Ludlow author Liz Hyder's debut novel Bearmouth named Children's Book of the Year

The debut novel of an up-and-coming author has been named children's book of the year by The Times.

Liz Hyder.
Liz Hyder.

Liz Hyder, from Ludlow, has won national acclaim for her first book 'Bearmouth', which has been compared to the work of Charles Dickens.

The novel was published earlier this year, with the film rights sold before it even hit the shelves.

Liz, a PR consultant and creative writing workshop leader, said she was "pinching herself" over the overwhelmingly positive response to her first published work.

Placing it at the top of its annual list of the best children's books of 2019, The Times said: “It’s hard to believe that this exceptional young adult novel is a debut.

"Set in a Victorian mine staffed with children, it’s a grim, brilliant insight into slave labour seen through the eyes of its child narrator.

"It’s a historical novel, but it feels very now with its message about the power of activism and gender politics. A Christmas Carol for 2019."

'Bearmouth' also made The Times' list of the overall best 50 books of the year, and won a place in the Financial Times' books of the year too.

The Sunday Times named it among the best children's books of the year, saying the "compelling and original" was "the young adult debut that caused the most excitement".

Liz said: "I’m genuinely honoured – and surprised – that Bearmouth was named as Children’s Book of the Year in The Times.

"The reaction to the book has totally taken me surprise and never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this.

"The past year has seen so many brilliant books for younger people, from Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Deathless Girls and Simon Mason’s Hey Sherlock to Sarah Crossan’s Toffee and Katherine Rundell’s The Good Thieves to name but a few.

"My reading pile is towering above my bed at the moment.

"I feel very lucky to be part of the children’s book scene in the UK, I strongly believe it’s where many of our best storytellers and writers are to be found and I feel utterly privileged to be among them."

In ‘Bearmouth’, Liz has created an imagined world with its own dialect, riven with social injustice and populated by characters who don’t simply accept things because they are told they must.

The novel, set down a Victorian-esque mine, was inspired by the author’s research into working conditions of child miners, including those in Shropshire.

Upon its release, The Times predicted that the book would lead to Liz Hyder becoming 'a household name’, and her books ‘a curriculum staple’.

The film rights to ‘Bearmouth’ have been snapped up by Binocular, the production company founded by Oscar-nominated writer Matt Charman.

Charman, who was an executive producer on Netflix’s ‘Operation Finale’ and is co-producing a screen adaptation of Frances Hardinge’s Costa-winner ‘The Lie Tree’, made an offer for the rights to ‘Bearmouth’ within hours of finishing the manuscript.

He is partnering with Endeavor Content on the project, while Susan E Connolly has been signed to write the adaptation.

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