’s Book Takes Whitbread Essay, Research Paper
Epic children’s book takes WhitbreadPhilip Pullman became the first children’s writer to win the Whitbread prize last night with The Amber Spyglass, the final instalment of his magical His Dark Materials trilogy. He has also finally eclipsed his great rival JK Rowling and her Harry Potter stories by writing the first children’s book – albeit an epic, complex and highly sophisticated one – to take one of the big two literary awards. His victory is a remarkable turnaround for a man who refused to have his first books entered in any book prize. Betting on the 55-year-old Pullman – who writes from a shed at the bottom of his Oxford garden and has as many adult as teenage fans – was so heavy that William Hill closed their book on Friday after a late flurry of huge bets. Last night their worst nightmare came true as Pullman romped through to take the Whitbread children’s and the overall Book of the Year awards. The judges took only two minutes to make up their minds, according to their chairman, Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow. “Pullman is in a league of his own. We worried about whether the book could be judged on its own, because you never escape the feeling that it is part of a huge work. It is a superlative achievement, head and shoulders above everything else we read.” He admitted that the judges fretted about giving the £25,000 top award to a children’s book. “If I am honest, the wind was against Pullman at the very beginning. We did worry about giving such a literary prize to a children’s book, but then we thought of CS Lewis and that was that.” The comparison with Lewis and his Narnia books has been often made of Pullman, who has never shied from tackling the big issues of love, belief and death. Indeed Snow worried that it was more of an adult book than a children’s one until the two teenage judges of the children’s panel put him right. “We are more taken, it has to be said, with the [agnostic] Pullman’s view of God than Lewis’s,” he added. Snow said that only the veteran Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea ran Pullman any way close in the children’s category: “Pullman’s world is so complete and perfect and his canvas so enormous it had to be him.” Snow said the judges of the overall award had been very impressed by 51-year-old Sid Smith’s debut novel Something Like A House, which was set in China even though Smith had never been there. He added: “Failure to win the Whitbread seems to sell more books these days than winning it.” Also competing for last night’s title were Patrick Neate’s Twelve Bar Blues (best novel), Selima Hill’s Bunny (poetry) and Selkirk’s Island by Diana Souhami (biography).