Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing Awarded to Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho with Double Illustration Win for Aaron Becker


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Thursday 20 June 2024: The winners of the UK’s longest-running and best-loved book awards for children and young people, the Yoto Carnegies, were announced today in front of an audience of over 600 children at a live-streamed ceremony at the Cambridge Theatre, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s award-winning Matilda The Musical. The character of Matilda’s beloved librarian Mrs Phelps welcomed the audience to the theatre ahead of the winners being announced.   

For the first time, the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing is awarded to a Black British author, and the current Children’s Laureate – Joseph Coelho – for his “beautifully descriptive” novel in verse The Boy Lost in the Maze illustrated by Kate Milner (Otter-Barry Books). The story portrays a boy’s journey into manhood and “cleverly integrates” the ancient legacy of the Minotaur with the contemporary journey of a teenager searching for his biological father.  

Coelho’s win is a fitting tribute to an award that is uniquely judged by librarians and to  his outgoing tenure as Waterstones Children’s Laureate (2022-2024) where he launched the ‘library marathon’ project – a personal mission which saw him visit and join a library in every region of the UK, a total of 213 nationwide, to highlight their importance and show the support they provide to local communities.  

The winner of the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration is Aaron Becker for his “beautifully crafted” and “universal” wordless picture book The Tree and the River (Walker Books). Looking at the evolution of human impact on the natural environment through the fate of a lone tree and an enduring river, the timely story gives “a sense of hope”, with Becker’s use of colour to depict the seasons “transformative” and use of light “exceptional.” 

The Yoto Carnegies celebrate achievement in children’s writing and illustration and are unique in being judged by an expert panel of children’s and youth librarians, including 12 librarians from CILIP: the library and information association’s Youth Libraries Group. The winning titles were selected from a shortlist of eight books in each category with the judges praising the “timeless storytelling” and “cyclical nature” of the winning author’s and illustrator’s work, allowing them to be “enjoyed in perpetuity”.  

Each year thousands of reading groups in schools and libraries in the UK and around the world get involved in the Awards, with children and young people ‘shadowing’ the judging process, debating and choosing their own winners. They have voted for their favourites from this year’s shortlist with Aaron Becker’s The Tree and the River scooping a coveted double-win. He adds the Yoto Carnegie Shadowers’ Choice Medal for Illustration to his Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration.  

The winner of the Yoto Carnegie Shadowers’ Choice Medal for Writing is announced as Tia Fisher for her powerful debut novel told in verse, Crossing the Line (Bonnier Books UK). Based on a true story about teenagers swept up into county lines, this ‘innovative and engaging’ story shows the power of poetry to convey difficult truths in a way that engages and excites young minds.  

Commenting on why they chose Crossing the Line, Emelie from shadowing group KEVICHG said “the verse style fits this book like a glove” with Thomas from Team Berko saying “the verse novel structure works really well to keep the reader excited.” On The Tree and the River, Shadowers loved how the wordless story left it open to interpretation. Emilie from Rebel Readers said “it is like a movement of time and it could be in the past or in the future” and Rapha from Roche Readers added it was “a beautiful book, about growth, life and rebuilding.” Dyslexic reader Alec from BurlingtonBookReaders said it helped him learn about the “cyclical nature of the world.”  

The winners were revealed at an in-person ceremony held for the first time at the Cambridge Theatre, home of the RSC’s award-winning Matilda The Musical. Over 600 children enjoyed the ceremony in-person with the event live-streamed and watched by thousands of shadowing groups around the country. The awards were hosted by Manjeet Mann, winner of the 2021 Shadowers’ Choice Medal for Writing for her debut novel, Run, Rebel. Her second novel, The Crossing, was shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing in 2022.  

Maura Farrelly, Chair of Judges for The Yoto Carnegies 2024, said:  

The Boy Lost in the Maze is an extraordinary novel told through poems about two boys searching for their fathers. It is multi-layered immersive read which is playful in its language and construction and is as architectural as the mythical maze itself. The Tree and the River is a beautiful visual narrative of the natural world and the impact of humankind which invites readers to become absorbed in the landscapes. The epic spreads are alive with intricate detail and gorgeous use of light and colour. Both are ambitious and exciting books that inspire the imagination and empower young readers. 

Congratulations to our 2024 medal winners and to the Shadowers’ Choice winners. Thank you to all the young readers who took part in the Shadowing programme and to the librarians who continue to support and inspire readers and to champion the best in books for children and young people everywhere.” 

Award-winning and bestselling author Joseph Coelho lives in Kent and is currently the Waterstones Children’s Laureate (2022-2024). His debut poetry anthology Werewolf Club Rules won the CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award in 2015. He has also written plays, picture books and non-fiction, with all of his work having an element of performance at its heart. 

The judges admired the “unique” and “expertly crafted” story of The Boy Lost in the Maze and described the verse novel as “perfect” and “embroidered with beautifully descriptive language”.  

Coelho has had a personal connection with libraries since he was young; his first job was at West Hill Library in Wandsworth, and he later worked in the rare books section at The British Library as an undergraduate. In his role as Children’s Laureate his personal goals included showcasing diversity, celebrating poetry and highlighting the vital role libraries have in inspiring a love of reading in young people. Coelho’s tenure comes to an end in July 2024.  

Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing winner, Joseph Coelho, said: 

“I am absolutely delighted to be the recipient of this year’s Carnegie Medal for Writing. The Boy Lost in the Maze is a novel that means a great deal to me and so to have it recognised by the UK’s, if not the world’s, most prestigious award for children’s literature feels particularly special.  

During my tenure as Laureate I have had the pleasure of joining a library in every local authority in the UK, meeting librarians and patrons of libraries on buses, in converted flats and in gorgeous Carnegie buildings. The one thing that has been consistent between all libraries has been the passion, skill and creativity of the librarians. Through their essential work they are tackling social isolation, providing access to essential services and of course creating the readers of the future. I feel completely honoured that it is librarians who have deemed The Boy Lost in the Maze as worthy of a Carnegie medal and will forever be grateful to the team at Otter-Barry Books, illustrator Kate Milner and my agent Caroline Sheldon for helping me bring this story to bookshelves and into the hands of readers.” 

Aaron Becker is the bestselling American author and illustrator of the wordless picture book trilogy, Journey. His love of travel inspired The Tree and the River and to prepare for the illustrations, he constructed a scale model of the book’s rolling landscape, which he transformed with clay and wood. 

With the setting of The Tree and the River deliberately not recognisable, the judges praised the “universality it has over time and space” and said the wordless nature “empowers the reader” and “rewards close inspection”. With the muted colour palate and purposeful use of space throughout it has “great visual impact” and adds to the visual narrative for the reader to create their own story.  

Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration winner, Aaron Becker, said: 

“I’m incredibly grateful to have received the Carnegie Medal for Illustration for The Tree and the River. It’s an honour and a testament to the power of wordless books. 

Growing up, I was always drawn to illustrations and would get lost in pictures. When I began drawing images of my own I was able to create a space where I could create, imagine and escape into worlds of my own design. Pictures became the way I processed the world. Within the pages of my wordless books, I invite readers to slow down and interpret stories on their own terms. Children and adults alike can project themselves onto the characters within my stories and find their own meaning and discoveries within the details of each spread, free of a narrator to dictate their pace and thoughts. My hope is that winning this award promotes the idea that books can be for anyone, even the reluctant readers among us for whom story resonates more deeply through imagery than words.” 

The winners will each receive a specially commissioned golden medal and a £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize. The winners of the Shadowers’ Choice Medals – voted for and awarded by the children and young people – will also be presented at the ceremony. They will also receive a golden medal and, for the first time this year, £500 worth of books to donate to a library of their choice. 

Yoto, the innovative, screen-free audio platform for children, is the headline sponsor of the Awards. The Yoto Carnegies are also sponsored by ALCS. Scholastic are the official book supplier and First News are the official media partner. 

ENDS –  

For further information on The Yoto Carnegies 2024 please visit: www.yotocarnegies.co.uk 

#YotoCarnegies24 | @CarnegieMedals 

For media and interview requests, please contact ed public relations on: 
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Or call 020 7732 4796 

For the winners’ speeches, images of the winning authors and illustrators, book jackets, illustrated spreads and social media assets, please click here. This Drive will be updated with further images from the winners’ ceremony in due course. 


Winning author and illustrator biographies and book synopses 

The Boy Lost in the Maze by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kate Milner 
(Otter-Barry Books) 

A spellbinding novel told in poems, blending the ancient legend of the Minotaur with the quest of a modern-day teenage boy to find his biological father by the new Waterstones Children’s Laureate. In his new verse novel, Joseph Coelho brilliantly blends Greek myth with a 21st century quest. In Ancient Greece Theseus makes a dangerous and courageous journey to find his father, finally meeting the Minotaur in the Labyrinth; while Theo, a modern-day teenage boy, finds himself on a maze-like quest to find his own father. Each story tells of a boy becoming a man and discovering what true manhood really means. The path to self-discovery takes Theo through ‘those thin spaces where myth, magic and reality combine’. Doubts, difficulties and dangers must be faced as Theo discovers the man he will become. 

Joseph Coelho‘s (author) debut poetry collection Werewolf Club Rules (Frances Lincoln) won the CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award 2015. He has written plays for young people for the Theatre Royal York, Pied Piper, Polka and The Unicorn Theatres. As well as poetry and plays, Joseph also writes picture books including Luna Loves Library Day (Andersen Press) and non-fiction books including How to Write Poems (Bloomsbury). All of his work has poetry and an element of performance at its heart making his festival and school sessions dynamic occasions. Joseph is a staunch ambassador for Britain’s straitened public libraries and is the current Waterstones Children’s Laureate (2022 – 2024). He lives in Kent.  

Kate Milner (illustrator) studied illustration at Central St Martin’s before completing an MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University. Kate won the V&A Illustration Award 2016 and the Klaus Flugge Prize 2018 for My name is not Refugee. Her book It’s a No-Money Day (2019, Barrington Stoke) was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Illustration (formerly known as the Kate Greenaway). 

The Tree and the River by Aaron Becker 
(Walker Books) 

Borrowing from multiple cultures and architectural styles to craft astonishing new humanscapes, Aaron Becker tracks the evolution of our species – and its toll on the Earth – through the fates of a lone tree and an enduring river. River and tree bear silent witness over time as people arrive to harness water, wind, and animals; devise technology and transportation; redirect rivers; and reshape the land. Timely and ultimately hopeful, this wordless epic invites readers to pore over spreads densely packed with visual drama. Fans of Journey, Quest, and Return will leap at a new chance to uncover sophisticated layers of meaning, marvel at intricate details – from holographic billboards to flying machines – and see our precious shared world through fresh eyes. 

Aaron Becker is the bestselling author of the award-winning Journey trilogy, along with several other books for children young and old. His love of travel led him to the city of Granada, Spain, where a rich history of layered civilisations inspired him to write The Tree and the River. To prepare for the story’s illustrations, he first constructed a scale model of the book’s rolling landscape, which he then slowly transformed with clay and wood over many months. When he’s not home with his wife and two daughters, Aaron Becker can be found creating something new in his studio in western Massachusetts. 

Crossing the Line by Tia Fisher
(Bonnier Books UK) 

A powerful novel exploring how teenagers can be swept up into county lines, based on a true story. Erik’s mum is juggling the challenge of two small babies, plus the recent death of her husband due to COVID-19. Both these factors affect teenage Erik too, struggling with homework as the babies continually cry or his mum needs help. When the difficulties at home affect Erik’s behaviour at school, he gets in with the wrong crowd, and is groomed with the promise of earning some ‘easy money’. But this kind of money is never truly easy to earn and comes with a terrible cost. 

Tia Fisher works in a library in South London and is studying for a Masters in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. She has published poems in The Rialto and has had a YA novel longlisted for the Mslexia Children’s Novel Award (a prize for unpublished work). Tia lives with her husband and teenage children. Crossing the Line is her debut novel. 

About The Yoto Carnegies 

About Yoto 

About CILIP, the library and information association 

About CILIP’s Awards Partners  

About Scholastic 

About ALCS 

About First News 

About Manjeet Mann