A Monster Calls (Walker) achieved a remarkable first on Thursday when author Patrick Ness was awarded the CILIP Carnegie Medal and illustrator Jim Kay scooped up the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal. No book has ever won both prizes since the Greenaway was first awarded in 1956 (the Carnegie preceded it, in 1936).
The result was unanimously reached by the librarian judges, who awarded the medals in separate sessions. While Ness had been tipped by many to win the Carnegie, the double honor had been seen as less likely. Rachel Levy, chair of the CILIP judges, explains how the judges came to their decision. “Jim Kay’s illustrations for A Monster Calls created the perfect synergy between the text and illustrations,” Levy says. Using only shades of black, white, and gray, he has beautifully, skillfully captured the atmosphere and emotion of the story and has produced a book that gives you a whole and satisfying experience. Finding a book in which the illustration and the story combined have created something so unique and stunning is extraordinary! Being able to celebrate the talents of both the writer and the illustrator for the same book is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
For Ness, this year’s success cements his reputation as it gives him the additional achievement of winning the Carnegie Medal in consecutive years. The author, who took last year’s Carnegie for Monsters of Men, the final title of his Chaos Walking trilogy, is only the second author to have achieved this particular feat, following Peter Dickinson who won in 1979 and 1980, for Tulku and City of Gold, respectively.
A Monster Calls is a departure for Ness as a writer. When asked if he would consider creating a novel out of a fragment of a story left by Siobhan Dowd, herself a posthumous Carnegie Medal winner with Bog Child, he had hesitated, before beginning an experience that he has described as feeling “as if I’ve been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has given me her story and said, ‘Go. Run with it. Make trouble.’ ”
Patrick Ness has certainly run with it but, far from making trouble, he has taken it to dizzying heights. "I’m completely amazed at winning again,” he says. “I really, really hoped Jim might win the Greenaway, because his work is so fantastic, but I never in a million years thought we’d win both or that I’d win twice in a row. It’s amazing, and a bit unnerving! The best thing, though, is that it keeps people talking about Siobhan Dowd and keeps people looking out for her fantastic books. Which is the best result I could have ever hoped for when I started A Monster Calls.”
For Kay, who has been working as an illustrator for only four years, there is an equal amount of amazement but for different reasons. “This is the first book I’ve illustrated in full, and I had no idea how people would react to the illustrations, especially as they are black and white,” he says. “When you are working on a book you don’t think about people other than the author and the art director seeing the illustrations. To see the book on a shop shelf is still strange, to be shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway – well, I can’t quite get my head around it yet. I’m delighted and extremely grateful.”