By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2
For a second time in the prize’s history, The Costa Book Award has named a children’s title its Book of the Year.
The judges said that Frances Hardinge’s Victorian murder mystery The Lie Tree (Macmillan’s Children’s) would “grip readers of all ages.”
Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass (Scholastic) was the previous children’s novel to win the award, in the 2001 competition.
The Guardian reports that the 42-year-old Hardinge, whose hobbies include “scrabbling about on volcanoes,” described her book as “a Victorian Gothic mystery with added paleontology, blasting powder, post-mortem photography and feminism.”
The BBC reports that upon receiving the award, Hardinge said: “It’s a fantastic time to be writing children’s fiction and YA fiction. “For those people who might be hearing this who think that children’s and YA fiction is not their thing please do come and explore—there’s a beautiful jungle out there.”
The Guardian quotes the winner as saying:“In the wider world sometimes children’s fiction is seen as a bit lightweight in a way that is not deserved. The fact that it has been recognised is, from my point of view, completely lovely but from a less selfish point of view I would see this recognition of the wonderful work which is being done throughout in children’s and YA writing.
“There is a lot of exciting stuff going on and increasing awareness of diversity, there is some very interesting literature.”
The chair of the final judges, James Heneage said, “Part horror, part detective, part historical, this is a fantastic story with great central characters and narrative tension.” He added that Hardinge “brilliantly articulated” the voice of a ferociously intelligent 14-year-old girl in Victorian society.
“There is something deep inside me that wants it to be a bestseller,” Heneage said. “It’s a book to read in one or two sittings. It is a real page turner.”
By defeating the odds-on favorite—first-time novelist Andrew Michael Hurley’s gothic horror The Loney—Hardinge receives the £30,000 prize.
The Lie Tree is scheduled to be released in the States on May 10 by Amulet Books.