A former diplomat and UN campaigner has won a prize for new UK children's authors with her tale of an orphan living in Georgian London.
Julia Golding won the second £1,000 Ottakar's Children's Book Prize for her debut novel, The Diamond of Drury Lane, and hopes to reawaken interest in historical novels for children. "It's a dream come true," she told the Independent. Maybe now is the time for a historical children's book. We've had a lot of fantasy."
The book tells the story of Cat Royal, who was found on the steps of the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane in January 1780 by the theatre owner, Mr Sheridan.
Surprise, surprise - it has contemporary relevance. Julia Golding works for Oxfam, where she joined a UN campaign to reduce the number of arms in the Third World and their impact on children.
"We have so many cushions, such as the health service. There was none of that for my character, which is the situation facing many children today. Life is tough for most children around the world, and that's how my characters found it."
"I'm particularly interested in how people cope with historical moments in our life. I was thinking about the French Revolution and what was happening in London at that time, when to be outspoken could be a death sentence. It's not intended to be didactic, but there's a keen interest in politics which informed the book."
I like her.
The shortlist also included:
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (Random House)
Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach (Walker)
The Quantum Prophecy by Michael Carroll (Harper Collins)
Gregor and the Rats of Underland by Suzanne Collins (Chicken House )
Jack Slater Monster Investigator by John Doghety (Random House)
Ralph the Magic Rabbit by Adam Frost (Macmillan)
The Lottery by Beth Goobie (Faber)
North Child by Edith Pattou (Usborne)
Spymice by Heather Vogel Frederick (Penguin)