Nathanael Lessore is the winner of the 2024 Branford Boase Award for outstanding debut novel for young people with Steady For This, his story of 13-year-old would be rapper Shaun, aka MC Growls, as he navigates life, love and dreams of stardom.

LoveReading4Kids' expert reviewer Amy McKay descibed this Star Book as, "Laugh-out-loud funny, warm, with emotional depth – this tremendous debut novel is not to be missed"

The Branford Boase Award is unique in honouring editor as well as author and Nathanael shares the win with his editors, Ella Whiddett and Ruth Bennett, of Hot Key Books.

The Branford Boase Award is celebrating its 25th anniversary and Nathanael Lessore joins a list of winners that includes Frances Hardinge, Kevin Brooks, Meg Rosoff and Mal Peet.

Christine Pillainayagam, who won the 2023 Branford Boase Award for Ellie Pillai is Brown and was judge this year, says, “Every book on this year’s shortlist represents the very best of children’s literature, and shows how the publishing industry is adapting to the needs of children and young people today. It was an exciting year to be part of the judging panel, and I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to read and discuss these brilliant books that made me feel every emotion imaginable. Despite strong competition, Steady For This was a unanimous winner. A bright, funny, moving story that felt joyful and fresh, we couldn’t wait to read more of Nathanael’s work."

Set in the Peckham estate where Nathanael grew up and written in lively, rap-infused language, Steady For This is original, laugh-out-loud funny but tender and moving too. Nathanael says that while stories set ‘on the block’ tended to be gritty and dark, “My childhood on the North Peckham Estate was actually fun, and mostly positive, so all I had to do was write honestly about life in an estate.”

He claims that Shaun is loosely based on himself and that lots of the silly things he says and does are based on real life events that actually happened. He used his cousin and brother, both “young, streetwise and difficult to please” as his “authenticity” readers.

On winning the Branford Boase Award, Nathanael says, “Writing Steady For This was fun, in the same way that crying with laughter or having unlimited funds at a funfair is fun. I can't say that I'm proud of myself for writing Steady For This, in the same way I'm not proud of myself for playing pool in the pub, because I enjoyed myself so much when doing it. And while work plays a big part in the publishing of books, so does luck. My publisher Hot Key Books and my editors Ella and Ruth have played the role of genie in a lamp granting wishes. The best thing about this award is that I get to share it with my genies. Together, we've produced a book that brings a smile to people's faces, and I will forever be grateful to the Branford Boase Award for choosing Steady For This as this year's winner.”

Ella Whiddett says, “We knew Nate was a very special writer from the first page of this extraordinary story about an ordinary boy living and laughing through the growing pains of teenagehood. Years after that first read, Steady For This continues to bring such joy to my life, so to be shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award with this book in particular was truly special. But to win it with Nate and Ruth is an absolute career highlight.’

Ruth Bennett says, “We are over the moon that Steady For This has been chosen as the winner of the Branford Boase Award! It’s such an incredible honour for the editorial partnership between Nate, Ella and me to be recognised by the judges – working on bringing Nate’s unforgettable characters and unique storytelling skill to readers has been a satisfying and hugely enjoyable experience from start to finish. Steady For This shows that books can be funny and powerful, they can teach you things and make you laugh, and we look forward to many more readers falling in love with Growls and his friends, just as we have done.”

Julia Eccleshare, Chair of the judges and co-founder of the Branford Boase Award adds, “25 years after their deaths, we are delighted to be remembering Wendy Boase and Henrietta Branford and celebrating such dynamic editor/author relationships through the award that bears their names. Children’s books have changed a great deal in those 25 years but the creative partnership between author and editor, so evident in Wendy and Henrietta’s working relationship, is still the heart of successful publishing. Congratulations to Nate, Ella and Ruth and to all the authors and editors on this year’s shortlist. We look forward to watching the shortlisted authors’ careers develop and to many more outstanding books for children and young people.”

The 2024 winners of the Branford Boase Award were announced by Christine Pillainayagam on Wednesday 10 July at a ceremony at CLPE, Webber Street, London SE1 8QW. Nathanael Lessore receives a cheque for £1,000 and he and Ella Whiddett and Ruth Bennett receive engraved trophies.

The Branford Boase Award is delivered in partnership with the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and supported by Walker Books.




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Click on the books below to buy, read our reviews or to download an extract of Nate's winning novel or his new title, King of Nothing.