The Kids (Bloodaxe Books) by poet and university lecturer Hannah Lowe has been named the Costa Book of the Year 2021. The Kids is the ninth collection of poetry to take the overall prize and the second Book of the Year win for independent publisher Bloodaxe Books, following Inside the Wave by late author and poet Helen Dunmore in 2017.
The announcement was made this evening (Tuesday 1st February) at an awards ceremony at Pan Pacific London hosted by presenter and broadcaster Penny Smith.
BBC News journalist and broadcaster Reeta Chakrabarti, Chair of judges, said: “After a long and passionate discussion that reflected the quality and complexity of all five books, one winner emerged. Hannah Lowe’s The Kids is a book to fall in love with – it’s joyous, it’s warm and it’s completely universal. It’s crafted and skilful but also accessible. Words from the judges were ‘insightful’, ‘empathetic’, ‘generous’, ‘funny’, ‘compassionate’, ‘uplifting’. You will love it!”
Chakrabarti chaired a final judging panel that included: writer, broadcaster and Literary Salon founder Damian Barr; author Jessie Burton; poet and copywriter Rishi Dastidar; novelist, memoirist, and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo; author Smriti Halls; tennis coach Judy Murray; broadcaster and Editor in Chief of The Frank Magazine Melanie Sykes, and novelist, biographer and journalist Andrew Wilson.
Lowe beat the bookmaker’s favourite – bestselling novelist Claire Fuller, and her fourth book, Unsettled Ground – to win the overall prize of £30,000. The other three category Award winners in the running included: journalist-turned-author John Preston for Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell, a biography of the media mogul and former MP, British-Ghanaian short story writer and photographer Caleb Azumah Nelson for his first novel, Open Water, and actor, director, charity founder and children’s author, Manjeet Mann for her second work of YA fiction, The Crossing. To mark the 50th year of the Awards, each author received a bespoke certificate specially created, designed and produced by leading letterpress studio, The Garage Press, featuring traditional hand-printed elements using a vintage press merged with digital production techniques.
The Kids is a book of sonnets about teaching, learning, growing up and parenthood. It draws on Lowe’s decade of teaching in an inner-city London sixth form during the 2000s, as well as on her own coming of age in the riotous 1980s and 90s and concludes with poems about her young son learning to negotiate contemporary London.
Jill McDonald, CEO of Costa Coffee, said: “On behalf of all of us at Costa Coffee, many congratulations to Hannah Lowe for winning the 2021 Costa Book of the Year in this, the Awards’ milestone anniversary year. For many of us, our reading patterns have changed since the pandemic. We’ve had the opportunity to read more and appreciate the joy of reading a good book and the escapism it can bring, especially when accompanied by a great cup of coffee. The perfect partner! Being named Costa Book of the Year is a terrific achievement and I wish Hannah and the book every continued success.”
Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won 13 times by a novel, five times by a first novel, eight times by a biography, nine times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children’s book. The 2020 Costa Book of the Year was The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey.
The Costa Book Awards is the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland and uniquely recognises some of the most enjoyable books across five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – published in the last year. 2021 marks the 50th year of the Awards. Originally established in 1971, Costa Coffee has been running the UK’s most prestigious book prize since 2006.
Many of the books celebrated by the Awards over the past half century have gone on to be enjoyed by a huge number of readers. Sales figures of the Book of the Year (introduced in 1985) winning titles since 1998 are in excess of 7 million copies.
The five 2021 category Award winning books have seen an average sales increase of 367%* since being announced on 4th January. [*Nielsen BookScan]
L.E. Yates wins the 2021 Costa Short Story Award
Also announced at the ceremony was the winner of the 2021 Costa Short Story Award. L.E. Yates, a London-based writer and lecturer, won the public vote and £3,500 for her story, Sunblock. Two runners up – Matthew Hurt from London and Lindsay Gillespie from Lewes – received £1,000 and £500 respectively.
Over 800 entries were received for this year’s Costa Short Story Award, now in its 10th year and open to both published and unpublished writers, for a single, previously unpublished short story of up to 4,000 words written in English by an author aged 18 years or over.
Established in 2012, the Award – run in association with the Costa Book Awards but judged independently of the main five-category system – is judged anonymously. Recent winners include: Tessa Sheridan (2020), a Palme D’Or-winning screenwriter and director; Anna Dempsey (2019), a Florida-born educator and writer based in London; Caroline Ward Vine (2018), a former magazine publisher from Kent, who recently completed her first novel, Stolen Threads; Glasgow-born primary school teacher Luan Goldie (2017), whose debut novel Nightingale Point was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 and whose second novel, Homecoming, was published in the same year and Jess Kidd (2016) from Surrey, the author of three adult novels, the first in 2016, and one children’s book, who is now developing her own original TV projects.
The shortlist of three stories was selected by a panel of judges comprising: Sarah Franklin, founder of Short Stories Aloud and Senior Lecturer in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University; BBC Radio 2 Book Club producer, Joe Haddow; literary agent, Simon Trewin, and bestselling authors Adele Parks and Kit de Waal, herself a finalist for the Costa Short Story Award in 2013. The stories were then made available on the Costa Book Awards website for the public to download and read, and then vote for their favourite.