First children's book in 14 years wins UK's $61,000 Costa Award

British writer Frances Hardinge wins the Costa Book of the Year Award with her children's book, The Lie Tree, in London, on Jan 26, 2016.
British writer Frances Hardinge wins the Costa Book of the Year Award with her children's book, The Lie Tree, in London, on Jan 26, 2016.SCREENGRAB: TWITTER/ COSTA BOOK AWARDS

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's Frances Hardinge became the first children's author since Philip Pullman 14 years ago to win the prestigious Costa Book of the Year award in London on Tuesday.

Hardinge's The Lie Tree is a 19th century detective novel in which teenager Faith tries to uncover the truth about her father's mysterious death.

She saw off rivals including Kate Atkinson with A God In Ruins to take the £30,000 (S$61,000) prize.

The last children's novel to win was Pullman's The Amber Spyglass in 2001.

Paying tribute to the book, chairman of the judging panel James Heneage said: "I think this brilliantly articulates what goes in a clever 14-year-old girl's mind, particularly one who has this deep interest in science."

He added that Faith's search for answers was set in the context of a male-dominated society in which women were "seen and not heard".

Hardinge is an Oxford University graduate who previously worked as a technical author for a software company. She has written six other books.

The Costa Book Awards are open to authors living in Britain and Ireland.

Previous winners include Andrew Miller's Pure and Hilary Mantel's Bringing Up The Bodies.

All five of the nominees for the Book of the Year had previously won Costa prizes in separate categories such as children's books, novels and debut novels.