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I Am Thunder wins Branford Boase Award

28th Jun 19


Muhammad Khan and his editor Lucy Pearse of Macmillan Children's Books (pictured) have been announced as the winners of the 2019 Branford Boase Award, which celebrates debut authors and their editors. The award is now in its 20th year.


Mitch Johnson, who won the award last year for his debut Kick, presented the award.

I Am Thunder chronicles the radicalisation of a young Muslim girl growing up in London, the choices she is presented with, and how she develops the confidence to make her own decisions.

Muhammad Khan said, "I am stunned, humbled and thrilled to learn that I am Thunder has won the Branford Boase Award. To do so in its glorious 20th year is completely mindboggling! Just to be shortlisted among such a talented bunch of authors with incredible debut novels was exciting enough."

Talking about I Am Thunder, he added, "Over the last several years, Muslims have had more than our fair share of struggles. We've had to deal with the spectre of 9/11, ISIS spreading a false version of Islam, the notorious 'Kill a Muslim Day', Islamophobic attacks both on individuals and mosques, discussions centred on what we can and can't wear, misrepresentation in the media and exclusion from conversations about us.

"I am a Muslim author writing about Muslims and depicting the plurality that is our reality. That I am the first writer of colour to win the prestigious Branford Boase Award gives me tremendous hope for the future.

"Thank you Branford Boase judges for giving Muzna's story official recognition. I was once asked at a book event if I had ever received a death threat from ISIS for writing I am Thunder. My answer is that writing has got to be fearless, honest, inclusive and without censorship if we hope for positive change."

You can read a full interview with Muhammad Khan, talking about what inspired him to write I Am Thunder, via the link, below.

The Branford Boase Award is presented to the book's editor, as well as the author, and Khan acknowledged his debt to Lucy Pearse: "Every writer owes a huge debt of gratitude to their editor more so debuts. Our editors work tirelessly to correct our rookie mistakes, incoherent plots, cardboard characters, and continuity errors. No mean feat!

"Sharing the experience of bringing I am Thunder to publication with Lucy Pearse has been an unforgettable privilege. I'm not going to lie: it was also extremely exhausting; involved copious re-writes, tight deadlines and the unsung pressures of being a full time maths teacher.

"I'll never forget that first meeting I had at the Pan Macmillan offices in late 2017. Even with my wonderful agent Penny Holroyde to hold my hand, I was still absolutely petrified of fluffing things up. The internet warned me I'd have to make a pitch, exude warmth, charisma and charm, and convince the decision makers at Mac that my book was more important than the hundreds of others being placed before them. 'I'm just a shy maths teacher...' I told myself, sweating bullets. 'I don't think I can do this...'

"To my great surprise, I didn't have to. Lucy was already on my side. She not only understood Muzna - this character I was just as fiercely protective of as any of my real-life students - but she knew exactly how to present her to the world. Lucy is one of the bravest, kindest and most talented people I have ever met and sharing this award with her is so special."

Introducing the presentations Julia Eccleshare, chair of the judges and co-founder of the Branford Boase Award remembered editor Wendy Boase and author Henrietta Branford and looked back over the award's twenty year history, and of reading 'wonderful books, thoughtful, captivating stories, by authors forging something new'.

Presenting the award Mitch Johnson praised the seven strong shortlist as demonstrating the strength and diversity of contemporary writing for children and young people and described I Am Thunder as a 'bold, brave, and brilliant debut' with a central character Muzna, who is 'sympathetic, frustrating, honest and fierce'.

The ceremony took place at Walker Books, who have supported the Branford Boase Award since it was set up in 2000.
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