Jason Reynolds has won the 2021 Carnegie Medal for Look Both Ways, his book of 10 interconnected short stories, and Sydney Smith has won the 2021 Kate Greenaway Medal for his picture book Small in the City. The awards were announced on Wednesday in a livestream from the British Library.
It was a second Greenaway Medal for Smith, whose picture book Town Is by the Sea, written by Joanne Schwartz, won the award in 2018. It was Reynolds’s first Carnegie Medal.
The winning books were chosen by a team of 15 librarians, who read a total of 152 nominations. The winners each receive £500 worth of books to donate to a library of their choice, a golden medal, and a £5,000 cash prize.
“I’m humble, honored, and grateful,” Reynolds said of winning the award. “Look Both Ways is an examination of autonomy. It’s this idea that every child has a different journey and despite those journeys we are all interconnected—one people, one race, having similar and yet different experiences altogether.”
In his acceptance speech, Smith said, “Stories have the power to reach out to all ages and keep us grounded and connected to one another, to provide a magical escape or a cathartic laugh. Like a friend keeping in touch, stories offer the necessary sentiment: you are not alone. You will be all right.” Smith said this was the first book he had both written and illustrated, adding that winning the Medal is “such a huge validation.”
Unlike the Newbery and Caldecott Medals in the U.S., the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals do not require that a book be written by a British author or first published in Britain. Both of this year’s winners were, in fact, originally published in the U.S.: Look Both Ways was published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, and Small in the City was published by Holiday House/Neal Porter Books; in Britain they were published by Knights Of and Walker Books, respectively.
Also announced were two Shadowers’ Choice Awards, voted on by thousands of U.K. children. Run Rebel, a debut novel by Manjeet Mann, was the Shadowers’ Choice for the Carnegie Medal, and the Shadowers’ Choice for the Kate Greenaway Medal was Starbird, written and illustrated by Sharon King-Chai.