Giant of the children’s book world Philip Pullman has been crowned Author of the Year at the 2018 British Book Awards. One of the biggest awards of the night – which celebrates the entire book industry - this new award recognises Pullman’s outstanding commercial success alongside a genuine contribution to the general health of the book world.
Phillip Pullman returned to the world of his Dark Materials in 2017 with the event publication of the year, The Book of Dust - La Belle Sauvage. It sold 70,000 in the first week and went on to sell over 300,000 copies in hardback.
His impact on the book trade and on children’s reading is about more than just one book, of course, or indeed one series: from the multi-award-winning, best-selling Dark Materials trilogy, first published in 1995, he has set the children’s book world on fire. The Times named Pullman as one of the “50 greatest British writers since 1945” and in a 2004 poll the BBC named him the eleventh most influential person in British culture. The first book in the Dark Material’s trilogy, Northern Lights, won the Carnegie of Carnegie’s on the children’s book Prize’s 70th anniversary. He has been a vocal campaigner of book-related campaigns including the age and gender labelling of children’s books, on the closure of libraries and in 2016 resigned as patron of the Oxford Literary Festival over its continued refusal to pay authors fees.
Accepting the award, Philip Pullman, said: “How thrilled I am to receive the Author of the Year award. When ‘La Belle Sauvage’; was published last October I had no idea what sort of reception it would have. I seemed to have been writing it for eighteen years, and I let the publishers have it when I thought it was OK; but you can never tell what readers and critics will feel. I couldn’t have been more happy with the way it was welcomed. The support I’ve had from publishers, booksellers, librarians, has been enormously gratifying – and it is heartening to see that so many people, young and old, are reading books!”
Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, said: "Philip is an author who transcends his medium. His books speak to both adults and children; he is a writer who can please critics and book-buyers; and his latest publication pulled off that rare feat of selling strongly through outlets across the trade, from Amazon to indies, from Waterstones to Asda, readers love him, but then so do other authors who appreciate his resolute advocacy on their behalf. He is a true one-off who had a year to remember. If he’s not yet a national treasure, this award should make him one."
In another stand-out year for children’s books, leading children’s book illustrator, best known for Julia Donaldson’s Gruffalo books, Axel Sheffler was duly awarded Illustrator of the Year:
Philip Jones said:
"Introduced at the 2018 ceremony to highlight (and illustrate) the contribution made by artists to books and to the book economy, Scheffler will be a popular winner. He is a sales powerhouse (most notably through his collaborations with Julia Donaldson), but his characters--from Stick Man to the ever popular Gruffalo--can be more human than the humans around them, and his strong advocacy for the power and universality of storytelling, combined with his efforts to campaign against Brexit, mark him out as an artist working at the top of his game and making a difference in the world."
The British Book Awards also awards Books of the Year in seven categories which celebrate books that have been brilliantly published and superbly written. The Children’s Book of the Year category was so strong this year, the judging panel decided to name The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker Books) and The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris (Hamish Hamilton) as joint winners. Together the winners show the diversity and range of children’s books: a grassroots Young Adult novel, The Hate U Give follows its 16-year-old protagonist as she is drawn to activism after witnessing the police shooting of her unarmed friend; while The Lost Words, a children’s book that defies easy categorisation, combines outstanding word-craft with exquisite illustrations. Despite the high price point (£20) the book’s mission to reconnect children to nature and a crowd-funding campaign to buy a copy for every school in Scotland caught the public’s imagination.
Produced by leading industry magazine The Bookseller, the British Book Awards, or Nibbies, is the definitive event for honouring the commercial successes of publishers, authors and bookshops.
The Nibbies brings together Books of the Year with trade accolades such as Publisher of the Year and Book Retailer of the Year. The idea behind the books of the year is to celebrate the whole journey from the author’s mind to the reader’s hand, and showcase the range and depth of modern publishing.