A.F. Steadman's debut novel, Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, has been chosen by Waterstones' booksellers as its Waterstones Children's Book of the Year 2022 - the book they have most enjoyed recommending to their customers.
The first book in a series for readers aged nine years plus, Skandar and the Unicorn Thief (Simon & Schuster Children's Books) is a fantasy adventure that follows 13-year-old Skandar Smith from Kent who hopes to become one of the world's great unicorn riders. Waterstone's describes it as 'a perfectly crafted, truly immersive world, steeped in fantastical settings, elemental magic and a captivating mystery'.
A.F. Steadman, who worked in law before becoming an author, said of her win: "I am so grateful to the booksellers at Waterstones for ensuring that this story - with its warrior unicorns, elemental magic and fierce friendships - has soared into the hands of children and adults alike." The second book in her fantasy adventure, Skandar and the Phantom Rider, will publish in April 2023.
Waterstones' head of children's, Florentyna Martin, said that Skandar and the Unicorn Thief had been "enthusiastically embraced" by the chain's booksellers; A.F. Steadman's "fierce unicorn creations and impressive combinations of elemental magic" plays with readers' expectations of the traditional fantasy adventure, she added, "shaking up the next wave of storytelling".
Following the award, Skandar and the Unicorn Thief will now receive the full and committed backing of Waterstones shops and booksellers across the UK, as well as support online and through its loyalty card programme, Waterstones Plus, which reaches over a million readers.
Waterstones has also announced the Waterstones Book of the Year: The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel and a Waterstones Author of the Year: Bonnie Garmus for Lessons in Chemistry, alongside the Waterstones Children's Book of the Year: Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman.
The Waterstones Book of the Year shortlist in full (alphabetically):
Jonathan Freedland, The Escape Artist
Bonnie Garmus, Lessons in Chemistry
Thomas Halliday, Otherlands
Katy Hessel, The Story of Art without Men
R.F. Kuang, Babel
Jeremy Lee, Cooking
Maggie O'Farrell, The Marriage Portrait
Alice Oseman, Heartstopper Volume 1
Katherine Rundell, The Golden Mole
A.F. Steadman, Skandar and the Unicorn Thief
Waterstones Book Of The Year 2021: The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present by Paul McCartney and Paul Muldoon (editor)
Waterstones Children's Gift of the Year 2021: Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Tom de Freston (illustrator)
Waterstones Book Of The year 2020: Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
Waterstones Author of the Year 2019: Greta Thunberg for No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference
Waterstones Book of the Year 2019: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
Waterstones Book of the Year 2018: Normal People by Sally Rooney
Waterstones Book of the Year 2017: La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Vol. One by Philip Pullman
Waterstones Book of the Year 2016: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Waterstones Book of the Year 2015: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith
Waterstones Book of the Year 2014: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Waterstones Book of the Year 2013: Stoner by John Williams
Waterstones Book of the Year 2012: Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook by Russell Norman