Livestreamed from the British Library yesterday, the winners of this year’s CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the UK’s oldest and best-loved book awards for children and young people, were revealed . The Medals celebrate outstanding achievement in children’s writing and illustration respectively and are unique in being judged by librarians. Both winning books explore urban landscapes through a child’s eyes, with Chair of Judges Ellen Krajewski describing them as ‘compelling stories told from a child’s viewpoint that deliver a powerful emotional punch.’
The winning books were chosen by an expert volunteer team of 15 librarians reading a total of 152 nominations. The winners will each receive £500 worth of books to donate to a library of their choice, a specially commissioned golden medal and a £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize.
This is the first Carnegie Medal win for US poet and author Jason Reynolds – who is the US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature – following a shortlisting in 2019 for Long Way Down. Look Both Ways (Knights Of) is a collection of 10 standalone but intertwined, interconnecting stories chronicling the 15 minutes of unsupervised independence of the walk home from school. The judges called it a “breathtakingly gripping”, “innocent tale which covers hard hitting issues including bullying, homophobia and bereavement” that “challenges the reader to see differently in an engaging and fresh way.”
Both winning books are published by independent publishers. Look Both Ways delivers the first win for Knights Of founded by Aimée Felone and Dubliner David Stevens, in its first year to have a longlisted title; Small in the City is the 16th win for Walker Books (4 Carnegie Medals and 12 Kate Greenaway Medals), which had nine books featured in this year’s longlist. Independent publishers had a strong showing on this year’s longlist, with 29 of the 40 books coming from independent presses.
CILIP Carnegie Medal Winner Jason Reynolds. Photo credit: Adedayo ‘Dayo’ Kosoko
Jason Reynolds said:
“In Look Both Ways I wanted to explore who it is that children are when the watchful eye of adults aren’t around. So often, children’s literature takes place either at school or at home but there’s an in-between that is the journey home. And even though they all sit in the classroom together, when that bell rings they go separate ways and go through separate things, as we all go through separate journeys in life, that influence and impact who it is that we are when we show up the following day. But the miracle of life is the idea that if we were to trust this process, believe in the power of humanity and speak to one another, no matter who you are or where you are from, all over the world there is a good chance that if we speak to each other long enough, we will probably have someone in common and that’s important, because it’s really difficult to hate someone when the two of you love the same person.
“That’s what this book is really about. It’s an examination of autonomy, it’s this idea that every child has a different journey and it’s all about the fact that despite those journeys we are all interconnected. One people. One race. Having similar experiences and yet different experience altogether.”
CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal Winner Sydney Smith. Photo credit: Aaron McKenzie Fraser
Sydney Smith said:
“We are living in a moment in history that requires us to keep at a safe distance from one another. Around the world we are self-isolating, social distancing, quarantining, and taking measures to ensure that we will get through this. It is a difficult journey, but we are on this journey together though it requires many of us to be alone or separated from friends and loved ones. It is during this time that these stories we share are more important than ever. They reach past the necessary barriers we may have in place and offer a connection. Our stories have the power to reach out to all ages and keep us grounded and connected to one another; or 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 alright. Small in the City is a story of a child’s journey through an urban landscape, and an emotional journey, processing the loss of a friend.
“This book does not have an easy ending, but it does end with a hug as does any journey worth taking. I believe that will be one of the most beautiful rewards at the end of our difficult journey. The promise of reuniting with a friend and having a laugh or sharing a hug with a loved one. All with the knowledge that we got through this together. And that it was well worth it.”
Tens of thousands of young people who shadow the Medals have also been reading and debating this year’s shortlists and have voted for their favourites to win the Shadowers’ Choice Awards. Announced today by a selection of young Shadowers, the Shadowers’ Choice for the Carnegie Medal is Run, Rebel, a debut novel by Manjeet Mann, about a girl who runs in quiet rebellion to escape an arranged marriage. The Shadowers’ Choice for the Kate Greenaway Medal is Starbird, illustrated and written by Sharon King-Chai, a mythical tale of a singing Starbird caged by a Moon King.
Now in its third year, this award has evolved out of CILIP’s Diversity Review, which identified opportunities to empower and celebrate the young people involved in the Medals through the shadowing scheme.
2021 CILIP Carnegie Medal: Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds (Knights Of)
Look Both Ways features 10 intertwining, interconnecting stories from the international bestselling author Jason Reynolds about those 15 minutes of unsupervised independence; the walk home from school.
Jason Reynolds first found inspiration in rap and began writing poetry when he was nine, He focused on poetry for the next two decades, publishing several collections before he published his first novel When I Was The Greatest in 2014. The first in his New York Times bestselling ‘Run’ series, Ghost, has sold 33,000 copies in the UK to date. He is also the author of the Marvel Comics novel Miles Morales: Spider-man (2017) and is the US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. This is the first win for Reynolds following a shortlisting in 2019 for Long Way Down.
2021 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal: Small in the City illustrated and written by Sydney Smith (Walker Books)
Being small can be overwhelming in a city. People don’t see you. The loud sounds of the sirens and cyclists can be scary. And the streets are so busy it can make your brain feel like there’s too much stuff in it. We follow our little protagonist, who knows all about what it’s like to be small in the city, as he gives his best advice for surviving there.
Sydney Smith is based in Toronto and has illustrated multiple children’s books. He has been shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway three times, the first time was in 2016 for Footpath Flowers, which was also a New York Times Children’s Book of the Year. Small in the City marks Smith’s first shortlisting and first win for a book he not only illustrated but also authored.
From the 2021 CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist: Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann (Penguin Random House Children’s)
When Amber runs, it’s the only time she feels completely free-far away from her claustrophobic home life. Her father wants her to be a dutiful daughter, waiting for an arranged marriage like her sister Ruby.
Manjeet Mann is an acclaimed writer and producer of several one-woman shows and episodic plays of personal monologues based in Kent. She was an associate artist with The Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the Soho Writers Lab, wrote a short comedy film for BBC writers’ room and her play, Starting Out, was adapted into a podcast in 2019.
From The 2021 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal Shortlist: Starbird illustrated and written By Sharon King-Chai (Two Hoots)
Starbird’s songs weave the richest dreams and delight all who hear him, but when the Moon King traps him in a cage, the colour and life in his voice begin to drip away. What follows is a story with the feel of a timeless myth, with the message that that captivity dims even the brightest star.
Sharon King-Chai is an award-winning designer and illustrator based in London. Sharon has a great passion for experimenting and innovation, and loves exploring format, narrative and new characters. She also loves using unusual materials, and references nature a lot in her artwork. Ingredients often include potatoes, blackberries, onions, feathers and sticks.