www.ckg.org.uk / #CKG21 / #bestchildrensbooks

Thursday 18th March 2021: The shortlists of the prestigious CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the UK’s oldest and best-loved book awards for children and young people, were announced today for 2021.

The Medals celebrate outstanding achievement in children’s writing and illustration respectively and are unique in being judged by librarians, with the Shadowers’ Choice Award voted for by children and young people. 16 titles have been shortlisted for the 2021 Medals (8 on each shortlist) selected from a total of 40 longlisted titles, read by an expert volunteer team of 15 librarians from across the UK.

Explorations of nature and the great outdoors are key recurring features across this year’s shortlists including: Starbird, by Sharon King-Chai, a mythical tale of a singing Starbird caged by a Moon King; How The Stars Came To Be, a creation story around the formation of the night sky by Poonam Mistry, who was previously shortlisted for You’re Safe With Me in 2019, and You’re Snug With Me in 2020; and Arlo: The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep, by former CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal winner Catherine Rayner (Harris Finds His Feet, 2009), a story of an exhausted lion that captures nature’s awe and majesty.

The wonders of the wilderness are also brought vividly to life by first time shortlistee Pete Oswald inHike,an appreciation of fresh air and the importance of sustainability. Whilst previous winner Sydney Smith (2018 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for Town Is By The Sea) depicts a claustrophobic outdoors in Small In The City, offering a survival guide to the loud, busy and often overwhelming city streets.

Themes of freedom and space are also evident in Look Both Ways, by previously shortlisted Jason Reynolds, the US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, which tells 10 intertwining stories about the independent adventures of the unsupervised walk home from school; The Bird Within Me, illustrated by Sara Lundberg, which follows a girl who finds it difficult to escape family responsibilities; and Manjeet Mann, the writer and producer of several one-woman shows, who secures her first shortlisting for her debut verse novel Run, Rebel, about a girl who runs in quiet rebellion to escape an arranged marriage.

The female lens is prominent this year with 11 out of 16 shortlisted books created by women and nine books featuring stories with female lead protagonists including: Clap When You Land, about the devastation of loss and the difficulty of forgiveness by former winner Elizabeth Acevedo, who became the first writer of colour to win the CILIP Carnegie Medal in 2019 with The Poet X; and The Girl Who Became a Tree by performance poet and playwright Joseph Coelho, where the myth of Daphne and Apollo combines with a story of a girl struggling to make sense of loss.

Themes of self-discovery feature across several books including: The Girl Who Speaks Bear, writtenby Sophie Anderson, about a girl found in a bear cave as a baby; On Midnight Beach by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, about a character and communities on the cusp of change; The Fountains Of Silence, from Ruta Sepetys  (2017 CILIP Carnegie Medal winner with Salt To The Sea),a story of identity, love and the hidden violence of silence in General Franco’s Spain; and I Go Quiet, by David Ouimet, about a shy, anxious girl finding her voice.

The importance of close relationships is reflected strongly in two shortlisted titles: Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (previously shortlisted for Beyond the Bright Sea in 2018), with friendship at the heart of an inverse rags to riches story set in 1933; and It’s A No-Money Day, by Kate Milner, which explores the richness of togetherness between mother and child.

In a first for this year, all the books on the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist have been illustrated and authored by the same creator.

This year also sees seven first-time shortlistees – Marie Louise-Fitzpatrick, Manjeet Mann, Sharon King-Chai, Sara Lundberg, Kate Milner, Pete Oswald and David Ouimet – in the running alongside four former winners: Elizabeth Acevedo and Ruta Sepetys (CILIP Carnegie Medal), and Catherine Rayner and Sydney Smith (CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal).

Ellen Krajewski, Chair of the 2021 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel, comments:

“With themes of freedom, the great outdoors and journeys through the natural world, we hope the outstanding books on this year’s shortlists will inspire and empower young readers, offering hope and escapism during lockdown. The collective experience of books is more important than ever this year, providing opportunities for children and young people to reconnect and share their reading experiences with one another as they return to school. We can’t wait to see the creative responses from this year’s shadowers and discover who they will vote as their favourites to win the Shadowers’ Choice Awards. And what amazing books they have to choose from! Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors and illustrators for their exceptional and creative work.”

The 2021 shortlists are as follows:

2021 CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist (alphabetical by author surname):

  1. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (Hot Key Books)
  2. The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson, illustrated by Kathrin Honesta (Usborne)
  3. The Girl Who Became A Tree by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kate Milner (Otter-Barry Books)
  4. On Midnight Beach by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (Faber)
  5. Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann (Penguin Random House Children’s)
  6. Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds (Knights Of)
  7. The Fountains Of Silence by Ruta Sepetys (Penguin Random House Children’s)
  8. Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (Penguin Random House Children’s)

2021 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist (alphabetical by illustrator surname):

  1. Starbird illustrated and written by Sharon King-Chai (Two Hoots)
  2. The Bird Within Me illustrated by Sara Lundberg and translated by B. J. Epstein (Book Island)
  3. It’s A No-Money Day illustrated and written by Kate Milner (Barrington Stoke)
  4. How The Stars Came To Be illustrated and written by Poonam Mistry (Tate Publishing)
  5. Hike illustrated and written by Pete Oswald (Walker Books)
  6. I Go Quiet illustrated and written by David Ouimet (Canongate)
  7. Arlo The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep illustrated and written by Catherine Rayner (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  8. Small In The City illustrated and written by Sydney Smith (Walker Books)

The winners of the 2021 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals will be announced on Wednesday 16th June 2021. Covid-19 guidelines permitting, a socially distanced special daytime event will be held at The British Library and live-streamed online.

The winners will each receive £500 worth of books to donate to their local library, a specially commissioned golden medal and a £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize.

Now in its third year, the Shadowers’ Choice Award – voted for and awarded by the children and young people who shadow the Medals – will be announced alongside the two Medal winners in June 2021. 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.

The 2021 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are sponsored by Peters and ALCS, and funded by Carnegie UK Trust.

For media requests, please contact Eve Ragout or Tabby Ives at Riot Communications:

eve@riotcommunications.com 07828 760 451

tabitha@riotcommunications.com 07821 954 228

Images, artwork and further information on individual books and authors is available in the media pack.

For further information about the history of the Medals visit www.ckg.org.uk/archive.

Notes to editors:

About the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards and Shadowing Scheme

The CILIP Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to a children’s book author whose writing creates an outstanding reading experience. It was established in 1936 in memory of the Scottish-born philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919). The Kate Greenaway Medal, established in 1955, is named after the popular nineteenth century artist, known for her beautiful children’s illustrations and designs. The Kate Greenaway Medal is awarded annually to a children’s book illustrator whose artwork creates an outstanding reading experience.

Each year thousands of reading groups in schools and libraries in the UK and overseas get involved in the Awards, with children and young people ‘shadowing’ the judging process. They read, discuss and review the books on the shortlists, get involved in reading related activity in groups and vote for their favourite books to win the Shadowers’ Choice Awards.

About CILIP, the library and information association

CILIP is the leading voice for the information, knowledge management and library profession. Our goal is to put information and library skills and professional values at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society. CILIP is a registered charity, no. 313014. The Youth Libraries Group (YLG) is a special interest group of CILIP who work to preserve and influence the provision of quality literature and library services for children and young people, both in public libraries and school library services.

YLG has 12 regional committees covering all of the UK and each committee advertises and democratically recruits a judge to represent them on the panel of judges. Each judge serves a two-year term and each year the panel is a unique mix of new and experienced judges led by the Chair of Judges. Following the independent diversity review of the Awards, CILIP introduced a co-opting procedure so that if this recruitment process does not result in a sufficiently diverse and representative judging panel, up to two judges will be co-opted to join the panel.

In 2021, the judging panel includes 15 volunteer judges from CILIP’s Youth Libraries Group. Find out more about this year’s judges here.

About the CILIP Equality and Diversity Action Plan

An independent Diversity Review, chaired by Margaret Casely-Hayford, took place throughout the 2018 Medals cycle. CILIP announced the review of Medals – as part of the organisation’s wider Equality and Diversity Action Plan – following concerns raised about the lack of BAME representation on the 2017 Carnegie Medal longlist. The Review informed the annual evaluation process and long-term planning around the Awards and accompanying shadowing scheme. The full final report (2018) and a progress report (2019 & 2020) can be found here.

About CILIP’s Awards Partners

Launched in 2013, Inclusive Minds is a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility in children’s literature and are committed to changing the face of children’s books. In February 2020 Inclusive Minds became a Community Interest Company (CIC) with a team of Ambassadors with lived experience as directors. 

This year Inclusive Minds CIC are lending their expertise to the 2021 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards. The panel of Judges will have access to the Inclusive Minds Ambassador Network, who will help to bring a broad range of voices and perspectives on the books in contention for the Awards.

Royal National Institute of Blind People RNIB and Calibre Audio Library will be producing the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal shortlisted books in accessible formats (compatibility permitting), including braille, giant print and audio books.

Centre for Literacy in Primary Education and the English and Media Centre create expert teaching resources for the shortlisted books.

Amnesty International is the world’s leading human rights organisation with more than seven million supporters worldwide. Amnesty’s partnership with CILIP focuses on strengthening its educational and training offer around human rights awareness and learning for shadowers, group leaders and shortlisted authors and illustrators.


CILIP Carnegie Medal 2021 shortlist:

1. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (Hot Key Books)
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

Elizabeth Acevedo is the New York Times bestselling author and 2019 CILIP Carnegie Medal winning author of The Poet X, as well as a National Poetry Slam Champion. She is based in Washington, DC.

2. The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson, illustrated by Kathrin Honesta (Usborne)
Found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby, Yanka has always wondered where she is from. This is a lyrical folk tale of magic, belonging, and choosing your own family.

Sophie Anderson lives in the Lake District in a National Trust property, surrounded by wildlife and countryside. She wrote science textbooks until characters from Slavic folklore began appearing in her work.

3. The Girl Who Became A Tree by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kate Milner (Otter-Barry Books)
Daphne is unbearably sad and adrift. She feels the painful loss of her father acutely and seeks solace both in the security of her local library and the escape her phone screen provides by blocking out the world around her.

Joseph Coelho is a performance poet and playwright based in London. His debut poetry collection Werewolf Club Rules is published by Frances Lincoln and won the CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award 2015. Joseph has been a guest poet on Radio 4’s Front Row and has performed poems for Channel 4 and CBeebies Radio.

4. On Midnight Beach by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (Faber)
In this coming-of-age novel, an ancient Irish legend is rewoven as a YA story by well-known Irish author and illustrator Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick.

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick is an award-winning author and illustrator based in Dublin. She has won four CBI (Children’s Books Ireland) Book of the Year Awards and has been nominated for a CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal. Her books include The Sleeping Giant, Izzy and the Skunk, Hagwitch, There and Owl Bat Bat Owl

5. 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.

6. Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds (Knights Of)
In 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 is a critically acclaimed writer and poet from Washington DC and the winner of more than 25 US and International Awards, including the 2018 Edgar Award, LA Times Book Prize, Newbery Honor, Printz Honor and twice winner of the Walter Dean Myers Award.

7. The Fountains Of Silence by Ruta Sepetys (Penguin Random House Children’s)
Madrid, 1957. Daniel, young, wealthy and unsure of his place in the world, views the city through the lens of his camera. Ana, a hotel maid whose family is suffering under the fascist dictatorship of General Franco. Lives and hearts collide as they unite to uncover the hidden darkness within the city. A darkness that could engulf them all…

Ruta Sepetys is a New York Times bestselling author and winner of the CILIP Carnegie Medal based in the hills of Tennessee. Her award-winning historical novels are published in over 50 countries and have received over 40 literary prizes.

8. Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (Penguin Random House Children’s)
1933. When Ellie and her family lose everything, they flee to Echo Mountain to build a new life. Ellie runs wild, exploring the mountain’s mysteries, but the one she can’t solve is who’s leaving the gifts for her: tiny, beautiful wooden carvings of animals and flowers, dotted around the mountain for her to find.

After graduating from Brown University with a degree in English literature, Lauren Wolk spent a year as a writer with the Battered Women’s Project of the St. Paul American Indian Center, and then worked as an editor and an English teacher. She is an award-winning poet and a visual artist based on Cape Cod.

CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2021 shortlist:

1. 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.

2. The Bird Within Me illustrated by Sara Lundberg and translated by B. J. Epstein (Book Island)
Berta is a young girl with an artistic soul growing up on a farm in the Swedish countryside at the beginning of the 20th century. Her father doesn’t understand her and her mother is dying. But Berta longs to be an artist and can’t stay on the farm forever.

Sara Lundberg is based in Sweden and has illustrated more than 30 children’s books. Her work has been recognised with multiple awards and scholarships. She is one of very few Swedish authors to have received the prestigious August Prize for the Best Swedish Children’s Book of the Year twice. The Bird Within Me took the prize home in 2017.

3. It’s A No-Money Day illustrated and written by Kate Milner (Barrington Stoke)
Boasting stunning illustrations and an undeniably touching story from a child’s point of view, It’s a No-Money Day shows that life can be enriched in many more ways than money.

In 2016 illustrations from Kate Milner’s debut picture book My Name is Not Refugee won the V & A student Illustration Award and the book went on to win the Klaus Flugge prize in 2018. She is based in Bedfordshire.

4. How The Stars Came To Be illustrated and written by Poonam Mistry (Tate Publishing)
The Fisherman’s Daughter loved to dance in the sunlight and bathe in the glow of the moon. But when the moon disappears for a few nights each month, she worries about her father and how he would find his way home to her.

Poonam Mistry is a freelance illustrator based in Leicester. Her style incorporates her love of nature, her Indian roots, folklore tales and stories of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, and explores the relationships between pattern, shapes and colour.

5. Hike illustrated and written by Pete Oswald (Walker Books)
In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest.

Pete Oswald is a painter, illustrator and animator based in Santa Monica, California. He worked as a character designer and concept artist on the popular films Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Hotel Transylvania and ParaNorman. He was also the art director and production designer for The Angry Birds Movie

6. I Go Quiet illustrated and written by David Ouimet (Canongate)
I Go Quiet is the story of an introverted girl, struggling to find her place in a noisy world. Through the power of books, creativity and imagination, she begins to see possibilities for herself beyond the present, to a future where her voice will finally be heard.

David Ouimet’s illustrations have featured on album covers and books, including Robert D. San Souci’s Dare to be Scared and Nancy Etchmendy’s Cat in Glass and other Tales of the Unnatural. Ouimet’s work was selected for the Society of Illustrators Annual 59 and was exhibited at the Museum of American Illustration in New York City in February 2017. He is based in New York.

7. Arlo The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep illustrated and written by Catherine Rayner (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Arlo the lion is exhausted. He just can’t drop off, no matter what he tries. It’s either too hot, or too cold; too loud or too quiet. But then he meets Owl. She can sleep through the day, which isn’t easy when most other animals are awake! Will Arlo ever get any rest? Perhaps his new friend has some special tricks she can teach him…

Catherine Rayner studied illustration at Edinburgh College of Art and is still based there. Catherine won the Best New Illustrator Award at the BookTrust Early Years Awards for Augustus and His Smile and has been awarded the prestigious CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for Harris Finds His Feet in 2009.

8. 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, including Town Is by the Sea, the winner of the 2017 Kate Greenaway Medal, The White Cat and the Monk, written by Jo Ellen Bogart, and the acclaimed Footpath Flowers, which was a New York Times Children’s Book of the Year and a winner of the Governor General Award for Illustration.