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Rashmi Sirdeshpande picks some of her favourite Children’s/YA Books from Jhalak Prize Longlists

Just in time for Christmas: Award-winning children’s author Rashmi Sirdeshpande picks some of her favourite Children’s/YA reads from past Jhalak Prize longlists. She’s an official World Book Day author for 2022 and her latest non-fiction book, Good News illustrated by Adam Hayes, has been shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2022.

This book is just gorgeous through and through! I fell in love with it as soon as I had it in my hands. Combine Atinuke’s utterly charming and captivating storytelling with Onyinye Iwu’s beautiful artwork (she is 100% one to watch!) and you have a series that will enchant readers young and old. Tola is the most wonderful character - small and full of determination - and her story will transport you instantly to Lagos. Imagine! Where were these books when I was growing up? I’m so glad they are here now and available to children everywhere so they can travel the world through these pages and see it for all its richness.

A fun, fast-paced adventure set in the beautiful and vibrant world of Serendib, a fascinating fictional setting inspired by Sri Lanka. Wonderfully atmospheric, I was immediately immersed in the story. Transported, in fact. And I know it’s one that has been loved and enjoyed by children all over the world. I mean what more can you ask for? It’s got mystery, fantastic friendships, brilliant banter, a gorgeous jungle setting, and an actual ELEPHANT, and it gets extra points because it features a bold protagonist (Chaya), a jewel thief who doesn’t take any nonsense from anyone.

Written by the absolute queen of historical fiction, this book shines a light on the true story of 18th century freedom fighter and leader of the Jamaican Maroons, Queen Nanny. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know about this fierce and glorious woman who waged war against British colonisers. She was the mastermind behind an epic resistance movement and while the book doesn’t hold back in its descriptions of the terrors inflicted upon enslaved people, it is a truly uplifting tale of courage and determination. And it’s written in such an accessible way, bringing this important and heroic story to a young audience in a way that is exciting, empowering, and hopeful.

This book blew me away. I can’t stop thinking about it. Inspired by a real-life uprising in Jamaican plantations in 1760, Cane Warriors is a beautifully written, powerful and hopeful book that everyone needs to read. It’s absolutely brutal but with the most tender moments of family and friendship and faith in a brighter future. We see this world of the plantations and the uprising through the eyes of fourteen-year-old Moa, a character crafted and written with such care and sensitivity and depth. In this way, Alex Wheatle introduces us to a heart breaking piece of British history that we all need to understand and learn from and heroes for every single one of us to hold close to our hearts.

I can’t make a Children’s/YA list without including Patrice Lawrence, a formidable writer with the most incredible voice. And this is the thing. Eight Pieces of Silva is a pacy page-turner of a story but above all, for me, it’s a masterclass in voice. I loved Becks from the second I met her on the page. Books are a journey in empathy and with this one, you truly do see the world through her eyes and feel with her every step of the way. And don’t get me started on how much I LOVE the pop culture references in this book - Black Panther, for example! It’s all so real and fresh and bang on in every way. Loved it.

Editor's note: We are particularly delighted that Rashmi picked Eight Pieces of Silva, our inaugural C&YA winner

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