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Frances Hardinge wins Costa Award

Lie-TreeFor the first time since Phillip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass in 2001, a Children’s book has won The Costa Book Award. That book is The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge and it is the seventh novel from the author who has made a career writing fantastically diverse and unusual books where important issues and ideas are explored. The Lie Tree is typical Hardinge in this way, a young female protagonist must work against the suppressive views of a male-dominated society in order to investigate the death of her father. The weirdness comes in the form of a tree to which lies must can whispered to and which bears fruit that contains revelations.

Here’s the blurb:

When Faith’s father is found dead under mysterious circumstances, she is determined to untangle the truth from the lies. Searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. A tree that feeds off whispered lies and bears fruit that reveals hidden secrets. But as Faith’s untruths spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter….

I was lucky enough to moderate a panel that starred Frances Hardinge a few years ago and she was very keen on promoting the depth and universal nature of ‘YA’ and ‘Children’s Fiction’. Although she and the other panelists were against the idea that literature for younger readers should be expected to have some kind of moral message, a huge amount of praise was given for the areas that books within these genres were fearlessly and unapologetically exploring.

Frances, herself, reviews that particular panel here:

We discussed the characteristics  of YA heroes, and Jonathan [Stroud] came up with a particularly interesting answer, defining them by their smallness, lightness, perception and quickness of motion and wit – advantages they need against those who are larger, stronger and ostensibly more powerful. Discussing whether darker elements should be excluded from YA fantasy, Ruth [Warburton] pointed out that our notions of what is ‘safe for children’ are specific to our own place and time. Throughout history very young children have been forced to work, fight or die, and in many countries this is still the case. Fantasy is an opportunity to portray this honestly.

The question of ‘moral messages’ was raised, and in different ways we all said that we didn’t feel a need to thump our readers over the head with an ideology. As Amy said, you can explore issues without telling the reader what to think.
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The quote from the judges, “We all loved this dark, sprawling, fiercely clever novel that blends history and fantasy in a way that will grip readers of all ages”, will undoubtedly mean a great deal to Frances and we at Fantasy-Faction would like to applaud the author for playing a huge part in the pursuit of raising awareness of the power of literature labelled as being for Children and Young Adults.

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One Comment

  1. Avatar Jo says:

    I was on a panel at Fantasycon with Frances a few years ago – she was super-lovely and I’m really pleased for her 🙂

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