Costa Award: why Frances Hardinge’s children’s novel really is the best book of the year –

It comes as absolutely no surprise
to me that
Frances Hardinge, winner of the 2015 Costa Children’s Book Award,
has gone on to win the overall prize, Costa Book of the Year
for her superb novel, The Lie Tree.

I say novel, and not children’s novel, for a reason. The children’s
publisher David Fickling, when asked what a children’s book was, said
that there is no such thing; only good books that can be read by all.
And that, by the longest of miles, is true for The Lie Tree.

Nevertheless, those who write for children, or publish books for
children, or anyone interested in this vast and varied literature,
should be rejoicing. This is the first “children’s book” to win the
main Costa gong since Philip Pullman in 2001 with The Amber Spyglass.
That had cosmic scope, theological grandiosity, and an intrepid,
innocent child heroine. Pullman, alongside JK Rowling, was at the
forefront of a resurgence in the field of children’s literature,
proving that it can be serious and entertaining.

Many other authors have been producing superb work: Marcus
Sedgwick’s dazzling The Ghosts of Heaven, which spans time from early
humans to the distant future; Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon, about an
oppressive regime and a gay teenager; Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines
series, slick and dark; Meg Rosoff’s witty, surprising fictions. The
list is a long one.