When Michael Franks won the annual Wingate Prize yesterday for his memoir the Mighty Franks, a dazzling portrait of an eccentric Los Angeles family, it set the seal on what looks to be an annus mirabilis for a new kind of heroine....

Few readers will fail to spot this has been a golden year for children’s books. With Philip Pullman’s magisterial return to the world of His Dark Materials in La Belle Sauvage, and Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’s rapturously received nature-fest The Lost...