Hannah Gold’s The Last Bear wins Waterstones children’s book prize | Books

A timely adventure story that tackles environmental themes has been named winner of this year’s Waterstones children’s book prize.

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold, illustrated by Levi Pinfold, follows April, the daughter of an Arctic researcher, as she befriends a lone polar bear.

The £5,000 award is judged by the Waterstones booksellers, one of whom, Sorcha, from the chain’s Cambridge shop, called The Last Bear a “future classic”, finding the novel “timely and thought-provoking, but ultimately heartwarming”. Another, Ryan, from Waterstones Oldham, said the story is “gorgeous and emotional” and a “poignant reminder of the importance of environmentalism”.

Hannah Gold.
Hannah Gold. Photograph: Waterstones children’s book prize

Gold, who was also named winner of the younger readers’ category, was up against the winners of the other two categories for the overall award. Ciara Smyth’s Not My Problem, about a high school rule breaker, won the older readers’ category while Harry Woodgate’s Grandad’s Camper, which celebrates LGBT+ history, took the prize for illustrated books.

The Last Bear stood out from the crowd, though, said Waterstones head of children’s, Florentyna Martin, who described Gold’s first novel as a “triumphant debut”.

“Hannah’s impeccable storytelling builds immersive landscapes and an inspirational friendship born of bravery and kindness”, she added. “Our booksellers have expertly chosen a winner that provides a symbol of hope to the next generation; part battle cry, part love letter to our planet, April and Bear’s unique bond will teach every young reader how to roar.”

Lincolnshire-based Gold previously worked in the film and magazine industries before becoming a full-time writer. She has described The Last Bear as “a book of [her] heart” and as a chance to inspire children with the message that “no one is too small or insignificant to make a difference about the things they truly care about”.

Gold’s second novel, another adventure story that addresses ecological issues, The Lost Whale, has just been published.

Previous winners of the prize, now in its 18th year, include Rob Biddulph, Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Elle McNicoll.

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