Poet and playwright Kiran Millwood Hargrave has been named the winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017 for her debut novel The Girl of Ink and Stars (Chicken House).
The 27-year-old's debut novel’s setting and mythology were inspired by her childhood travels to the volcanic La Gomera and the traditional stories of the Canary Islands. She was also inspired by Philip Pullman’s book, The Firework-maker’s Daughter.
The Girl of Ink and Stars tells the story of Isabella Riosse, who lives on the Island of Joya which is reigned over by a strict Governor. Isabella has always yearned to explore the faraway places her father, a cartographer, used to document. When her best friend vanishes into the forbidden forest, she finds a way to join the rescue mission.
Already pronounced winner of the Younger Fiction category, The Girl of Ink and Stars secured the accolade of overall winner of the prize, during which Lizzy Stewart’s There’s a Tiger in the Garden (Frances Lincoln's Children's Books) won the Illustrated Books category and Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence (Hodder Children's Books) took the Older Fiction category.
Millwood Hargrave told The Bookseller: "The only thing that has been better the past year has been being a reader; to be shortlisted alongside such beautiful books was an honour. Winning at this stage feels unreal, but I'm looking forward to it sinking in and to what the coming year will bring. Thanks to Waterstones."
Florentyna Martin, Waterstones children’s buyer, said: “The Girl of Ink and Stars is an absolute joy to read. It is always exciting when we see this level of outstanding talent in a new writer and Kiran has crafted a mesmerising world full of myths, magic and adventure that evokes an atmosphere akin to Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Our booksellers have assuredly chosen a writer who delivers the whole package: a beautifully written and hugely imaginative story with a strong and loveable protagonist and a page-turning plot.”
James Daunt, Waterstones managing director, added: “We have a sensationally good winner, a work of imagination and drive that will command a special place on the bookshelves of many generations of readers to come. The overall strength of our shortlist and the category winners reflects the vibrant health of children's publishing which we are delighted to celebrate.”
The winner of the Illustrated Books category, There’s a Tiger in the Garden by Lizzy Stewart tells the story of a bored little girl who thinks she is too old for “silly games”, so when her Grandma tells her that she has seen a tiger in the garden, Nora is convinced that this cannot possibly be true.
Martin said: “Lizzy Stewart’s There’s a Tiger in the Garden is bold, bright and beautiful. Lizzy’s immediately assured artistic style conveys a classic tone, allowing her charmingly told story of imagination to leap off the page. This is a timeless picture book which will be much loved by children and adults alike, and is a promising start to what will be an inspiring career.”
The winner of the Older Fiction category is Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence, a novel based in contemporary East-London, which tells the story of sixteen year old Marlon who has promised his mother to never follow his brother down the wrong path. A promise Marlon finds easy to keep, until he meets the daring and mesmerising Sonya. Suddenly everything spirals out of control and he must make an impossible decision to save the lives of the ones he loves.
Martin said: “Orangeboy is a truthful and gripping novel from a fantastic new talent in YA. We were particularly struck by the energy and flair of the writing, and Lawrence’s gift for creating rounded, believable teen characters, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.”
As category winners, Millwood Hargrave, Stewart and Lawrence each received a cheque for £2,000 with Millwood Hargrave, as the overall winner, receiving an additional £3,000.
The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, now in its 13th year, is voted for by Waterstones booksellers, who will now promote the books across the retail chain’s stores.