I am in my mid-sixties and I enjoy Young Adult and Children's fiction. No I'm not losing the plot but I do enjoy the freshness and uninhibited way in which this type of fiction is produced. Well the adjudicators of the Costa Book of the Year Awards must have felt the same.
I wasn't there but Ms Hardinge was apparently dumbfounded when she won the award with her children's story The Lie Tree. Part of the surprise would come from the fact that it is only the second children's book to win the award, and it is over ten years since Philip Pullman's Amber Spyglass picked up the prize. I thoroughly enjoyed that and the rest of the trilogy as I have of many children's works since attaining adulthood.
I have never been lucky at winning things but when I was 11 years old I won a copy of the above book in a word competition at my local cinema. (There was also an orange as part of the prize!). The film version of the story was showing at the cinema at that time. There of course is the key for babyboomers interest in this genre. We were brought up on stories which are now described as classics. There was no Dahl or others of his expertise in the area of producing children's stories. We had Billy Bunter, Just William, The Famous Five and so on, but no BFG or Northern Lights.
Of course when we write, whether we intend to or not, we tend to write from where we are at and that is influenced by culture which is a dynamic and evolving factor. It is hardly surprising then that the nature of children's books has changed quite dramatically. Also it doesn't mean that the intended audience for a story, reduces or increases the quality of the writing, and it is this factor which is key.
Hardinge, delivering the winner's speech she had not thought she needed to prepare, urged more people to explore the "beautiful jungle" of children's and young adult (YA) fiction, whatever their age. Well Frances the news is good, older people are enjoying YA and children's fiction and long may they do so.
Of course it would be remiss of me to omit the significant role that J K Rowling had in the advance of children and YA fiction with the Harry Potter series. It was that series adults started talking about and there was a falling away of the embarrassment of admitting they read children's books. In my circle of friends it was interesting the way in which the habit spread and people were soon talking about other books of the genre. It was how I discovered The Dark Materials trilogy.
Of course there is an important interaction that feeds the older end with new books - children. The kids at home have friends, they talk about an amazing array of subjects including stories, and in turn they may ask to have a book bought by parents, either paperback or ebooks. The parents then talk with other adults and when the subject of books arises out come the new stories or authors.
I find it all amazingly positive. So spread the word and watch the interest in books continue to grow.
Congratulations Frances Hardinge!