The youngest female scholar to be made a Fellow of the University of Oxford’s All Souls College has won the Waterstones Book of the Year Award.

Every year Waterstones booksellers are called on to nominate an outstanding book they particularly enjoyed recommending to readers over the previous year.

The bookstore operator announced Katherine Rundell’s Impossible Creatures – a “dazzling” children’s book - as the winner of this year’s prestigious award.

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The coveted award has an illustrious list of previous winners, ranging from Philip Pullman and Sally Rooney to Charlie Mackesy and Paul McCartney.

Ms Rundell grew up in London, Zimbabwe and Belgium. She completed her undergraduate studies at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, and was subsequently made a Fellow at All Souls College.

She said: “I am so wildly, overwhelmingly delighted to have won the Book of the Year - it’s an honour and a joy.

“It’s especially thrilling in that children’s books have historically been overlooked in Britain, so to have this prize shine its superbly powerful light on a children’s book feels both wonderful and bold. “At their best, I think, children’s books are electric, they galvanise the imagination of both children and adults.

“They can tell us what we have forgotten we have forgotten - they tell us of the oldest, toughest, warmest, sharpest truths of the human heart.

“I’m overjoyed that Impossible Creatures is joining the ranks of the remarkable previous winners of the Book of the Year - I am so hugely grateful to Waterstones, and to its booksellers.”

Ms Rundell is a passionate advocate of children’s books and children’s authors and her award-winning and bestselling books have been translated into thirty languages.

Impossible Creatures is an adventure which plunges readers into a richly imagined world of magnificent creatures and ancient, world-shaking secrets.

Bea Carvalho, Waterstones Head of Books, said: “We are extremely proud to present Katherine Rundell's Impossible Creatures as our 2023 Book of the Year, as chosen by Waterstones booksellers. This is as close to perfect as fiction gets. Immaculate world-building, dazzling storytelling, and adventure galore.

“Ms Rundell isn't afraid to trust young readers with weighty themes, but never loses sight of the need to make reading joyous and fun, celebrating humour with as much care as awe and wonder.

“It is an immediate classic which children will delight in for years to come, and which will remind adults of the genius to be found within the pages of children's books.

“Rundell is a truly exciting talent and we can't wait to share this wonderful story with readers of all ages as our Book of the Year.”


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

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