Ambitious and darkly brilliant... provocative, tender, claustrophobic and epic. It blew my mind.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Bearmouth - Liz Hyder
The UK hardback. Cover by Yeti Lambregts.
Winner of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2020 for Older Readers
Winner of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2020 for Older Readers

Time down here is a diffrent thing see. Lyke on the other side you sees seesons change, leeves grow bold an grene an fayde to gold an red, then drop off and kirl up and disappear into snoe. But Bearmouth is black. Black an warm an dark an wet an full o coal. All days all weeks all year. Forever and ever. Amen.

Life in Bearmouth is one of hard labour, the sunlit world above the mine a distant memory. Reward will come in the next life with the benevolence of the Mayker. Newt accepts everything, that is until the mysterious Devlin arrives. Newt is soon looking at Bearmouth with a fresh perspective – questioning the system and setting in motion a change of events that could destroy their entire world.

Inspired by Liz's research into the working conditions of early Victorian coal mines, Bearmouth shows an imagined world where workers are treated as little more than pit ponies, both living and working in the dark depths of a mine. Told first person, Bearmouth explores ideas around exploitation, truth and class through the unique voice of an extraordinary young person who dares to question the status quo.

Find out more about the idea behind the book.

Winner of the Branford Boase Award 2020. Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020 for Older Readers. The Times Children’s Book of the Year 2019. Shortlisted for the Great Reads Award 2020. Shortlisted for the UKLA (UK Literacy Association) Awards 2021. Nominated for the 2021 CILIP Carnegie Medal.

Pushkin Press: Hardback, 19th September 2019, £12.99 / Paperback, 3rd March 2020, £7.99

A book about bravery in extremis by a writer as courageous as they come. Liz Hyder's young adult debut is like nothing I have read before and feels as though it is the work of a far more mature writer who has letters after their name and awards cluttering their mantelpiece...

The Times

There's nothing like a dose of darkness and claustrophobia to give a story intensity and Liz Hyder's excellent fantasy debut has plenty of both.

The Guardian

This truly unique and breathtakingly brilliant debut will blow your socks off... The story is exciting, ambitious and completely unpredictable: the kind of book to read in one sitting, quite breathless. Liz Hyder is a really exciting new voice in children's literature.


A unique story... for those who are ready for a fresh narrative, this gripping story of hope, friendship, and revolution will be worth it.

School Library Journal (US)

This grim and immersive thriller delivers suspense in the dark.

Kirkus (US)

A boldly original novel, with a totally unique setting, and equally fresh narrating protagonist. Bearmouth is ambitious, nail-bitingly thrilling and courageous.

South China Morning Post

Limited edition

The UK hardback first edition of Bearmouth comes with red end papers and red sprayed edges.

Sold Out.

The Mayker's Prayer

The Mayker's Prayer, which features prominently in Bearmouth, has been hand-set in metal type and traditionally letterpress printed by Dulcie Fulton of Mostly Flat. These limited editions are printed as they would have been in Victorian times, on a cast iron early 1900s foot-powered treadle press. The print is designed to nestle happily within the book, either as a bookmark or as a little gift.

£3 each + P&P. Available from Mostly Flat.

The idea behind the book

Stories are hidden everywhere, in the buildings that surround us, in the people we walk past in the street and in the ground beneath our feet. I had known about Victorian child labour since my school days, the small children darting between noisy looms in the cotton mills in the north, the chimney sweepers coughing and spluttering in the dark vents, but somehow I had forgotten about the child miners. It wasn’t until a trip to the Welsh coast a few years back when I ventured down a slate mine (“here’s a torch and a hard hat, mind your head”), and came face-to-face with some of the horrors of what it was really like for children to work in that environment day after day, that the idea for Bearmouth was born.

Since then I have been down lots of other mines — coal and slate – read numerous books on the subject, listened to and sung old miner’s songs and read many first-hand accounts from child miners in the early 1840s. What I learnt was horrifying. Children from the age of four working 12—hour days, six days a week. Children with sores on their heads and legs from dragging and pulling heavy loads, children whose bodies were twisted out of shape from their work, children who fell asleep into their food on a Sunday because they were so tired. Children killed in explosions, crushed to death, drowned or suffocated.

In Bearmouth, which doubles as both the title of my book and the name of the fictional mine in which the novel is set, much of what happens is inspired by the research that I did. I didn’t want my Bearmouth to be an actual Victorian mine but more a fictional Victorian-esque mine, one in which I could set a page-turning fable about truth and hope, about the power and importance of asking questions.

It may surprise you, it may shock you even, to find that there are still children working in mines around the world, open cast mines in the Congo, for example, where coltan is mined (it’s in your phone, your laptop, your computer, it’s in the device you’re likely reading this on now). Child labour and exploitation hasn’t gone away, it has just changed, transformed itself into something else but, as ever, it remains hidden from view. I hope that in a small way at least, Bearmouth and those who read it will bring it to the surface again.

Liz Hyder

See Liz's other books