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Raymond Antrobus – Shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards

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Deaf Unity’s deaf role model of the month (August 2021) Raymond Antrobus has been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards with his poetry collection ‘All the Names Given’ , which explores language and miscommunication. Raymond, a poet and teacher, has published a number of poetry collections, including ‘To Sweeten Bitter’ and ‘The Perseverance’.

The full press release specific to Raymond Antrobus’ collection can be found here.

Below is a synopsis:

All the Names Given by Raymond Antrobus (Picador)

This second collection is full of intimate, deeply personal poems that continue Antrobus’s investigation into language, miscommunication, place and memory. The poems travel through space, shifting between England, South Africa, Jamaica and the American South, and move fluently from family history, through the lust of adolescence and finally into a vivid and complex arrange of marriage poems.

Raymond Antrobus was born in London, Hackney to an English mother and Jamaican father. He is the author of To Sweeten Bitter and The Perseverance. In 2019, he became the first-ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre. Other accolades include the Ted Hughes Award, A Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and the Guardian Poetry Book of The Year 2018, as well as being shortlisted for the Forward Prize. In 2018, he was awarded The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize for his poem Sound Machine. His poem Jamaican British was added to the GCSE syllabus in 2019.

Judges: ‘With a startling and innovative approach, All the Names Given stands apart from contemporary poetry in pushing the frontiers of spoken art, while also reimagining sound on the page.’


The official press release for all the announced shortlists for the COSTA BOOK AWARDS 2021 is here:

  • 20 authors announced today across five categories for the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland, which marks its 50th anniversary this year.  2021 shortlists feature eight debuts, two previously shortlisted authors, one all-female category shortlist and authors who range in age from 27-68.
  • The First Novel category shortlist includes two modern love stories, with Japanese-born British journalist Emily Itami’s exploration of Japanese culture and societal pressures around motherhood and 27-year-old British-Ghanaian writer and photographer Caleb Azumah Nelson’s ‘nuanced portrayal of the realities of race today’ set in London. Poet A.K. Blakemore’s ‘visceral, historical novel’  which reimagines real 19th century Essex witch trials – and actor and producer Kate Sawyer’s ‘immersive end of the world story’  where a woman hides from the apocalypse inside a beached whale – complete the list.
  • Four novels that explore survival in a hostile environment feature on the Novel shortlist. They include: the 19th book from award-winning British-Turkish writer and political commentator Elif Shafak, a ‘lyrical meditation on grief, nature and inherited trauma’ played out in a divided Cyprus; the story of a Somali seaman wrongfully executed for murder in Wales in 1952, inspired by real-life events, by British-Somali writer Nadifa Mohamed; the second novel from short story writer and novelist Jessie Greengrass, centred around a modern-day Noah’s Ark in a world devastated by climate change, and a portrait of twins living on the fringes of society from writer Claire Fuller, a bestselling author whose writing career only started when she turned 40.
  • Two books by journalists exploring the lives of two charismatic and mysterious men appear on the Biography shortlist: the untold story of Maurice Wilson – the British mountaineering legend who attempted to climb Everest alone – by Ed Caesar, and a portrait of media mogul turned MP Robert Maxwell by John Preston, whose previous work – A Very British Scandal and The Dig – has been adapted for the screen. They are joined by fellow journalist Arifa Akbar’s first book, ‘a haunting and powerful memoir’ which explores the bond between sisters and the mythologies that surround tuberculosis, following the untimely death of Akbar’s sister from the disease, and Albanian academic Lea Ypi’s ‘eye-opening’ first-person account of coming of age in a country emerging from Communist rule.
  • Two poets with a background in education join the Poetry shortlist; Hannah Lowe – who draws on a decade of teaching in an inner-city London sixth form for her collection of sonnets – and award-winning poet, educator and writer, Raymond Antrobus, a d/Deaf poet whose second collection is an exploration of language and miscommunication. The second collection from Zambian-born British poet, editor and creative writing lecturer, Kayo Chingonyi, joins the list: a deeply personal examination of HIV that tells a story of inheritance and homeland, alongside debut Irish poet, writer and teacher Victoria Kennefick, whose ‘harrowing and hilarious’ first collection ‘explores all aspects of the body’. 
  • Two books exploring the impact of war and grief make the Children’s shortlist, with a second shortlist nomination for writer Ross Montgomery with his adventure story set during the Blitz and a first for actor, playwright, screenwriter, director, and charity founder Manjeet Mann, whose verse novel is born out of the refugee crisis. They are joined on the list by two debut authors in actor Helen Rutter, whose novel about a would-be stand-up comedian with a stammer is inspired by her son Lenny, and scriptwriter turned novelist Anna Goodall, who explores concepts of identity and mental health from a unique perspective and features ‘the best talking cat since Alice in Wonderland’.


19.30 GMT, Tuesday 23rd November 2021:  The Nation’s Favourite Coffee shop*, Costa Coffee today announced the shortlists for the 2021 Costa Book Awards.

The Costa Book Awards is the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland and uniquely recognises some of the most enjoyable books published in the last year across five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book.

2021 marks the 50th year of the Awards. Originally established in 1971, Costa Coffee took over the UK’s most prestigious book prize from Whitbread Plc in 2006.

This year’s Costa Book Awards attracted 934 entries, an increase of over 30% on 2020 and the highest number of entries received in one year to date. Judges on this year’s panels (three per category) included the authors, novelists and writers Jessie BurtonAndrew Wilson and Smriti Halls; novelist, memoirist and filmmaker, Xiaolu Guo; journalists including Sarah Shaffi; poets Rishi Dastidar and Ian Duhig; podcaster Manveen Rana, and booksellers from Waterstones, Blackwell’s, The Book Hive and The Little Ripon Bookshop.

Winners in the five categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on Tuesday 4th January 2022. The overall winner of the 2021 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and be announced at a ceremony on Tuesday 1st February 2022.

Jill McDonald, CEO of Costa Coffee, said: “We are delighted to celebrate these 20 brilliant books as we mark a milestone 50th anniversary year for both Costa Coffee and the Costa Book Awards. My thanks to the judges for putting together such outstanding lists – there’s so much here for readers to explore, enjoy, recommend and share – and my congratulations to all of this year’s shortlisted authors.”

The winner of the Costa Short Story Award, voted for by the public, will also be announced at February’s ceremony. The three shortlisted stories for the Costa Short Story Award, now in its tenth year, will be revealed on the Costa Book Awards website, www.costabookawards.com, on Wednesday 1st December 2021.

To be eligible for the 2021 Costa Book Awards, books must have been first published in the UK or Ireland between Saturday 1st November 2020 and Sunday 31st October 2021 and their authors resident in the UK or Ireland for the previous three years.

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won 13 times by a novel, five times by a first novel, eight times by a biography, eight times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children’s book. The 2020 Costa Book of the Year was The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey.

Full details of the shortlists follow. For additional information, visit: www.costabookawards.com.

For further press information, or to request an interview with an author, a book jacket or author images, contact Emma Finnigan: 07870 210 468 / [email protected]

Twitter – @CostaBookAwards

Instagram – @costabookawards

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/groups/costabookawards




2021 Costa First Novel Award shortlist

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking)

The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore (Granta)

Fault Lines by Emily Itami (Phoenix)

The Stranding by Kate Sawyer (Coronet)


2021 Costa Novel Award shortlist

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree)

The High House by Jessie Greengrass (Swift Press)

The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed (Viking)

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak (Viking)


2021 Costa Biography Award shortlist

Consumed: A Sister’s Story by Arifa Akbar (Sceptre)

The Moth and the Mountain: A True Story of Love, War and Everest by Ed Caesar (Viking)

Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston (Viking)

Free: Coming of Age at the End of History by Lea Ypi (Allen Lane)


2021 Costa Poetry Award shortlist

All the Names Given by Raymond Antrobus (Picador)

A Blood Condition by Kayo Chingonyi (Chatto & Windus)

Eat or We Both Starve by Victoria Kennefick (Carcanet Press)

The Kids by Hannah Lowe (Bloodaxe Books)


2021 Costa Children’s Award shortlist

Maggie Blue and the Dark World by Anna Goodall (Guppy Books)

The Crossing by Manjeet Mann (Penguin)

The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery (Walker Books)

The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh by Helen Rutter (Scholastic UK)


Shortlist for the 2021 Costa First Novel Award (150 entries)


Dymphna Flynn: Audio Producer and Books Journalist

Xiaolu Guo: Novelist, Memoirist and Filmmaker

Joe Hedinger: Bookseller, The Book Hive

Judge’s summary of the 2021 Costa First Novel Award shortlist: ‘If this is a sign of things to come then we should all be extremely excited.’


Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking)

Two young people meet at a pub in South East London and fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence. Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it.  

Caleb Azumah Nelson is a 27-year-old British-Ghanaian writer and photographer living in South East London. His photography has been shortlisted for the Palm Photo Prize and won the People’s Choice Prize. His short story, Pray, was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award 2020.

Open Water was shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year and longlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize and the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2021. He was selected as a National Book Foundation ‘5 under 35’ honouree by Brit Bennett in 2021.

Judges: ‘A nuanced portrayal of the realities of race today – a tender, sensual story celebrating youth, beauty and love.


The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore (Granta)

England, 1643. Puritanical fervour has gripped the nation. In Manningtree, depleted of men since the Civil War began, the women are left to their own devices and Rebecca West chafes against the drudgery of her days. But when Matthew Hopkins arrives, asking bladed questions and casting damning accusations, mistrust and unease seep into the lives of the women. Caught between betrayal and persecution, what must Rebecca West do to survive?

A. K. Blakemore is the author of two full-length collections of poetry: Humbert Summer(Eyewear, 2015) and Fondue (Offord Road Books, 2018), which was awarded the 2019 Ledbury Forte Prize for Best Second Collection. She has also translated the work of Sichuanese poet Yu Yoyo (My Tenantless Body, Poetry Translation Centre, 2019). Her poetry and prose writing has been widely published and anthologised, appearing in The London Review of Books, Poetry, Poetry Review and The White Review, among others.

Judges: ‘A visceral, historical novel that resonates with contemporary society – first class prose from a lyrical voice.’


Fault Lines by Emily Itami (Phoenix)

Mizuki has a hardworking husband, a beautiful apartment, two adorable children, and a crushing sense of loneliness. She loves her family but feels invisible in her marriage and trapped by the confines of domestic life. Then, one rainy night, she meets Kiyoshi, a successful restaurateur, and quickly finds herself falling for him. In their affair she finds passion, excitement and freedom – but how long can it last, and at what cost?

Emily Itami grew up in Tokyo before moving to London, where she now lives with her young family. She returned to Tokyo for two years when her children were young, and her novel offers an authentic and nuanced exploration of Japanese culture and societal pressures around motherhood and family. She has been published widely as a freelance journalist and travel writer.

Judges: ‘A fascinating blend of Western and Eastern cultures from a confident new voice, full of wit.’


The Stranding by Kate Sawyer (Coronet)

In a bid to leave her claustrophobic relationship, Ruth makes the decision to leave London, her friends and family, to travel to New Zealand and pursue her lifelong dream of working with whales.

There she finds the increasingly ominous global news cycle is now the new reality. Far from home and with no hope of survival, she climbs into the mouth of a beached whale alongside a stranger.

When they emerge, it’s to an unrecognisable landscape. When all’s been razed to the ground, what does it mean to build a life?

Kate Sawyer worked as an actor and producer before turning her hand to fiction. She has previously written for theatre and short film. Having lived in South London for the best part of two decades she recently returned to East Anglia to have her first child as a solo mother by choice.

Judges: ‘An immersive end of the world story full of hope and imagination.’


Shortlist for the 2021 Costa Novel Award (233 entries)


Jessie Burton: Author

Charlie Bush: Bookseller, Blackwell’s

Sarah Shaffi: Journalist

Judge’s summary of the 2021 Costa Novel Award shortlist: ‘All of these novels are compulsive reading – offering great stories and a clear lens on the past to help us look at the world with empathy and determination.’


Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree)

When their elderly mother, Dot, dies suddenly, 51-year-old twins, Jeanie and Julius are entirely unprepared for life without her in their rundown, rural cottage. Raised in isolation away from the complexities of the modern world, within days they find themselves facing eviction and a landslide of debt, as the web of secrets Dot wove around them, since the death of their father 40 years ago, threatens to tear apart.

Claire Fuller was born in Oxfordshire, England, in 1967. She gained a degree in sculpture from Winchester School of Art but went on to have a long career in marketing and didn’t start writing until she was forty. She has written three former novels: Our Endless Numbered Days, which won the Desmond Elliott Prize, Swimming Lessons, which was shortlisted for the RSL Encore Award, and Bitter Orange. She has an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Winchester and lives in Hampshire with her husband and two children. Unsettled Ground was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021.

Judges: ‘A beautiful, nuanced observation of the richness and pain of marginalised life.’


The High House by Jessie Greengrass (Swift Press)

The high house is a holiday cottage perched above a small village by the sea.  Caro and her younger half-brother, Pauly, arrive there after her father and stepmother fall victim to a faraway climate disaster. In their new home, cared for by Grandy and his granddaughter, Sally, the two pairs learn to live together. Yet there are limits even to what the ailing Grandy can teach them about how to survive. The High House asks us who, if we had to, we would save.

Born in London, Jessie Greengrass spent much of her childhood in North Dartmoor, and summer holidays with her grandparents on the Suffolk coast. In 2018 Jessie moved to Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland with her partner and two small children. Jessie spends her free time in the garden or on the beach looking for curlew and seals and tries to swim in the sea as often as possible. Her love of, and fear for, this environment and the creatures it sustains led her to begin writing The High House.

Judges: ‘A powerful book that makes you consider the privilege of being saved and the reality of survival.’


The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed (Viking)

Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, petty criminal. He is a smooth talker with rakish charm and an eye for a good game. He is many things, but he is not a murderer… It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of returning home dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a fight for his life – against conspiracy, prejudice and cruelty – and that the truth may not be enough to save him.

Nadifa Mohamed is a British-Somali author and journalist, born in Somaliland in 1981 she grew up in the UK. Her first novel, Black Mamba Boy, won the Betty Trask Prize; was longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize and the PEN Open Book Award. Her second novel, The Orchard of Lost Souls, won a Somerset Maugham Prize and was longlisted for The Dylan Thomas Prize. Nadifa was selected for the Granta Best of Young British Novelists. She lives in London.

Judges: ‘An evocative, historical novel that also exposes the truths and ills of the society we’re living in today.’


The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak (Viking)

In war-torn Cyprus, two teenagers – one Greek, one Turkish – meet under a fig tree that bears witness to their tumultuous lives. Decades later in London, 16-year-old Ada, finds one sole connection to the land of her ancestors – the Ficus Carica growing in her back garden.

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist whose work has been translated into 55 languages. The author of 19 books, 12 of which are novels, she is a bestselling author in many countries around the world. Shafak’s novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize; longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award; and chosen as Blackwell’s Book of the Year. Her previous novel, The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by the BBC as one of 100 Novels That Shaped Our World. In 2021, Shafak’s The Architect’s Apprentice was chosen for the Duchess of Cornwall’s inaugural book club, The Reading Room.

Judges: ‘A lyrical meditation on grief, nature and inherited trauma.’


Shortlist for the 2021 Costa Biography Award (231 entries)


Jonathan Green: Senior Retail Manager, Waterstones

Manveen Rana: Journalist & Host of Stories of our Times, the daily news podcast from

The Times and The Sunday Times

Andrew Wilson: Novelist, Biographer and Journalist

Judge’s summary of the 2021 Costa Biography Award shortlist: ‘We think readers will love these books – all of them gripped us from the first page and stayed with us long after reading.’


ConsumedA Sister’s Story by Arifa Akbar (Sceptre)

Consumed is an intricately woven and psychologically astute portrait of sisterhood, grief and the healing powers of art. Exploring the strange mythologies that surround tuberculosis, Akbar’s quest to understand her troubled sibling takes her from London to Lahore, to the paintings of Edvard Munch, from Keats and Sontag to Little Women and Antigone.

Arifa Akbar is the Guardian’s chief theatre critic. A journalist for over 20 years, she is the former literary editor of the Independent, where she also worked as arts correspondent and news reporter. She has previously contributed to the Observer and the Financial Times. She is on the board of trustees for the Orwell Foundation and English PEN. Short pieces of her non-fiction have appeared in several anthologies. Consumed is her first book.

Judges: ‘A brilliant, haunting and powerful memoir about TB, immigration, mental illness and the bond between sisters.’


The Moth and the Mountain: A True Story of Love, War and Everest by Ed Caesar (Viking)

The Moth and the Mountain reveals the previously untold story of Britain’s most mysterious mountaineering legend – WWI veteran Maurice Wilson – who in the 1930s conceived his own crazy, beautiful plan: to fly an aeroplane from England to Everest, crash land on its lower slopes, then become the first person to reach its summit. Alone.

Ed Caesar is 41 years old. He lives in Manchester and writes for the New Yorker. He has won 11 major journalism awards – including a British Press Award, PPA Writer of the Year and the 2014 Foreign Press Award for Journalist of the Year. His subjects have included conflict in central Africa, the world’s longest tennis match, stolen art, money-laundering, and the trade in diamonds. His first book, Two Hours, won a Cross Sports Book Award in 2016.

Judges: ‘A fast-paced and vivid adventure story about an English eccentric whose mission it is to get to the top of the world. Narrative non-fiction at its very best.


Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston (Viking)

Fall is the dramatic tale of the extraordinary rise and scandalous fall of Robert Maxwell. Born an Orthodox Jew, he escaped Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and fought in WW2, later becoming an MP and successful (and notorious) media magnate. But after his mysterious death, his empire disintegrated as long-hidden debts and unscrupulous dealings came to light. This gripping account from John Preston reveals what went so wrong.

John Preston is a former Arts Editor of the Evening Standard and the Sunday Telegraph. For 10 years he was the Sunday Telegraph’s television critic and one of its chief feature writers. His book, A Very English Scandal, was published to great acclaim in 2016 and turned into a BAFTA-winning BBC drama series. His 2007 historical novel The Dig has been adapted into a major motion picture starring Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan and Lily James.

Judges: ‘Extraordinarily vivid retelling of a story of excess, ambition, self-reinvention, greed and deceit that reads like a top rate thriller.’


Free: Coming of Age at the End of History by Lea Ypi (Allen Lane)

Free, a coming-of-age story set in Albania in the 1980s and 90s, explores big political themes (freedom, socialism, democracy) through the lives of the author and her family. With acute insight and wit, Lea Ypi traces the limits of progress and the burden of the past, illuminating the spaces between ideals and reality, and the hopes and fears of people pulled up by the sweep of history.

Lea Ypi is Professor of Political Theory at the London School of Economics, and Political Science and Adjunct Professor in Philosophy at the Australian National University. A native of Albania, she has degrees in Philosophy and in Literature from the University of Rome La Sapienza, a PhD from the

European University Institute and was a Post-Doctoral Prize Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford University. She speaks six languages and lives in London. Free is her first trade book.

Judges: ‘We were charmed, stunned and gripped by this eye-opening, funny, intellectually stimulating book which was a sheer delight to read.’


Shortlist for the 2021 Costa Poetry Award (126 entries)


Rishi Dastidar: Poet and Copywriter

Ian Duhig: Poet

Maya Jaggi: Cultural Journalist and Critic

Judge’s summary of the 2021 Costa Poetry Award shortlist: ‘An electric and contemporary shortlist – these are the poets of the present and the future.’


All the Names Given by Raymond Antrobus (Picador)

This second collection is full of intimate, deeply personal poems that continue Antrobus’s investigation into language, miscommunication, place and memory. The poems travel through space, shifting between England, South Africa, Jamaica and the American South, and move fluently from family history, through the lust of adolescence and finally into a vivid and complex arrange of marriage poems.

Raymond Antrobus was born in London, Hackney to an English mother and Jamaican father. He is the author of To Sweeten Bitter and The Perseverance. In 2019, he became the first-ever poet to be awarded the Rathbone Folio Prize for best work of literature in any genre. Other accolades include the Ted Hughes Award, A Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and the Guardian Poetry Book of The Year 2018, as well as being shortlisted for the Forward Prize. In 2018, he was awarded The Geoffrey Dearmer Prize for his poem Sound Machine. His poem Jamaican British was added to the GCSE syllabus in 2019.

Judges: ‘With a startling and innovative approach, All the Names Given stands apart from contemporary poetry in pushing the frontiers of spoken art, while also reimagining sound on the page.’


A Blood Condition by Kayo Chingonyi (Chatto & Windus)

A Blood Condition tells a story of inheritance – the people, places, cultures and memories that form us. Chingonyi explores how distance and time, nations and a century’s history, can collapse within a body; our past continuous in our present. From London, Leeds and the North East to the banks of the Zambezi river, these poems consider change and permanence, grief and joy, the painful ongoing process of letting go, with remarkable music and clarity.

Kayo Chingonyi was born in Zambia in 1987 and moved to the UK at the age of six. His first full-length collection, Kumukanda, won the Dylan Thomas Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award and was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award. It was also shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre First Poetry Collection Prize, the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, the Roehampton Poetry Prize and the Jhalak Prize. Kayo was a Burgess Fellow at the Centre for New Writing, University of Manchester, and an Associate Poet at The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. He is Poetry Editor for The White Review and an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Durham University.

Judges: ‘A moving exploration of grief and remembrance with moments of stunning sonic beauty.’


Eat or We Both Starve by Victoria Kennefick (Carcanet Press)

Eat or We Both Starve draws readers into seemingly recognisable set-pieces – the family home, the shared meal, the rituals of historical occasions, desire – but Kennefick forges this material into new shapes, making them viable again for exploring what it is to live with the past – and not to be consumed by it.

Victoria Kennefick is a poet, writer and teacher from County Cork now based in County Kerry. Her award-winning poetry has been widely published and broadcast on radio. A recipient of a Next Generation Artist Award from the Arts Council of Ireland, she co-hosted the Unlaunched Books Podcast in 2020 and is on the committee of Listowel Writers’ Week, Ireland’s longest-running literary festival.

Judges: ‘Harrowing and hilarious, this book explores all aspects of the body in language that is both visceral and vivid.’


The Kids by Hannah Lowe (Bloodaxe Books)

Hannah Lowe’s third collection, The Kids, is a book of sonnets about teaching, learning, growing up and parenthood. It draws on Hannah’s decade of teaching in an inner-city London sixth form during the 2000s, as well as on her own coming of age in the riotous 80s and 90s and concludes with poems about her young son learning to negotiate contemporary London.

Hannah Lowe was born in Ilford to an English mother and Jamaican-Chinese father, drawing on that family background in her first two books. She is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Brunel University. Her first book-length collection Chick won the 2015 Michael Murphy Memorial Prize, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry. She read her family memoir Long Time No See on BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week in 2015. Her second full-length collection, Chan, was published in 2016. The Kids is the Poetry Book Society Choice for Autumn 2021.

Judges: ‘A contemporary book that buzzes with life while re-energising the sonnet that Shakespeare would recognise. All readers will find something of themselves here.’


Shortlist for the 2020 Costa Children’s Book Award (194 entries)


Gill Edwards: Owner, The Little Ripon Bookshop

Smriti Halls: Author

Lucas Maxwell: School Librarian, Writer and Podcaster

Judges summary of the 2021 Costa Children’s Book Award shortlist: ‘This shortlist encompasses books with enormous courage, humour and hope and will have readers hooked.’


Maggie Blue and the Dark World by Anna Goodall (Guppy Books)

Maggie has always preferred her own company, but when she witnesses the kidnap of the school bully, she knows she is the only one who can help. After all, nobody would believe that the kidnapper was the school counsellor. With only a sarcastic talking cat for company, Maggie finds herself entering a dark and dangerous world – a place where happiness is valued above everything.

Anna Goodall was born in London into a family of musicians. After working in publishing, running a small literary magazine, bookselling and very occasional journalism, Anna took a Masters in Scriptwriting at Goldsmiths. Maggie Blue and the Dark World is her first novel.

Judges: ‘A thrilling, fantastical adventure – original, engaging and with the best talking cat since Alice in Wonderland.’


The Crossing by Manjeet Mann (Penguin)

Natalie’s world is falling apart. She’s just lost her mum and her brother marches the streets of Dover full of hate and anger. Swimming is her only refuge.  Sammy has fled his home and family in Eritrea for the chance of a new life in Europe. Every step he takes on his journey is a step into an unknown and unwelcoming future.  The Crossing is about two teenagers from opposite worlds – a profound story of hope, grief, and the very real tragedies of the refugee crisis, written in verse.

Manjeet Mann is an actor, playwright, screenwriter and director. She is the founder of Run the World – an organization that works with women and girls from marginalized backgrounds and helps to empower them through sport and storytelling. She lives in Kent.

Judges: ‘Powerful, intelligent and emotive – it demonstrates in its very fabric just how little truly separates us.’


The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery (Walker Books)

Sometimes at the darkest hour, hope shines the brightest…

When Col’s childhood imaginary friends come to life, he discovers a world where myths and legends are real. Accompanied by his guardians – a six-foot tiger, a badger in a waistcoat and a miniature knight – Col must travel to Blitz-bombed-London to save his sister. But there are darker forces at work, even than the Nazi bombings. Soon, Col is pursued by the terrifying Midwinter King, who is determined to bring an eternal darkness down over everything.

Ross Montgomery started writing stories as a teenager. His debut novel, Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door, was nominated for the 2013 Costa Children’s Book Award and the Branford Boase Award. It was also selected as one of The Sunday Times’ “Top 100 Modern Children’s Classics”. His books have also been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Award while his picture book Space Tortoise was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Award and included in the Guardian’s Best New Children’s Books of 2018. He lives in London with his girlfriend and their cat, called Fun Bobby.

Judges: ‘A hugely entertaining, fast-paced adventure with a cast of fabulous characters.’


The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh by Helen Rutter (Scholastic UK)

Billy is an eleven-year-old boy with a big dream. He wants to be a stand-up comedian when he grows up: delivering pinpoint punchlines and having audiences hang on his every hilarious word. A tough career for anyone, but surely impossible for Billy, who has a stammer. How will he find his voice if his voice won’t let him speak?

The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh is Helen Rutter’s first novel. She lives just outside Sheffield and has worked as an actor for many years. The idea for this story came from her son, Lenny, who has a stammer: she wanted to write the book that he would love to read, starring a child like him. She hopes that children will be able to relate to feeling unheard, different from the rest and unable to find their voice.

Judges: ‘Heart-warming, humorous and full of hope and joy.’