Mitch Johnson and editors Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker of Usborne are the 2018 winners of the Branford Boase Award for Kick, the socially-charged story of a football-obsessed young boy who works in a factory making the boots his heroes wear on the pitch.
Now in its nineteenth year the Branford Boase Award is unique in acknowledging the importance of the editor, and is recognised as one of the most important awards in children’s books thanks to its impressive record in identifying authors with special talent at the start of their careers.
Kick tells the story of Budi, a young boy working in a footwear factory in Jakarta. His family are poor and the working conditions in the factory very hard, but Budi remains positive and optimistic, dreaming of life as a professional footballer. Johnson was inspired to write the story when he found a crumpled energy gel sachet in a shoebox between a brand new pair of football boots and began to wonder who had left it there. Later, as he channel-hopped between Match of the Day and a programme protesting the use of sweatshops, the disparity between star footballers and garment workers compelled him to highlight the issue, and he began writing Kick.
On a shortlist that celebrates vibrant new voices and original stories, the Branford Boase Award judges identified completely with Budi and the way Mitch describes his life and hopes for the future.
Last year’s winner, M.G. (Maya) Leonard, a judge for the 2018 award said: “Kick is skillfully written and perfectly paced. Mitch Johnston has produced a fantastically original debut that champions hope, dogged optimism in the face of adversity, and friendship. This book needs to be on the bookshelf of every library, not just because it will encourage empathy, but because it’s a great book. Mitch Johnston is definitely one to watch.”
Sharon Cohen and her editor Sarah Lambert were Highly Commended for The Starman and Me, about a boy who makes friends with a tiny, prehistoric human and tries to help him.