The CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature

A literary award and readership programme administered by the Bocas Lit Fest from 2013 - 2019

From 2013 to 2019, the generosity of the Literary Prizes Foundation and Mr. Bill Burt provided an extraordinary opportunity to make a significant and long-lasting impact on the quality and quantity of young adult books available to readers and educators across the Caribbean. This unique literary award programme inspired Caribbean writers to create fantastic stories; supported publishers to build young adult literature into their lists; gave fantastic resources to teachers and librarians; and young readers now have access to more books than ever before.

We want to sincerely thank all those who contributed their time and efforts to ensuring the success of this programme, especially our dedicated partner CODE, a Canadian NGO whose international programmes encourage development through education around the world.

About the Award 

The CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature, established by CODE in partnership with the Bocas Lit Fest, recognised excellent, engaging and culturally-relevant literature for an underserved readership (12 to 18 years old) in the Caribbean. It was awarded annually to three English language literary works for young adults written by Caribbean authors. 

The winning book or manuscript received a cash prize of $10,000 CAD, and there were two prizes of $2,000.00 CAD for each finalist. Most significantly, the Bocas Lit Fest facilitated publishing deals with eligible regional publishers for winning manuscripts, and the award sponsor CODE guaranteed purchase of up to 2,500 copies of each book. Copies purchased by CODE were donated to select libraries, schools and literacy organisations for distribution throughout the region. 

Since 2014, more than 40,000 copies of the winning books have been distributed across eleven Caribbean countries as part of the Burt Award programme.

Q&A with Burt Award Winners

Watch YA authors Imam Baksh (The Dark of the Sea), Shakirah Bourne (My Fishy Stepmom), Viviana Prado-Núñez (The Art of White Roses) and Elizabeth J.Jones (A Dark Iris) read from their books and answer questions submitted by students from Trinidad and Tobago. 

And check out the Love Your Lit audio series featuring interviews with winners of The CODE Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature! 


2019 Winners

2019 Winner

The Unmarked Girl by Jeanelle Frontin (Trinidad & Tobago)

Jury Summary: “Yara is a compelling protagonist, making us all want the answer to her lifelong question of who and what she is. The author leaves her readers guessing but with a promise to reveal more in one or more forthcoming sequels. Instantly gripping, readable and fun.” 

Published by Mark Made Group Ltd, 2019.

2019 Finalist

Off Track  by Tamika Gibson (Trinidad & Tobago)

Jury summary: “Wonderfully realized characters with complex lives inhabit this haunting story involving themes of poverty, violence, class, corruption and young love, by the winner of the 2016 Burt Award (Dreams Beyond the Shore)”

Published by Blue Banyan Books, 2020


2019 Finalist

Daylight Come by Diana McCaulay (Jamaica)

Jury summary: “McCaulay tackles themes and issues of current environmental change in ways that do not make the reader feel like a geography or sociological lesson. Educational, compelling and engaging.” 


Published by Peepal Tree Press, 2020

2018 Winners

2018 Winner

The Dark of the Sea by Imam Baksh (Guyana)

Jury summary: “A compelling page turner, this fantastical adventure story follows the journey of a young man who is rebellious, unimpressed by education and religion, cynical about the future, and obsessed with girls. The humour is dark, the morality complicated, …and the victories bittersweet.”

Published by Blouse & Skirt Books, 2019

2018 Finalist

A Dark Iris by Elizabeth J. Jones (Bermuda)

Jury summary: “A sophisticated ‘speculative fiction’ story that reveals the realities of adolescence; crushes, family problems, and school. The main character is real and relatable.”

Published by Blouse & Skirt Books, 2019

2018 Finalist

My Fishy Stepmom by Shakirah Bourne (Barbados)

Jury summary: “A delightful story that is charmingly funny. With a folktale antagonist, the shenanigans that result as the main character fights to preserve her bonds of family and friendship are heartwarming.”

Published by Blouse & Skirt Books, 2019 / Scholastic, 2021

2017 Winners

2017 Winner

The Art of White Roses by Viviana Prado-Núñez (Puerto Rico/ USA)

“In 1957 Cuba, in strong, evocative and emotional prose, Prado-Núñez tells the story of a girl discovering truths about her family, and her country, that force her to grow in unexpected ways.” — Burt Award Judges

Published by Papillote Press, 2018

2017 Finalist

The Beast of Kukuyo by Kevin Jared Hosein (Trinidad & Tobago) 

“Hosein’s vivid imagery and descriptive language bring you right into the narrative from the very first. You’re standing alongside Tiki and running next to Rune at the same time, looking for clues in the forest and admiring the beautiful Trinidadian landscape as you move through this adventurous tale.” — Burt Award Judges

Published by Blouse & Skirt Books, 2018

2017 Finalist

Home Home by Lisa Allen-Agostini (Trinidad & Tobago)

“This story of a young woman’s journey to “home, home” is a poignant tale for anyone who has ever felt displaced by family, illness or migration, and goes beyond the obvious issues of depression to examine carefully the concepts of home and family.” —  Burt Award Judges

Published by Papillote Press, 2018 / Delacourte USA, 2020

2016 Winners


Tamika Gibson serves up a fascinating and stirring debut novel about growing up and accepting who you are, regardless of who your parents may be. Buoyed by the rhythms, heat and lyrical lilt of contemporary Trinidad and Tobago, Dreams Beyond the Shore is a heartwarming story declaring that decisions matter far more than destiny.

Published by Blouse & Skirt Books, 2017


Florenz Webbe Maxwell takes a little known fact about Caribbean history and weaves an engaging tale that speaks eloquently to the contemporary experience. Girlcott takes you beyond the image of Bermuda as a piece of paradise and charts a narrative of resistance, hope and the importance of fighting for change. 

Published by Blouse & Skirt Books, 2017


A fast-paced adventure set deep in a Caribbean forest with a hero who must risk everything to save the forest and his village. For ages 9 – 12. 

Published by CaribbeanReads, 2017 

2015 Winners

Children of the Spider - Coverlr


Children of the Spider by Imam Baksh (Guyana) 

A hearty combination of folklore, myth adventure and sci/fi.  In many ways this YA West Indian novel is a dystopian takeoff on traditional anansi tales. It has an important message about communication, packaged in a riveting read. 

Published by Blouse & Skirt Books, 2016

Gone to Drift Cover


Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay (Jamaica)

 A beautifully written mystery/ adventure set on the island of Jamaica. A fast-moving plot, beautiful imagery and compelling characters make this book a winner.

Published by Papillote Press, 2016


Dancing in the Rain Cover


Dancing in the Rain by Lynn Joseph (Trinidad & Tobago) 

A touching story of a 12-year-old girl from the Dominican Republic. Elizabeth’s life changes when a family member dies after terrorists bring down the Twin Towers in New York on 9/11.  A beautifully written story of faith, friendship, happiness and loss.  

Published by Blouse & Skirt Books, 2016


2014 Winners

All Over Again by A-dZiko Simba Gegele, 1st place winner of the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature

Inaugural Winner

All Over Again by Ad-Ziko Simba Gegele (Jamaica)

Published by Blouse & Skirt Books, 2013

Musical Youth by Joanne C. Hillhouse, 2nd place winner of the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature


Musical Youth by Joanne C. Hillhouse (Antigua & Barbuda)

Published by CaribbeanReads, 2015

Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis, 3rd place winner of the 2014 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature


Inner City Girl by Colleen Smith-Dennis (Jamaica)

Published by LMH Publishing Ltd, 2009

About CODE

If you can read and write, you can learn to do, and be anything. That’s the idea behind CODE. A Canadian NGO with over 60 years of experience, CODE advances literacy and learning in Canada and around the world. CODE’s international programs encourage development through education with support to libraries, professional development for teachers, as well as national and local book publishing in over 20 languages.