Children’s book The Fox and the Star by Penguin cover designer Coralie Bickford-Smith has beaten Harper Lee and Paula Hawkins to be crowned The Waterstones Book of the Year 2015.
The title, published by Particular Books and inspired by William Blake’s Eternity and the graphic work of William Morris, has a “classic feel of a fable” and tells the story of a fox whose only friend had been Star who lit its path through the forest each night, until one night it was no longer there and the fox had to face the dark wood alone.
James Daunt, the chain bookseller’s m.d, said the title was chosen as the winner because of the “impassioned advocacy of our outstanding children’s booksellers.”
The children’s picture book has “unparalleled elegant design," along with "themes of companionship, fun, adventure and grief" which are explored through the story of Fox who loses, and pines for, his friend, Star. A Waterstones spokesperson said: “This simple story belies a profound psychological understanding of loss."
Bickford-Smith’s character Fox was inspired by the author’s own personal experience and charts humans' grief when losing somebody close to them before once again embracing life and the world.
Daunt, who chaired the judging panel, said: “This year a book has won our Book of the Year accolade through the impassioned advocacy of our outstanding children’s booksellers. The Fox and the Star is a book of great physical beauty and timeless quality, one that will surely join that very special group of classic tales that appeal equally to children and adults.”
The book triumphed over a shortlist featuring Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend (Europa Editions), the much-anticipated Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (William Heinemann), classicist Mary Beard’s magnum opus, SPQR (Profile Books) and Paula Hawkins Girl on the Train (Doubleday). Other titles on the shortlist were Man Booker shortlisted A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Picador), Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (Canongate) and The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks (Allen Lane).
Bickford-Smith, a cover designer with Penguin Press, said: “I am incredibly touched and honoured that The Fox and the Star has been voted Waterstones Book of the Year 2015. I am especially thrilled that the Waterstones booksellers have chosen a book that hopefully speaks to children and adults alike. The Fox and the Star was the result of a very personal journey so for it to be recognised in this way means a lot to me.”
Finding the Waterstones Book of the Year begins when Waterstones' booksellers are asked to choose a book that stands out in its field and that speaks to the company’s core customers, which the company defined as "those people who love reading and love books."
The Fox and the Star will now receive the “full and committed backing” of Waterstones' shops and booksellers across the UK during the crucial shopping month of December, as well as support online and through its Loyalty Card programme, which reaches over 1m readers.
Last year’s winner, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton saw an increase in sales of over 1,000% across the Waterstones estate, the company added.
According to Nielsen Bookscan, The Fox and the Star has currently sold 4,144 printed copies in the UK for £58,092.