Tightrope-walking academic Katherine Rundell wins 10th Waterstones Children’s Book Prize

The novel Rooftoppers was inspired by the Oxford don's own sky-high wanderings

An author who drew inspiration from her own experiences of parkouring amid Oxford’s lofty spires has been awarded a prestigious children's book prize.

Oxford University Fellow and tightrope walker Katherine Rundell was crowned the overall winner of the 10th Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for her novel Rooftoppers.

The tale of a young girl’s race to find her missing mother over Paris’ rooftops was inspired by Rundell’s own night-time trespassing on the gables of Oxford’s colleges.

Rundell, who is a fellow of All Souls College, beat off shortlisted authors including Dawn O’Porter, Call the Midwife actress Emerald Fennell, and BBC3 Boom Town producer and son of the late Salmon Fishing in the Yemen author Paul Torday, Piers Torday, to scoop this year’s £5,000 prize.

Rooftoppers, which was also named the best book in the 5-12 age group category, beat teen category winner Geek Girl by Holly Smale and Nicola O'Byrne's picture book Open Very Carefully to the main prize.

Both runners-up received a cheque for £2,000 in the ceremony at Waterstones’ flagship Piccadilly store in central London on Thursday night.

Melissa Cox, children's new titles buyer for Waterstones, said: “Katherine Rundell's Rooftoppers is a hugely deserving winner of the 10th Children's Book Prize: it already feels like a classic.

"Her lyrical writing style is immediately charming, effortlessly taking the reader on magical flights of fancy over the English Channel and up on to the rooftops of Paris.“

The firm's managing director James Daunt, said: ”The 2014 category winners are each of an outstanding quality which our booksellers have delighted in unearthing and passionately championing.

“As in past years, the prize gives us the chance to shine a spotlight on these books ensuring that more readers discover wonderful new authors and illustrators, and we are immensely proud of the successes achieved by 10 years of winners.”

The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize champions new and emerging talent in children’s writing and is unique in that it is solely voted for by booksellers. It consists of three categories: Best Picture Book; Best Fiction for 5-12s; and Best Book for Teens. Each category winner then competes for the overall title of Waterstones Children’s Book of the Year 2014

The three finalists will see their sales boosted by a promotion campaign in more than 278 Waterstones shops nationwide.

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