May 14, 2013

Bread & Roses and Little Rebels: radical books recognized


Radical booksellers reward radical books, like Sarah Garland’s Azzi In Between

Last month, we reported on the the brand new Little Rebels Children’s Book Award, which “recognises fiction for ages 0-12 which promotes or celebrates social justice and equality.” On Saturday, the prize was awarded for the first time, going to Sarah Garland, for her graphic novel Azzi In Between.

Azzi In Between follows a young girl as her family flees political unrest in her home country and adjusts to a new life and language. Along the way Azzi learns about other refugees, makes new friends, and desperately misses her grandmother, who remained behind. According to a press release announcing the decision to award the prize to Garland, Azzi In Between is a “marked departure for the author, best known for her warm narratives of family life” and the book was a direct result of Garland’s experience working with refugee families.

Writing in the London Observer last summer, Kate Kellaway praised the book and its author:

Garland treats her subject with unpatronising, well-informed sensitivity. We start in Azzi’s whitewashed home in a war-torn country and follow her to a British hostel and a kind yet – at first – alien primary school, and we witness her father’s abject despair at not being allowed to work. Azzi finds some beans under sofa cushions, spilt from her father’s bag. She plants them and they grow, as does the family’s sense of security. It is a story that is itself a spilling of beans – in the very best sense.

And Fen Coles, the director of Letterbox Library, argued that the graphic novel was a necessary book: “At a time when there are so many damaging myths circulating about refugees and asylum seekers, it is heartening to see a book which tells the truth—and in a way which children can relate to.”

The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award was organized by the Alliance of Radical Booksellerswho also award the Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing. That prize was awarded to Hsiao-Hung Pai for her book, Scattered Sand: The Story of China’s Rural Migrants, which was published by Verso Books.  Guest judge Nina Power described Scattered Sand as a “vivid, intimate and highly-engaging picture of work in contemporary China,” adding, “Pai’s book evidences compassion and passion in equal measure for the workers she talks to, and presents a highly convincing, if often depressing, portrait of rural to urban migration and economic exploitation.” The Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing is especially dear to us, as David Graeber‘s Debt won it last year.

Both awards were announced at the London Radical Bookfair.


Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.