Geraldine McCaughrean scoops second CILIP Carnegie Medal 30 years after first win and champions triumph of ‘literary’ fiction

www.ckg.org.uk / #CKG18 / #bestchildrensbooks

The winners of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the UK’s oldest children’s book awards, are announced today, Monday 18th June, at a ceremony at The British Library in London hosted by presenter and author June Sarpong. Widely regarded as the greatest of all accolades available to a children’s writer or illustrator, the Medals are unique in being judged by children’s librarians.

British writer Geraldine McCaughrean wins the CILIP Carnegie Medal for the second time with her middle-grade novel Where the World Ends(Usborne). McCaughrean is the most shortlisted author in the history of the prize, and this win comes 30 years after her first Carnegie Medal for A Pack of Lies in 1988. Inspired by an historical record from 18th century St Kilda, the book explores the fates of a group of men and boys who find themselves stranded on a remote and inhospitable sea stac after their return boat mysteriously fails to turn up. On winning the Medal, McCaughrean commented: “When I won the Carnegie 30 years ago, it felt like a licence to go on writing – to call myself an author. I am almost ashamed of how much I wanted to win again – just to prove to myself that it wasn’t a fluke!”

Canadian illustrator Sydney Smith wins the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for the first time for his illustrations in Joanne Schwartz’s Town Is by the Sea (Walker Books). The picture book, which depicts a day in the life of a boy growing up in a coal mining town in the 1950s, contrasts a child’s life of play with that of the adult world of work, with the bright world above ground juxtaposed with the perilous subterranean world of a mining pit. Smith visited a miner’s museum in Cape Breton’s Glace Bay, where the story is set, and took inspiration for his expressive brush work from Impressionist artists such as J.M.W. Turner.

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 honoured 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 honour as a challenge to continue to work with such tools.”

At the ceremony, McCaughrean gave an impassioned 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. She said:

“Fiction canachieve marvellous things, especially inside individual heads, not least when it subtly nudge-nudge-nudges the reader towards minding more, thinking more, asking questions. It’s been said often in recent years that ‘literary’ fiction for young people has had its day. We master words by meeting them, not by avoiding them. The only way to make books – and knowledge – accessible is to give children the necessary words. And how has that always been done? By adult conversation and reading. Since when has one generation ever doubted and pitied the next so much that it decides not to burden them with the full package of the English language but to feed them only a restricted diet of simple worlds? The worst and most wicked outcome of all would be that we deliberately and wantonly create an underclass of citizens with a small but functional vocabulary: easy to manipulate and lacking in the means to reason their way out of subjugation, because you need words to be able to think for yourself.

“In my opinion, young readers should be bombarded with words like gamma rays, steeped in words like pot plants stood in water, pelted with them like confetti, fed on them like alphabetti spaghetti, given Hamlet’s last resort: “Words. Words. Words.”

Jake Hope, Chair of the 2018 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel, commented on the winning titles:

“2018 has been an exceptional year for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals. A record number of nominations were received leading to incredibly strong shortlists. This has presented a real challenge for the judges as any of the books would have guaranteed a solid winner.

“As librarians, we promote education and knowledge for all, and we heartily endorse Geraldine’s call for intellectual freedom through stories with rich language and complex themes which equip all children with the tools to understand – and, in some cases, change – the world around them. Her book, Where the World Ends, is outstanding and a hugely deserving winner of the Carnegie Medal. Each of the characters caught on Warrior’s Stac has their own tale and the tension built through the predicament they find themselves ensnared in – quite literally caught on a precipice – is palpable. Like a diamond, this is a story with an impressive array of sides and surfaces, each reflecting and refracting experience and understanding in ways that judges feel will stay with readers for a lifetime.

Sydney Smith’s Town Is by the Sea skillfully balances an intimate story of a child’s world of play and wonder alongside a bigger story of a whole community and culture built around mining. Its illustrations are impressive and expansive in scope and beautifully evoke both time and place. Both winners are expertly crafted and hold interest and appeal for a range of readers of all tastes and ages.”

McCaughrean and Smith each receive £500 worth of books to donate to a library of their choice, a specifically commissioned golden medal 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 American 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 (Black Dog, 2013) Levi Pinfold for his black and white illustrations in The Song from Somewhere Elseby A.F. Harrold (Bloomsbury). One of his first commissions to illustrate a novel, the book explores friendship, betrayal, acceptance and doing what’s right. The Amnesty CILIP Honour is selected by a separate team of judges, which this year included Jordan Stephens, writer, performer and one half of hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks, who presented the commendations.

Angie Thomas comments on her commendation: “I’m thrilled that Amnesty International have chosen to award The Hate U Give this honour – to be given a prize which recognises the importance of encouraging young people to empathise and broaden their horizons is particularly special to me. I hope that the book helps young people to see themselves and see others from a new perspective, and know that they have a voice that they can use to stand up for themselves, and others.”

Levi Pinfold adds: “While working on the pictures for The Song From Somewhere Else I was routinely struck by how important kindness is for a person who can only see shadows and a world in black and white. Amnesty International’s amazing work encourages us to work hard towards caring for each other, and I feel truly honoured that our book has been recognised by such a vital and life-preserving organisation.”

Kate Allen, Amnesty UK Director, said: “Amnesty has chosen two very timely stories about marginalised young people deciding how to stand up to bullies and oppressors. The idea of putting yourself in the firing line and the personal cost that entails is hugely relevant to life today given the sort of backlash people in movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter experience. It’s a reminder that brave people are also vulnerable and that true friends make you stronger. The costs and the unexpected gains of standing up to hatred shape the young protagonists in these books in ways that we hope will inspire young readers.”

The CILIP Carnegie Medal was first awarded in 1937, to Arthur Ransome’s 1936 novel Pigeon Post. Its roll-call of winners includes C.S. Lewis, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Noel Streatfeild, Meg Rosoff and Penelope Lively. The winners of the Kate Greenaway Medal, first awarded in 1957 to Edward Ardizzone’s 1956 book, Tim All Alone, include Raymond Briggs, Shirley Hughes, Janet Ahlberg, Quentin Blake, Helen Oxenbury and John Burningham. This is the third year that the Medals are joined by the Amnesty CILIP Honour, a commendation for the book on each shortlist that most distinctively illuminates, upholds or celebrates freedoms.

In 2017, CILIP announced an independent review into how diversity, inclusion and representation can best be championed and embedded into the work of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals. Chaired by Margaret Casely-Hayford, the Diversity Review has been running throughout the 2018 Medals cycle and is currently in the final stages of consultation. Following an online survey, developed in collaboration with Coventry University, CILIP is conducting focus groups with key stakeholders in the awards. Final recommendations will be published in a report in Autumn 2018.


Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean (Usborne)

Where the World Ends is a novel based on a true survival story from 1727 which played out on the isolated Scottish island of Hirta, St Kilda. What starts out as an annual three-week harvest during fowling season turns into a courageous daily battle for survival as nine young boys are left stranded on the perilous sea stacs, imprisoned on every side by the ocean, and by their fears of the unknown.

British author Geraldine McCaughrean, 67, is a multi-award-winning children’s author. She has now been shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal eight times, and has won once before with A Pack of Lies in 1988. She has won the Whitbread Children’s Book Award three times, the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Smarties Bronze Award (four times) and the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award. In 2005 she was chosen from over 100 other authors to write the official sequel to J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan: Peter Pan in Scarlet (2016). She lives in Berkshire.


Town Is by the Sea illustrated by Sydney Smith and written by Joanne Schwartz (Walker Books)

Town Is by the Sea brings a piece of mining history to life by showing the striking contrast between a sparkling seaside day and the darkness underground where the miners dig. It follows the story of a young boy who wakes up to the sound of the sea, visits his grandfather’s grave after lunch and comes home to a cosy dinner with his family, whilst all the while his mind strays to his father digging for coal deep down under the sea.

Canadian illustrator Sydney Smith, 38, has illustrated multiple children’s books, including The White Cat and the Monk andNew York Times Children’s Book of the Year, a winner of the Governor General Award for Illustration and shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2016. He lives in Toronto, Canada.


From the CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker Books)

The Hate U Give tells the story of 16-year-old Starr, a girl of two worlds. Every day she walks a fine line between the poor inner-city neighbourhood where she was born and raised, and the wealthy suburbs where she goes to high school. The uneasy balance between the two is shattered when Starr becomes the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend by a white police officer. What she saw, and whether she speaks out could affect her entire community and have an impact on her friends and close-knit family.

Angie Thomaswas born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She studied Creative Writing at Belhaven University, where she was one of the only black students – a theme visited inThe Hate U Give, her debut novel, which is currently being adapted for film. A former teen rapper, she recently won the inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant awarded by the We Need Diverse Books campaign. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi, United States.

From the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist:

The Song from Somewhere Else illustrated by Levi Pinfold (Bloomsbury) and written by A.F. Harrold

The Song from Somewhere Else is a story of friendship, betrayal, acceptance and doing what is right. Frank doesn’t know how to feel when Nick Underbridge rescues her from bullies one afternoon. Nick is big, weird and smells. But there’s more to Nick, and to his house, than meets the eye, and soon Frank realises she isn’t the only one keeping secrets, or the only one who needs help.

British illustrator Levi Pinfold has published several picture books, including The Django, Greenling and Black Dog, which won the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal in 2013. Born in England, he now lives in New South Wales, Australia.

The 2018 Winners (Levi Pinfold, Geraldine McCaughrean, Angie Thomas and Sydney Smith) pictured with Awards Host June Sarpong © Katariina Jarvinen