For a long while, I had not visited the Legon bookshop at the University of Ghana campus for so many reasons but I have a good reason for this considering the fact that I work at the same University and even from where I work is not far from where the bookshop is. In previous times, I had visited the bookshop on daily basis especially when I go out for lunch.
The most pressing reason for not visiting the bookshop for a while has to do with meeting the same books over and over again. Most often, the books I seek after would not be found there. Just last week, on a visit to the bookshop I came across two books I have long awaited their arrival. I quickly grabbed them and they now occupy a sweet – scented, dust free space on my shelves. These are books that won the Burt Award for African Literature (Ghana) and are books for children and young adults. One may wonder why I am interested in these particular children books. Yes, I would answer you!
I have been following the Burt Award for a while and I give full credit to Mr. Bill Burt for his generosity for financing it. Mr. Bill Burt is a Canadian businessman yet he foresaw the need to invest in children books in Africa and more so, tending to give hope to writers of children books in Africa. The prize tag for the first three winners alone goes a long way to force many dormant yet talented writers in the African region to pick up their pens to write. This is one of the few awards that concentrate on children literature in Africa as most of the awards on the continent are geared towards the adult populace. My only hope is that big business men and tycoons on the continent would emulate Mr. Bill Burt who is not even an African yet foreseeing the need to invest on the African continent. This reminds me of what the award winning writer, Manu Herbstein said in an interview with Africabookclub.com earlier this year:
Que: Any final thoughts you would like to share?
Ans: The Burt Award is a great idea. First Ethiopia, next Tanzania, then Ghana and now Kenya hosts an annual contest for a novel targeted at 12-15 year olds with a first prize of $10,000. The writers have to be resident citizens. All honour to the generous Canadian, Bill Burt, whose idea this was and who funds it. The Japanese funded Noma Prize is no more. The Caine Prize is British funded. What a pity and shame that with all their talk of an African Renaissance, our political leaders have been so mean in their patronage of the arts and creative writing in particular. Mo Ibrahim should consider giving up his futile search for ex-presidents worthy of his prize and devote his philanthropy to the recognition and nurturing of African literary and other creative achievement.
And then there is China, but that’s another story.
Now, let me mention the names of the two books I bought. They are ‘The Mystery of the Haunted House’ by Ruby Yayra Goka and ‘The Deliverer’ by Kwabena Ankomah-Kwakye. The two books won the second and the third prizes for the Burt award respectively. I am happy to announce that I read both books the very day I bought them and would bring the reviews to you very soon.
Have you heard of the Burt Award for African Literature? Have you anything about these books? Let me hear from you via comments.