The 2018 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals were awarded on Monday at a ceremony at the British Library in London hosted by TV presenter and author June Sarpong. U.K. author Geraldine McCaughrean won her second CILIP Carnegie Medal for Where the World Ends (Usborne), a dramatic middle grade historical novel set in the far north of Scotland. The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal went to Canadian illustrator Sydney Smith for his illustrations in Joanne Schwartz’s Town Is by the Sea (Walker Books).
The author of more than 160 books published in 61 countries, McCaughrean is frequently described as one of the U.K.’s greatest writers. She won her first Carnegie Medal 30 years ago for A Pack of Lies and has been shortlisted for the Medal more times than any other author in the intervening years. She won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for the same title and has been a three-time winner of the Whitbread/Costa Award. In 2008 she also won the Michael L Printz Award for The White Darkness, which she said “for an Englishwoman was the most amazing, startling thrill.” McCaughrean has also just won a new award, last week, for Where the World Ends, in the children’s category of the U.K. Independent Bookshops 2018 Book Awards.
Speaking to PW of today’s medal success, McCaughrean said: “The Carnegie Medal is the prize every author wants. I am almost ashamed of how much I wanted to win it a second time, 30 years after the first—an affirmation that my talent had not waned, that I can still entertain. CILIP, who award the prize, are an awesome association of people who know books, and champion reading and ready access to books. Their motives are the same as such towering visionaries as Andrew Carnegie, who established the first free public libraries and allowed rich and poor alike to delight in books. Libraries are bookshops where the goods are free. They instil a love of reading which, in its turn, imparts all kinds of priceless gifts – vocabulary, escape, empathy, excitement. The Carnegie Medal will mean that my story reaches thousands more people. A certain handful of barely-literate boys marooned on a Scottish rock 300 years ago would be astounded to find themselves centre stage, restored to life by the magic of fiction.”
At the ceremony McCaughrean gave a speech petitioning against the dumbing down of language in children’s literature and stressing the importance of children and young people’s right to language, expression and information. She praised her fellow Medals nominees for their unflinching look at difficult subject matter, from the Black Lives Matter movement to bullying and depression.
Town Is by the Sea, for which Smith won the Greenaway Medal, is set in the coal-mining town Glace Bay, located on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, in the 1950s, and contrasts a child’s life of play, in a bright world above ground, with an adult’s world of work, in the perilous subterranean world of a mining pit. Smith researched his illustrations at the Miner’s Museum in Glace Bay and took inspiration for his expressive brush work from Impressionist artists such as J.M.W. Turner. Previously winner of the 2015 Governor General’s Award for Illustrated Children’s Books for his illustrations to Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, this was Smith’s first nomination for the Kate Greenaway Medal.
Accepting the Medal Smith said, “Although this story is specific to a place and a time, the context of childhood is universal. There is something so beautiful about the universality of the complicated richness of youth. It is a dream come true to see my work, crafted from my heart, for family and my home to be honored by the highest of praises. There is no better feeling than to be recognized for something that was created with sincerity and joy. I regard this honor as a challenge to continue to work with such tools.”
In addition to their medals, McCaughrean and Smith each receive £500 worth of books to donate to a library of their choice and a £5,000 cash prize from the Colin Mears Award.
Themes of empowering children to stand up for their beliefs and encouraging them to shape the world around them are celebrated in both the Amnesty CILIP Honour commendations. From the CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist, the Honour went to U.S. debut author Angie Thomas for The Hate U Give (Walker Books). Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, it tells the story of 16-year-old Starr following the fatal shooting of a best friend by a white police officer. The Amnesty CILIP Honour from the Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist went to British artist and former Medal winner Levi Pinfold for his illustrations in The Song from Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold (Bloomsbury).