER by Asantewa Owusu-Darko (Ghana)

Agents, Kojo and Maya of the Kiddie Secret Service Agency{KSSA} have been assigned a very difficult task. They must save the Governor before he falls into the clutches of a band of greedy gangsters who are bent on taking control of the oil concessions that have been discovered in the state.  Teaming up with them is the Governor’s twins, Nana Aba and Nana Krampa. Will they be able to save the Governor from the hands of the greedy gangster Densu-Mantey? Or will these Gangsters with the aid of the KSSA mole Pius succeed in their devious plans?

Asantewa Owusu-Darko is a 16 year old former  student of Achimota school. Asantewa recently received a scholarship to do a two year A level programme  at the  African Leadership Academy in South Africa.  Writing has always been part of her life and she enjoys all genre of writing, from poetry to fiction, songwriting and even blogging. She also hopes to venture into screenwriting someday . Asantewa believes in the power of writing as a tool for development and she aspires to be a media entrepreneur and one of the inspirational leaders who will take up the mantle to transform Africa .


MAKING A WISH by Freda Sarfo (Ghana)

Ada, a young girl from a family of seven, finds herself at the forbidden cave after she lost her way home when there was heavy rainfall. After meeting the decision stone and know-it-all- rabbit, she finds out about the secret that the cave holds. The magic mirror has reappeared and she has to embark on a journey with the advising tortoise. She is handed the responsibility of either wishing for the good of the town or wishing for her sister to be found. She passes the test of selflessness and is to become the guardian of the cave.

Freda Sarfo was born in Kumasi, Ghana. She is a former student of International Community School where she completed her A level education. Freda lives in Ayeduase, Kumasi, with her family. She uses her spare time to learn leadership skills and take part in community service.







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The Golden Baobab Prizes for African children’s literature has ended the reading session of its evaluation process for the 2013 prize. This year, a total of 180 stories were submitted from thirteen African countries which brings the total number of entries submitted to the Golden Baobab Prize over the last 5 years to over 1,000 stories. With the near-completion of its publishing arm, Golden Baobab will soon be publishing some of these amazing stories!

Golden Baobab ensures that its reading team is made up of a wide variety of people. This year’s reading panel comprised students, physicians, architects, teaching and research assistants, a librarian, an archaeobotanist and a communications specialist who spanned various geographical locations such as Kenya, Bahrain, Botswana, The Netherlands, Ghana, North America, U.K, Guinea Bissau and Canada.

The evaluation process for the Golden Baobab Prizes is in two stages: the reading session and the judging session. The reading session is one of the most important aspects of the prize as it determines which stories go on to the judging session.

At the beginning of the reading session the readers receive a video walk-through of the reading process and a Golden Baobab Evaluation Handbook to go through. In the next week, readers receive readers’ packs which include personalized score sheets and a set of stories. Each story is read and scored at most three times and after the second read, stories with the lowest scores are dropped. After the stories have been read three times, the scores are averaged. The highest scoring stories then make the long list which is forwarded to the judges to begin the judging session, at the end of which the winners and shortlisted entrants are determined.

The long list will be announced on Friday, 30th August, 2013, followed by the shortlist on Wednesday, 30th October, 2013. The winners of the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize will be announced on Wednesday, 13th November, 2013.


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August 14, 2013 was a creatively awesome day at Golden Baobab. 8 budding illustrators; Sela Adjei, Nana Hene, Sena Ahadji, Andrew Adote, Jonathan Kwegyir Aggrey, Elkanah Mpesum and Kasia Matyjasz gathered in our office for a workshop with Laia Esque, a publisher who works at Molino, a prestigious publishing house in Barcelona, Spain, that specializes in children and young adult books.

It was exhilarating to hear the illustrators share the dream works they would like to bring to life with colour and some strokes. From illustrating every single Ananse story, to illustrating a story about “Kwaku Tanoe goes to space,” to a walk-through book, we know our illustrators have enthralling and magical ideas that the world is yet to see!

This workshop was to provide from a publishers’ perspective, what is expected of illustrators. Some of the issues that were addressed in the workshop were how portfolios must be presented, how to experiment with layouts of typography and illustrations, the importance of consistency and diversity and the need to let your imagination run wild when it comes to illustrating for children.

The workshop is part of Golden Baobab’s focus on sustaining the work it has been doing to promote African illustrators. This is the third workshop Golden Baobab has held for illustrators. The first was with the world renowned Ghanaian children’s writer-illustrator Meshack Asare. By the end of this workshop, a Golden Baobab winning story from Zimbabwe had been collectively illustrated by the nine illustrators who attended the workshop. Subsequently, another workshop was held with the same illustrators led by two-time Caldecott award winning illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky. From the exposure given these illustrators, about 20 new job offers have been created and more can be expected as Golden Baobab prepares to launch its Illustrator Prize later this year!


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On July 26 2013, there was a press release from Golden Baobab announcing the end of its call for submissions for the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize. Golden Baobab has undoubtedly established itself in the literary sphere as the voice of African children’s literature. As the Executive Director, Deborah Ahenkorah says, “African children deserve to grow up surrounded by stories that reflect their cultures and experiences.” This statement has been the driving force in the Golden Baobab key objective of pushing African stories to the forefront of the literary world.

Considering the number of stories received this year, 180 stories from 13 African countries, is it untoward to ask, “Does Africa not care for the intellectual growth of its future citizens?” A continent with 54 countries and 1 billion people (as at 2009) and only 180 stories from 13 countries! Stories are the repositories of culture. In my opinion, I think we can do better than this. It is true that all the 1 billion people cannot write stories for children and are doing other worthy things but I still think we can expect more.

True, our continent has been beleaguered with circumstances (low literacy rate, coups, etc )hat have stunted our growth and development but how long are we going to pull up this card anytime the issue of not doing enough is raised? The Golden Baobab Prize was established to inspire the creation of enthralling African children’s stories by gifted African writers. Currently In its 5th year, the Prize has received a little over a thousand submitted stories. A little over a thousand stories in 5 years, in the world’s second largest continent with its over 1 billion people scattered all over the world.  This is not good enough.

I am not in anyway  discounting the invaluable contribution to African Children’s Literature other organizations have made.  The Junior African Writers Series (JAWS) by Heinnemann and the Pacesetters books by Macmillan may be mentioned as the stimulant of African writing for children. The bustling publishing industry of South Africa and Nigeria is something to be proud of.  However, Africa is more than just these 2 countries ; there is so much we can do.

It is about time we had a serious conversation about the African children’s literature industry and space that Golden Baobab occupies with other well-meaning organizations on our continent. The children’s book publishing in India is estimated to be worth $1.15 billion growing at the rate of 25% per annum.

According to IBIS World’s Market Research on the Children’s Book Publishing Industry over a period of 5 years (2007 to 2012), the industry (in the US) accounted for:

  • 487 businesses
  • $3 billion in revenue
  • 9, 307 people employed and
  • An annual growth of 0.7%

These are positive statistics that should set investors on a scrambling spree yet you and I know that is not the case. This is a billion dollar industry waiting to be taken over by writers, illustrators, publishers, marketers and anyone you can think of within this space. South Africa may be considered as the hub of African children’s literature.  To paraphrase the title of NoViolet Bulawayo’s  famous book, “We need new countries.” We need new countries to be known for African children’s literature so that Africa can have a fair representation in the sphere of children’s literature. We need new names, new authors, new illustrators, new readers.

So why aren’t our African writers writing for children?

A publisher friend once told me that that the “literature” (fiction and non-academic material)  market itself is not considered profitable enough that is why many of the publishing houses lean towards the publication of academic/educational materials that has a steady market. What other reasons are there? We would like to know. Upon interaction with some writer friends, the issue of money was mentioned as a reason why African writers aren’t writing for children.  Money to “motivate” them to dedicate their time to churn out stellar literary pieces for African children, money to attend conferences and writing workshops which will keep them updated on happenings in the writing and publishing world. If the Golden Baobab Prize had more money, I believe it would offer more than the $1,000 dollars that winners are given but like everyone else, only more money will make that happen. Money is not the panacea to the problems of the African children’s book publishing industry but it will go a long way in alleviating some of the problems facing it.

African writers need publishers (neither vanity presses nor academic/educational publishers) who will be willing to place quality over expenses. This is not to say academic or educational publishers cannot do it. Heinemann and Macmillan are at their core,  academic/educational publishers but they set aside different departments dedicated to literature.  African writers need publishers interested in the growth of their clientele and what they represent; publishers who will explore ways of making books available to as many consumers as possible.

I understand that we need more of everything, more writers, more stories, more illustrators and more publishing houses who want to print excellent material . Parents must read to their children, especially the pre-literate ones so that the love for reading can be inculcated at an early age.  Books generally simulate readers’ emotional responses and children can acquire compassion for others and insight into their own behavior and feelings from reading. Reading about story characters’ feelings and actions also help to develop children’s ability to understand and appreciate other’s feelings. More African children reading would lead to more consumers patronizing African children’s literature.

Considering the statistics on the children’s literature industry in the US, we must believe that building a booming African children’s literature industry is doable. We know some characters from the American children’s literature because they did not stay in books. They travelled around the world as stuffed toys, we watched them on TV shows and in movies. How many of the African children’s books already published have been turned into movies or characters? We know Cinderella and can relate to her because we know other people with wicked stepmothers whose existence dwells on ensuring that they don’t progress in life while their children prosper. We can write about our own Cinderellas who live in our neighbourhoods and sell grapes and plantain chips in traffic.

Let’s get talking. Why don’t you join us in this conversation about the children’s book industry in Africa? What can Golden Baobab do better to ensure that we get more stories from the 54 African countries? What can publishers do? What can investors do? What can we all do to ensure in some years to come, anyone can walk into a bookshop and buy a beautiful African story to read to his or her child? It’s our Africa!

Join us in a discussion about the future of the African children's literature industry on Friday, August 16, 2013 at 16:00 GMT. Follow Golden Baobab on twitter (@GoldenBaobab) and on Feel free to repost this on your blog and spread the word. We would love to hear your views on this important topic!



Dorothy is a publishing coordinator at Golden Baobab. She is passionate about African literature, food and culture, human rights and dogs.  She wishes she could tweet more if she had more things to tweet about. She is forever plagued with wanderlust.



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In December 2012, friends of Golden Baobab joined hands, with the soulful sounds of Jojo Abott and Kunle for entertainment, to raise funds for an important cause: a children’s library at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) Children’s Ward. After the successful night at Republic Bar and Grill and months of endless correspondence back and forth, Golden Baobab in partnership with IBBY-Ghana has completed the project and presented over two hundred enthralling African children’s books, a furniture set and a colorful bookcase to the KBTH Children’s Ward.


The Korle Bu Library Project was initiated by Audrey Destandau, a former Golden Baobab team member and Ashlie Bernhisel, a former research intern at KBTH. The project was to bring to life Golden Baobab’s vision: a world filled with wonder and possibility, one African children’s book at a time. KBTH was identified as a strategic partner because as the biggest hospital in Ghana, it has a regular influx of children, some of who spend months on admission.  It was identified that although the hospital has a room where these children can study and play, there were no books for them to read. Golden Baobab decided to help out by stocking the room with books, particularly books whose cultural settings and content children can relate to.

This wonderful project has been completed in partnership with IBBY-Ghana and with the kind support of Ghana Book Development Council, Smartline Publishers, Sub-Saharan Publishers and African Christian Press. Golden Baobab made a formal presentation of the completed library to the KBTH staff on Monday, 29th July, 2013.

 Dear friends who came out to support us at the Republic Bar and Grill, the completed library is the direct result of the funds you helped us raise last year. Golden Baobab is truly grateful for your kind support!


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International Children’s Book Day, April 2, is celebrated worldwide to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children’s books. April 2 marks the birthday of Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen who was a prolific writer well-known for his fairy tales, some of which include The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina, The Ugly Duckling and many others.

The Street Library Project in partnership with Golden Baobab and Sub-Saharan Publishers celebrated this day on July 12, 2013 in Damang Ahwerase on the Nsawam Adgoagyiri to Adeiso Road. Dignitaries who graced the occasion were Akoss Ofori-Mensah, founder and Managing Director of Sub-Saharan Publishers, Jane S. Obeng, a director from the Ghana Education Service and Mark Amoako Dompreh, the Municipal Chief Executive of the host community.

There was a full turnout from the five schools which were in attendance. The enthusiasm the children projected was commendable. They came fully prepared for the activities and were very exuberant. The programme started with an Azonto performance, a popular Ghanaian dance that got the children excited and engaged. This was immediately followed by a quiz competition which involved a reading session with the primary school children after which they were questioned about the reading. The winning school received book donations from Sub-Saharan Publishers whilst the participants received GeeBee book bags from Golden Baobab. Five students received prizes for excelling in a creative writing competition. The children were passionate about the motion they argued for and against in the debate, “Books are more important that computer.”

It was insightful to get up close with our targeted readers and audience and see how our work impacts them. 

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Golden Baobab is proud to introduce to you, Phoebe Prah, our very own hardworking and talented Programs Assistant. One of Phoebe’s duties at Golden Baobab is to help brainstorm for new and exciting projects that are relevant to Golden Baobab’s mission. One such project was GeeBee the Book Bag which Phoebe did an amazing job spearheading. Here’s her account of how the bag came into existence!

Hi everyone!

Although conceptualizing GeeBee was not easy, it certainly proved to be worthy! At one weekly Golden Baobab meeting towards the end of November last year, the team huddled together en “pensive” mode, thinking and brainstorming to come up with an end-of-year project that would tie together our plans for strategic corporate engagement, children-focused social impact and increased brand recognition. The flow of thinking went a bit like this:

How do we get high quality African children's books into the hands of children this Christmas holiday? How do we begin to build strong, lasting relationships with corporates and have these relationships translate into support for our organization? We came up with a great idea!

When the Christmas season is approaching, corporates give out a lot of freebies to their staff, ranging from cash vouchers to various gifts. What could our gift be? Books seemed likely but how about a book bag? Now that sounds like a Golden Baobab product! We would create an unforgettable book bag with such a cool character that it would be difficult for any company to reject it. We would call our new product: GeeBee the Book Bag.

That was just the beginning! Over the next five days, the Golden Baobab team liaised with our good friend illustrator, El Carna, to solidify the GeeBee character. We wanted GeeBee to be childish but with a quirky edge and an iconic expression that would make it recognizable any and everywhere. El Carna designed GeeBee's face. Then we partnered with some bag makers and printers and just like that our GeeBee the Book Bag was born! We loved the look of our bag’s outer character but the most satisfying part for us was the fact that the contents in GeeBee would go a long way to fulfill Golden Baobab’s vision: a world filled with wonder and possibility, one African children’s story at a time.

If you are reading this and still wondering, “so what exactly is GeeBee?” allow me to explain: GeeBee the Book Bag is an excitable book bag character who shares the joy of reading African children’s books with every child it meets. Each Book Bag is filled with three quality African children’s stories and a bookmark with a message from GeeBee that encourages the bag owner to keep reading African children’s books.

We approached various companies and pitched GeeBee as an “excitable and meaningful Christmas gift” for the children of staff and in the space of three weeks, we successfully sold over 700 books - an impressive feat!  The success of GeeBee was critical as that was the deciding factor as to whether it should be incorporated into Golden Baobab’s overall organizational model.

So this my friends, is how the much coveted GeeBee the Book Bag came to be! 

By Phoebe Prah – Programs Assistant

 In the middle is Phoebe holding a box of finished GeeBee Bags

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Golden Baobab is happy to introduce to you, Sena Ahadji, a young African Illustrator who is truly passionate about her art and puts much thought and focus into the works she produces. The Golden Baobab Prize is constantly evolving and we have placed more emphasis on the creation of African stories that will inspire the imaginations of African children. To depict this vision, we sought the help of Sena to create a poster for the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize, on which she delivered marvelously! Let's welcome Sena and see what she has to say.


I’m Sena Ahadji, an African Illustrator. From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved drawing and no bare surface ever seemed safe around me if I was holding a crayon or a marker!

In primary school, library time was sacred to me; the books I chose to read were heavily influenced by their illustrations. I was always fascinated by the different techniques the illustrator’s used to bring the characters to life. This seemed to determine whether or not it would be a good read.

Studying Illustration and Graphics Design at Coventry University gave me the platform to explore my talent as an Illustrator. It birthed a passion in me for children’s books and my characters tend to stem from unique personalities I come across. My stylistic approach is not always very conventional as I always look for ways to improve and express myself as an individual. My African background also plays a vital role in the way my characters are depicted.

I was honored to be approached by Golden Baobab to design this year’s Prize poster and so I wanted to design something captivating. After researching, brainstorming and sketching down some ideas, I came up with the concept of an African character with a big afro, fascinated with the contents of a book coming to life. The concept was refined each time after getting feedback, until the final creative solution fit the brief!

I believe the role of an Illustrator is to provoke and assist ones imagination to push its boundaries. As my skills continue to expand, I hope you will find more of my illustrations all over! There are endless possibilities and opportunities I endeavor to explore and I look forward to working on some interesting projects and making my print as an African Illustrator.

Sena Ahadji

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A very big welcome to our 5th and final Search Hero, Allieu, from Sierra Leone! Allieu has a soft spot for book characters who emerge victorious despite the adversities they go through in their stories. He also loves a certain sport, can you guess which one?


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am Allieu S. H. Kamara, a member of PEN International, Sierra Leone Chapter. I am the Administrative Secretary of the Chapter which is known as the Sierra Leone PEN Centre. I have practiced journalism over a period of 15 years and I have recently registered a newspaper called the ‘EDUCO NEWSPAPER.’ 

What is your day job and what activities do you enjoy in your leisure time?

My daily job at the Sierra Leone PEN Centre is planning and executing the day to day activities of the centre. I like watching football and listening to music when I have free time.

Let’s take our readers on a trip down memory lane. What did your 8 year-old self want to become in future and were they in any way influenced by the books you read?

I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was a small boy so I'm happy that my dream came true! Though I have read many books, I already had a passion for journalistic activities, especially research and reporting.

This is the tough one: Who was your favorite storybook character growing up?

When I read stories, I always admire a hero/heroine who strives hard to succeed despite difficulties in his/her adventure. An example is the popular primary school book, ‘Chike and the River,’ authored by the late African literary giant, Chinua Achebe. The main character in the book, Chike, became successful at the end of his ambitious story.   

What would be your biggest dream for African children’s literature?

When every African child has access to a variety of supplementary readers in schools at all levels, I would be the happiest man in the literary circle! This is because research has indicated that a child who can read and write, learns more and is more likely to stay in school. As a result, this child has a greater ability to contribute to economic prosperity. As a student/pupil masters the mechanics of reading, instructions expand to address reading and writing for critical thinking and the use of knowledge gained to solve real problems. 

How does it feel to be named a Search Hero for the Golden Baobab Prize?

It means a lot to me to help in promoting African literature, writers and reading. Also, it would mean suggesting and advising literary institutions on organizing writers’ workshops and publishing reading materials.

What kind of superpowers will you be contributing to enhance the Golden Baobab Prize search for captivating African stories for children?

Encouraging both published and aspiring writers to add to African literature and enrich its value. At PEN Sierra Leone, we have established a Writers Forum. The forum encourages people to come up with unpublished manuscripts so that writers can meet as peers to share experiences and new and aspiring writers can meet with established writers for tips and guidance relating to their works.

Where can people connect with you on the World Wide Web?

People can connect with me on We share this website with PEN International.

Well Sierra Leone, there you have it! Look out for Allieu, Search Hero No. 5 for the Golden Baobab Prize!


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Say hello to Search Hero Lynn from South Africa! Lynn has an active imagination; she likes to muse about the existence of extraterrestrial life. Let's have a chat with her to find out more!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I live in Cape Town, I am passionate about literacy and writing and yes, I believe UFO’s are real!

What is your day job and what activities do you enjoy in your leisure time?

I’m a Healthcare administrator and I enjoy reading and writing. Books always take me to new worlds and allow me to experience new things.  Reading is King!

 Let’s take our reader on a trip down memory lane. What did your 8 year-old self want to become in future and were they in any way influenced by the books you read?

My 8 year-old self wanted to be a lawyer but I don’t know if it’s because of the books I read. I have always had a passion for law, history and education.

Who was your favourite storybook character growing up?

It would have to be all the characters of the MoloSongolo series. They are all so interesting!

What would be your biggest dream for African children’s literature?

I want African children’s literature to get widespread exposure but ultimately getting African kids reading.

How does it feel to be named a Search Hero for the Golden Baobab Prize?

It is a true honour, and I will dedicate my time to fostering the ethos of the Golden Baobab Prize.

What kind of superpowers will you be contributing to enhance the Golden Baobab Prize search for captivating African stories for children?

I am planning to start a blog, and the first post will be LITERACY IN AFRICA. I will tweet and just get a dialogue going and get more people on board to support, assist and make us GROW.

Where can people connect with you on the world wide web?

Via twitter @Ling83

Well South Africa, there you have it! Look out for Lynn, Search Hero No. 4 for the Golden Baobab Prize!


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 A very big welcome to Search Hero Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed from Nigeria! Zahrah loves to travel, read and do a whole bunch of other things. Read her interview and find out what they are!


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, in a diverse household with a father from Nasarawa in Northern Nigeria and a mother from England via St.Kitts in the West Indies. I grew up surrounded by shelves filled with books, music constantly playing, delicious Nigerian and Caribbean food and great conversation, which is probably why those are some of my favourite things in the world.

What is your day job and what activities do you enjoy in your leisure time?

For nearly four years I have been a PhD student at the London School of Economics where I research and teach on gender and the urban aspects of international development. When I'm not being an academic-in-training, I blog through bookshy about African literature and book culture. Some of my favourite things in the world to do for fun are to read, draw, create playlists with different songs based on my mood and/or the occasion, take photos of the things in cities people tend to ignore, travel, and have great conversation and laugh over good food with friends and family. One of the things I love doing the most, however, is curling up on the couch (usually with a cup of tea) and watching series. Right now I’m watching Scandal and Arrested Development, and catching up on The Vampire Dairies (I never said it was all great TV).

Let’s take our readers on a trip down memory lane. What did your 8 year-old self want to become in future and were they in any way influenced by the books you read?

I wanted to be a cartoonist. Although I loved reading all types of books as a kid, I absolutely loved comics and my favourite was Asterix. I also loved Archie, but that might have been in secondary school. Others I loved to read when/if they were available were Garfield and Friends, Beano, Dennis the Menace, and Peanuts. These comics greatly influenced my desire to become a cartoonist, especially Asterix. I remember one afternoon being bored after I had read one of my comics (probably for the 100th time) and decided to try and copy one of the characters in them. It might have either been Obelix or Panacea (his love interest). While I never did go to art school, I still harbour the dreams of an 8-year old who wanted to draw the cartoons in the comics she read.

This is the tough one: Who was your favorite storybook character growing up?

This really is a tough question! It’s pretty hard to choose a favourite but I was the hugest fan of Roald Dahl’s novels. I read them all, which is why it’s so hard to pick one. There’s the Big Friendly Giant, The Grandma from “The Witches”, Matilda, the adorable Mr Hoppy in “Esio Trot”, and even Fantastic Mr. Fox. Yet while Roald Dahl had some amazing heroes, he also had some memorable villains. The Grand High Witch from “The Witches” scared me as a kid, and there was Mr. and Mrs. Twit from “The Twits”.

What would be your biggest dream for African children’s literature?

For a child that is 8 years old in 2013 being asked 20 years from now, “Who was their favourite storybook character growing up?” and being able to reply – a famous character in an African novel.

How does it feel to be named a Search Hero for the Golden Baobab Prize?

Very surprised, extremely honoured and ready for the challenge.

What kind of superpowers will you be contributing to enhance the Golden Baobab Prize search for captivating African stories for children?

Probably not the coolest superpower, but resourcefulness, that way I can use everything I am given (hopefully in a creative way) to contribute to the Golden Baobab Prize search.

Where can people connect with you on the world wide web?


Twitter: @bookshybooks

Facebook: bookshy


 Well Nigeria, there you have it! Look out for Zahrah, Search Hero No. 3 for the Golden Baobab Prize!



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Meet Search Hero Aleya Kassam from Kenya! Aleya is one of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet, read the interview we had with her and find out why!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

The first thing you should know about me is that ever since I could read, I have always had my nose buried in a book; it is almost an affliction. I am an avid bookworm, and I am shameless about trying to get other people hooked on reading. I am Kenyan, and really excited to be living in this country at a time where the creative industry is buzzing, you can almost taste the energy in the air! What else...I come from a big, chaotic Indian family where Sunday lunches are an institution on their own; the doors are flung open around midday, and people stream in all day long. Lunch is an all day affair, going late into the evening, capped by popcorn made by my Grandpa.

What is your day job and what activities do you enjoy in your leisure time?

I am pretty sure I have the best job in the world! I put together the Storymoja Hay Festival, which is a four day celebration of stories, ideas, writing and cultural expression. We bring together poets, storytellers, writers, artists and thinkers from around the world in a veritable feast of juicy discussions, performances, workshops and exhibitions. It is a family affair which Ben Okri called a ‘magical experience’ :)

The children’s program of the festival takes place in the Storyhippo village and it has wonderful activities for kids of all ages, a space where they can publish their own books, storytelling, poetry jams, robotics and innovation is a creative zone where books come to life, imagination takes centre stage and where we hope to infect every child with that reading bug for life. This year’s festival takes place from the 19th to 22nd September at the Nairobi National Museum.

In my leisure time, I read...a lot! I also really enjoy going to poetry events, listening to live music and spending time with people who make me giggle.

Let’s take our reader on a trip down memory lane. What did your 8 year-old self want to become in future and were they in any way influenced by the books you read?

Gosh. 8 years old feels like a long time ago! I remember reading a lot of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and wanting to become a know, the kind that unearths the clues, to solve the puzzle that will lead to the quest and possibly, treasure! I still get excited by the idea of treasure. In a way, those books awakened in me a curiosity to explore and try and understand the world around me. That curiosity is still very much within me, and despite good old Google, nothing beats the giddy high of new discovery. Perhaps that is the allure of books for me, I get to continuously discover new things about the world and about us as human beings. I think even now, life can be like a quest; piecing bits of a puzzle together, getting stumped by dead ends, picking yourself up, persevering, and surrounding yourself with people who support, energize, inspire and make you laugh.

This is the tough one: Who was your favorite storybook character growing up?

Actually, this one is not so tough :) I absolutely adore Roald Dahl, and my two favourite characters are the Big Friendly Giant and Matilda. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent staring at my pencil, absolutely and utterly convinced, that if I just tried hard enough, surely it would move. I am a little nostalgic for that little girl who believed that absolutely anything was possible in this world, no matter how audacious. I love Matilda for making me feel that way, and every now and then I have to remind myself of the power of believing in your dreams.

The BFG is my most favourite. Who can resist that wonderful friendly giant, who blows dreams into your bedroom, eats snozzcumbers and makes whizpoppers! The book was absolutely scrumdidlyumptious! My favourite books took me to other worlds and introduced me to the most fantastical of characters.

What would be your biggest dream for African children’s literature?

I want children from Africa to have this overflowing treasure trove of fantastic books that show their world in it, superheroes that look and talk like them, characters that they can identify with, adventures in the places they see around them, and in a language that is theirs. I want children’s authors to be able to build careers off of feeding children’s imaginations such that children dream of becoming children’s authors themselves.

I want to see children around the world, lining up outside bookshops to buy the latest book that has come out from the Africa, and making the Harry Potter mania look like it was miniscule in comparison. I want our books to be translated into every language in the world, so children all over the globe can enjoy our stories.

I want African children’s literature to be bold, to dip and dive into all sorts of genres, from science fiction, to fantasy, from horror to comics. I want children’s literature not to have a tiny specialist section at the bookshop, but to sit proudly next to and outsell Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and know that the demand for our literature is not just for the novelty of it coming from Africa, but because the stories are just simply irresistible, and the world recognizes them as such.

I want African children’s authors to be celebrated in the way musicians are in our country. I want to climb a matatu and see all the kids in it reading out of sheer pleasure, to have to jostle for space at the bookshop because it is overflowing with people wanting to buy books. What a joy!

How does it feel to be named a Search Hero for the Golden Baobab Prize?

You already know how much I love discovery, and nothing gives me more pleasure than the discovery of a great story. Working at Storymoja, a Kenyan Publishing House, our dream is to get a book in every hand, and we are passionate about promoting African literature for children. I am always really excited to hear of organizations that are also doing great work in this sphere, and I think the Golden Baobab Prize is a fantastic initiative. I am excited to join hands to find our continent’s next crop of writers and stories that will have children staying up past their bedtime, reading with a torch under their blankets.

What kind of superpowers will you be contributing to enhance the Golden Baobab Prize search for captivating African stories for children?

Hundreds of wide reaching sticky tentacles to attract all those writers out there with great children’s stories hidden in the recesses of their brains..or laptops.

A ginormous invisible magenta cloak that spreads the joy of reading and the importance for African children to see themselves in the pages of a book.

Most of all, an infectious passion to discover and share great stories that set alight the imagination of children around the continent so that they may fall in love with reading forever.

Where can people connect with you on the world wide web?

They can follow me on twitter @aleyakassam. They can also keep up with all that is happening with Storymoja on and be our friends on Facebook: Storymoja and Storymoja Hay Festival. On Twitter we are @Storymoja and @SMHayFest.

Well Kenya, there you have it! Look out for Aleya Kassam, Search Hero No. 2 for the Golden Baobab Prize!



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Hello everyone!

We at Golden Baobab are excited to introduce you to our first 2013 Golden Baobab Prize Search Hero!
Search Hero Nana Yaw is from Ghana and he’s supporting Golden Baobab in its search for amazing new African writers.

Here’s an interesting interview we had with Nana Yaw to find out more about him. Enjoy!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m Nana Yaw and I’m a writer and a poet at large.

What is your day job and what activities do you enjoy in your leisure time?

I work with the Writers Project of Ghana as a Media and Projects Officer. I’m responsible, among other things, for the expansion of our programs to new media and scouting for more avenues to create a space for writers in Ghana. Usually, I play tennis, volunteer for programs in the areas of creative writing, youth and development, and spend time with my spouse. I also collaborate with other young people within Blogging Ghana to execute social media projects.

Let’s take our readers on a trip down memory lane. What did your 8 year-old self want to become in future and were they in any way influenced by the books you read?

I don’t remember wanting any particular career. I was probably too busy running around tennis courts and being a child. There was a brief period where I wanted to be a doctor but then I failed at math and excelled in English! I remember reading some titles in the African Writers Series and today I work to promote African literature and writers.

This is the tough one: Who was your favorite storybook character growing up?

Nothing beats Ananse. I had more of an oral storytelling upbringing as opposed to being read to from children’s storybooks. Many Ananse stories stuck with me because they were so thrilling! I think I even fell in love with Okonore Yaa, his wife.

What would be your biggest dream for African children’s literature?

A library in every community in Ghana stocked with children’s storybooks which have been written and illustrated by Africans. That day, we would have achieved something monumental.

How does it feel to be named a Search Hero for the Golden Baobab Prize?

I usually like working quietly but I have always believed in the Golden Baobab Prize’s cause and supported it. Even though being a Search Hero seems rather humongous for me, I’m elated to have been nominated.

What kind of superpowers will you be contributing to enhance the Golden Baobab Prize search for captivating African stories for children?

Superpowers? By a dint of Ananse’s wit and cunning, I will be reaching out to all the writers in the connections I have built. I have social media clout, and I intend to use it well.

Where can people connect with you on the world wide web?

I’m on Creative Writing Ghana on Facebook, on weblog and @osarpong and @writingGH on Twitter.

Well, Ghana, there you have it! Look out for Nana Yaw, newest Search Hero for the 2013 Golden Baobab Prize!

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Golden Baobab is proud to introduce the Golden Baobab Prize Search Heroes!

The Search Heroes are competitively selected individuals from various countries who will provide local search support to the prestigious 2013 Golden Baobab Prize for African children’s literature, the goal of which is to encourage African writers to create enthralling stories for children.

The deadline for submission to the prize is July 14th, less than a month away, and as such, our Search Heroes will be hard at work supporting Golden Baobab in their countries of origin or residence by scouring the African continent for the most talented writers of African children’s literature.

Over the next few days, we will be unveiling our amazing Search Heroes on our Facebook page, our Twitter page and here on our blog. We will also feature them in exciting interviews so you can get to know them and what they do.

Keep watching this space and discover who the Golden Baobab Prize Search Heroes are. You never know, they could be from your country!


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