Costa Book Award winners announced

Five children on the Western FrontThe Costa Book Awards have been announced. Now in its 43rd year – previously named the Whitbread Prize – it’s open to authors who live in the UK and Ireland and is the only award to recognise books across five different categories. There were 640 entries, (each category winner wins £5,000 and the chance to win the ultimate prize for the 2014 Costa Book of the Year) Previous winners include Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall and Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. The Book of the Year will be announced on 27 January.

Costa Novel Award –  How to be both by Ali Smith

Costa First Novel Award  –  Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Costa Biography Award –  H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Costa Children’s Book Award –  Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

Costa Poetry Award –  My Family and Other Superheroes by Jonathan Edwards

The children’s category winner is an adaptation of E Nesbitt’s Five Children; Five Children on the Western Front, by journalist and children’s writer Kate Saunders, was called “a modern masterpiece” by the judges for moving Nesbitt’s original characters into the trenches of WW1. Nesbitt’s character the Psammead, whom the grown children must help to return home is revived.

How to be Both, by Ali Smith is her 6th novel and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and is about grief and the experience of making and appreciating art. It has two different beginnings, one in the 15th century and another in the present day. Which one readers embark upon depends on which copy they buy. The judges praised Smith’s narrative concept and the “consummate ease and daring” with which she deployed it.

Emma Healey’s debut novel, Elizabeth Is Missing which won the First novel award is narrated by a 90-year-old woman with dementia.  The author was praised for her “incredible flair and unusual skill” by the judges, who called the mystery novel “a very special book”.

Helen Macdonald’s Samuel Johnson Prize-winning  H is for Hawk is about grief and falconry. Macdonald immersed herself in falconry following the death of her father. Her account explains how she dealt with grief by training her own goshawk.