Branford Boase Award 2023 – Winner Announced!

14 July, 2023

Cover image of the winner of the Branford Boase Award 2023Congratulations to Christine Pillainayagam, winner of this year’s Branford Boase Award for Ellie Pillai is Brown (Faber & Faber), a “funny, song-filled, second-generation coming of age story”.

The Branford Boase Award celebrates the year’s outstanding début novel for young people aged seven and up. Founded in 2000 in memory of award-winning author Henrietta Branford and her editor at Walker Books Wendy Boase, the award is unique in honouring a book’s editor as well as the author. Christine shares the award with her editor Leah Thaxton.

Christine describes her books as “a classic coming of age story with the added layer of colour… Ellie’s a British teenager growing up with all the classic teenager woes, but she’s also caught between two cultures, dealing with family grief and a sense that she doesn’t really belong anywhere.” Music is Ellie’s escape and she writes songs to describe what she is going through and help her make sense of the world. QR codes throughout the book allow readers to listen to the songs that make up the soundtrack to Ellie’s life.

Read an interview with Christine and hear her play one of the songs from the book here.

Ellie Pillai is Brown was chosen from an all-female shortlist of eight titles. Presenting the award, Maisie Chan, author of Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths, and last year’s winner said: ” Ellie Pillai is Brown is a wonderfully lyrical book about the messy teenage years told with humour and pathos. Ellie is a character you want to root for and hug. It is an expertly crafted book that looks at first love, identity and grief.”

Fellow judge Sajeda Amir, English teacher and KS3 coordinator at Levenshulme High School for Girls in Manchester, said: “The writing is humorous, poignant and lyrical and whilst the coming of age story is at the forefront of the novel, Christine deals with culture and the trials and tribulations that come with being a second-generation immigrant with care and sensitivity.  The soundtrack is a lovely, additional bonus too, the cherry on top of the cake!’

Also announced at the award ceremony in London were the six winners of the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition, a short story competition for under-18-year-olds that runs alongside the Branford Boase Award. The six winning entries on the theme of  “Making an Unexpected Friend” can be read here. Congratulations to all the young winners!

Branford Boase Award logo