Shortlist year: 2015

Shortlist category: Children's literature

Published by: ABC Books (HarperCollins Publishers)

High on a cliff above the gloomy coastal town of Withering-by-Sea stands the Hotel Majestic.

Inside the walls of the damp, dull hotel, eleven-year-old orphan Stella Montgomery leads a miserable life with her three dreadful aunts.

But one night, Stella sees something she shouldn't have ... something that will set in motion an adventure more terrifying and more wonderful than she could ever have hoped for ...

About the author


Judith Rossell

Judith Rossell has been an illustrator and writer of children's books for more than twelve years. Before that, she worked as a government scientist and also for a cotton spinning company.

She has written eleven books and illustrated more than eighty. Her books have been published in the UK and the USA and have been translated into more than ten languages.

Rossell lives in Melbourne with a cat the size of a walrus.

Judges’ comments

Withering-by-Sea is a fantastic romp of a novel, written and strikingly illustrated by Judith Rossell.

It takes an old-world seaside setting, adds a brave and tenacious orphan-as-heroine, her three mad maiden aunts, a hint of dark magic, and a cluster of criminals to come up with a witty, page-turning delight.

Stella Montgomery is a guest at the Hotel Majestic where, trying to avoid her aunts one long and boring afternoon, she spies an old man furtively hiding a small package in an enormous Chinese urn.

Later that night Stella tiptoes downstairs and while recovering the package, witnesses a serious crime.

The concealment of the package, and the true nature of its contents are at the heart of Stella's adventure as she fights to escape the long and threatening arm of The Professor.

Along the way Stella finds allies including Ben and Gert, (children of a similar age), and the enigmatic Signor Capelli and his troupe of educated cats. Judith Rossell builds up a detailed and convincing portrait of the Victorian era, laced with humour, satire and adventure.

Rossell's highly accomplished illustrations (with just a touch of Edward Gorey), and the book's stylish design, immerse the reader in this world of mystery and end-of-the-pier excitement.