Philip Pullman, winner of this year's Carnegie Medal for Northern Lights, said he could only have told such a vast story with huge themes in a children's book. The 399-pagebook is the first volume of a trilogy inspired by Milton's Paradise Lost.
Mr Pullman, a former teacher, said at Wednesday's ceremony in London: "In adult literary fiction stories are there on sufferance. Other things are felt to be more important: technique, style, literary knowingness. The present-day, would-be George Eliots take up their stories as if with a pair of tongs. If they could write novels without stories in them, they would."
The Kate Greenaway Medal, for illustrators, goes to the Irish illustrator PJ Lynch for The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (a story by Susan Wojciechowski).
Both prizes were presented by Rabbi Julia Neuberger, who was struck by "the lack of respect for the craft of the story" when she judged the Booker Prize two years ago.
Jacqueline Wilson was highly commended for Double Act and Susan Gates was commended for Raider in the Carnegie award. the children's literature equivalent of the Booker Prize. Patrick Benson was highly commended for The Little Boat and Quentin Blake commended for Clown for the Kate Greenaway Medal.