Costa Book of the Year Win for THE KIDS by Hannah Lowe — Blake Friedmann (2024)

Hannah Lowe has won the Costa Book of the Year with her collection, THE KIDS, published by Bloodaxe Books. The Costa Book of the Year is chosen from the winners of the individual Costa Award categories, and Hannah was announced as winner at an in-person ceremony in London last night.

Chair of Judges, Reeta Chakrabarti, said THE KIDS is ‘a book to fall in love with’, ‘joyous, warm and completely universal.’ She went on to say ‘We were looking for the most enjoyable book, the most accessible book, the book that you would most want to pass on to other people. And the winner was, for all of us, fresh and immediate, it spoke very directly to everybody. It has a universality to it – in a simple way, because everybody’s been to school.’

Reporting on the win, BBC Arts Correspondent Rebecca Jones described THE KIDS as ‘thoroughly modern… engaging and entertaining too… [The sonnets] offer a particularly fascinating glimpse into Lowe's experience teaching English at an inner-city London sixth form in the 2000s… The sonnet, with its 14 lines and strict rhyme scheme, dates back centuries. But in this collection, Hannah Lowe has taken it to unexpected places – with richly rewarding results.’

Lowe took home the Costa Poetry Award earlier this year, and her collection garnered high praise from the Costa Poetry Award judges, Rishi Dastidar, Ian Duhig and Maya Jaggi, who said: ‘THE KIDS is the real deal. A page turner about the experience of teaching and being taught, it made us want to punch the air with joy... A contemporary book that buzzes with life while re-energising the sonnet that Shakespeare would recognise. All readers will find something of themselves here.'

THE KIDS was also shortlisted for the 2021 T.S. Eliot Prize, was a Poetry Book Society Choice for Autumn 2021 and an Irish Times and Guardian poetry book of the year. It was widely acclaimed – see some of the praise below.

THE KIDS is a collection of compassionate and energetic sonnets, fictionalised portraits of the students Hannah nurtured in her decade as a teacher in inner-city London. But the poems go further, meeting her own child self as she comes of age in the riotous 80s and 90s, later bearing witness to her small son learning to negotiate contemporary London. Across these deeply felt poems, Lowe interrogates the acts of teaching and learning with empathy and humour. Social class, gender and race – and their fundamental intersection with education – are investigated with an ever-critical and introspective eye. These boisterous and musical poems explore what it is to be taught, to learn and to teach.

About Hannah Lowe

Hannah Lowe was born in Ilford to an English mother and Jamaican-Chinese father. Her first book-length collection CHICK (Bloodaxe, 2013) won the 2015 Michael Murphy Memorial Prize and was selected for the Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation Poets 2014 promotion. Her second full-length collection, CHAN, was published by Bloodaxe in 2016, followed by a pamphlet, THE NEIGHBOURHOOD (Out-Spoken Press) in 2019. Her prose memoir, LONG TIME NO SEE, exploring her relationship with her half-Chinese, half-Jamaican immigrant father, was published by Periscope in 2014.

Visit Hannah’s website andfollow her on Twitter and Instagram

Praise for THE KIDS

‘These sequences of stories are a refreshing update to THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE and TO SIR WITH LOVE. Each of Lowe’s sonnets is a blackboard chalked with the tales of earnest teachers, of cheeky and lovable students, of being mentored to become a poet and of motherhood and learning to instruct again. Lowe makes the sonnet exciting for our age through its urgent, its compassionate, its wonderfully humorous address of the personal and the social.’ – Daljit Nagra

‘A gorgeous, technically impressive, emotional, generous journey she took us on!! Quite how she condenses so much of living, and loving, and Britain, and class and race and single life and childhood and teenhood and heartbreak and parenthood in this slim thing is beyond me. Just one of those books that you can give to a 12-year-old and an 82-year-old and say: here is life, captured briefly, truly, on the page… She is so easy with the form, you don’t even notice how technically brilliant they are. They are so human and generous and clever... Buy it, borrow it, but however you lay your hands, a read of this collection is worth your time and heart.’ – Jessie Burton, Instagram

‘An introspective book of modern sonnets… This is a playful yet moving collection that will make the reader frown and laugh, sometimes both at once.’ – Mary Jean Chan, The Guardian, ‘The Best Recent Poetry’

‘Hannah Lowe's THE KIDS, inspired by her time teaching in an inner London sixth form, is a series of sonnets full of joy. The book is generous in its compassion, and in love with the idea of learning, in the classroom and outside it.’ – Rishi Dastidar, The Guardian, ‘Best poetry books of 2021’

‘Hannah Lowe's brilliant and entertaining book of sonnets, THE KIDS, is one of the most humorous and tender collections of recent times.’ – Sean Hewitt, The Irish Times, ‘Best poetry of 2021’

‘At the heart of this book of compassionate and energetic sonnets is her students. But the poems go further, meeting her own child self in the riotous 80s and her small son growing up in contemporary London. These are deeply felt poems interrogating the acts of teaching and learning, class, gender and race with empathy and humour. Boisterous and musical, these poems explore and explode the universal experience of what it is to be taught, and to teach, and reach out to the child within us all.’ – Poetry Book Society

‘While THE KIDS doesn’t shy away from asking tough questions about education, it shows real fondness for the kids themselves and their uplifting thirst for learning.’ – Hayley Jarvis, Brunel University

‘Always, we are in the hands of Lowe's singular, effortless voice, and reminded that all good education should be an education in class, in the legacies and histories of empire and in the self.’ – Andrew McMillan, Poetry Book Society Bulletin

‘The poems in THE KIDS fizz and chat with all the vitality and longing of the classes they conjure. Funny, moving, sometimes painful and always questioning, they capture teachers and their students learning life from each other in profound and unexpected ways. A joy to read.’ – Liz Berry

‘This book reads very much like a labour of love. Anyone who commits to writing, and asks the reader to commit to reading, 66 sonnets has got to have plenty to say. These poems never flinch and the best of them… leave us caring for the kids as much as she does.’ – Carl Tomlinson, Poetry News, ‘Best poetry books of the year 2021’

'Lowe’s social conscience, grounded register and frank humanity recall Tony Harrison...’ – Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph

'THE KIDS asks awkward questions about institutionalized education, but retains an unshakable faith in the kids and the joy they derive from learning and from their world and, because of this, it imagines a bright future.’ – John Field

‘Hannah Lowe’s third full-length collection THE KIDS is a book of loose, light-touch sonnets about growing up and growing old, parents and children, teaching and learning.’ – Andy Croft, Morning Star

‘Lowe’s skill at working with traditional forms has been strongly in evidence from her debut collection CHICK onwards. She has an easy, conversational take on the iambic pentameter line, and is skilled at finding both full and slant rhymes that don’t come across as forced. This results in poems that feel contemporary, yet still have a sense of the language being heightened into song.’ – Alan Buckley, The Friday Poem

‘CHICK was a hard act to follow. In this painfully aware, complex and very dynamic collection, Hannah Lowe has more than succeeded. Anyone entering teaching would do well to read it. As would everyone else.’ – Beth McDonough, Dundee University Review of the Arts

Costa Book of the Year Win for THE KIDS by Hannah Lowe — Blake Friedmann (2024)
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