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Today (Tuesday 19th March 2019), the eight-strong shortlists for the prestigious CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the UK’s oldest book awards for children and young people, are revealed. Selected by volunteer Youth Librarians from longlists of 20 books per Medal, these titles reflect the very best in children’s writing and illustration published in the UK.

Recognising a diverse range of voices and perspectives is a core mission of the Awards, and this year’s shortlists comprise books by authors and illustrators from across the globe, offering multiple perspectives – from suffragette to slam poet, tribesman to basketball player – and settings as varied as Coney Island, the East End slums of 1920s London, an Indian forest and a remote mountain village in the Philippines. Female voices are strongly represented across both lists, with 11 of the 16 shortlisted books written or illustrated by women, and around half the books featuring female protagonists.

The 2019 shortlists are as follows:

CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist (alphabetical by author surname):

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (Electric Monkey)

Rebound by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile (Andersen Press)

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli(Usborne Books)

Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay (David Fickling Books

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books)

Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls (Andersen Press)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Chris Priestley (Faber & Faber)

The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders (Faber & Faber)

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

The Day War Came illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, written by Nicola Davies (Walker Books)

Ocean Meets Sky illustrated and written by Eric Fan and Terry Fan (Lincoln Children’s Books)

Beyond the Fence illustrated and written by Maria Gulemetova (Child’s Play Library)

The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett (Walker Books)

Julian is a Mermaid illustrated and written by Jessica Love (Walker Books)

You’re Safe With Me illustrated by Poonam Mistry, written by Chitra Soundar (Lantana Publishing)

The Lost Words illustrated by Jackie Morris, written by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton)

Suffragette: The Battle for Equality illustrated and written by David Roberts (Two Hoots)

Three verse novels make the Carnegie shortlist for the first time in the Medal’s 81-year history. Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet XKwame Alexander’s Rebound and Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down each use free verse to create fresh and emotionally impactful coming-of-age stories, blending influences from slam poetry and hip-hop to explore identity, first love, loss and gang crime. One verse novel has previously won the Carnegie Medal: Sarah Crossan’s One, in 2016.

Books celebrating freedom of expression appear widely across both lists: whether through ungendered self-expression (Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love), rewilding through nature (The Lost Words, illustrated by Jackie Morris), female emancipation (Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls and Suffragette: The Battle for Equality by David Roberts) or emotional empowerment (Beyond the Fence by Maria Gulemetova)

This freedom of expression extends to the techniques used by authors and illustrators to explore different issues and perspectives, in turn promoting empathy, tolerance and understanding in their readers. In addition to the three verse novels on the Carnegie shortlist, The Lost Words – illustrated by Jackie Morris – uses spells to conjure up the near-lost words of nature, whilst Sophie Anderson (The House with Chicken Legs), Kate Saunders (The Land of Neverendings)and Eric and Terry Fan (Ocean Meets Sky) use folklore and fantasy as a basis for lyrical storytelling around love, loss and the power of the imagination. Candy Gourlay(Bone Talk) and Frances Hardinge (A Skinful of Shadows) offer vivid and haunting stories about growing up in a reality where the spirit-world encroaches on this one.  

Several illustrated books dealing with a child’s sense of safety, or the lack thereof, appear on this year’s Kate Greenaway shortlist, including shortlisted artwork by Rebecca Cobb for The Day War CameJon Klassen for The Wolf, The Duck & the Mouse,Poonam Mistry for You’re Safe with Me and Maria Gulemetovafor Beyond the Fence. Proceeds from The Day War Came go towards Help Refugees, whilst Beyond the Fence aims to help children vocalise issues around controlling behaviour with teachers and therapists.

Jon Klassen is the only previous winner to appear on a 2019 Medal shortlist, having scooped the 2014 Kate Greenaway Medal with This Is Not My Hat. Former shortlistees to make it onto this year’s lists are Frances Hardinge and Kate Saunders for the Carnegie Medal, and Rebecca CobbDavid Roberts and Jackie Morris for the Kate Greenaway Medal.

There is a strong showing for independent publishers on the lists, with seven of the 16 titles coming from Andersen Press, Child’s Play Library, David Fickling Books, Faber & Faber and Lantana Publishing. The two smallest presses – Child’s Play Library and Lantana Publishing – have books on the Kate Greenaway shortlist for the first time.

Now that the shortlists are public, over 4,500 reading groups in schools across the country will embark on the Medals’ shadowing scheme, which sees children and young people reading and debating the shortlisted books between now and the winner announcement in June 2018. In 2018, thousands of children read for pleasure as a result of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards.

Alison Brumwell, Chair, CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel, comments:

“This year’s outstanding shortlists clearly demonstrate the vision, vitality and depth of children’s publishing, including the emergence of small, independent publishers. Superb debuts take pride of place alongside established, well-known names, representing the very best in writing and illustration for children and young people. Challenging themes of bereavement, isolation, friendship and identity are treated with humanity and insight and in a range of distinctive written and illustrative styles.

“I am sure shadowing groups across the country will be excited to read, explore, discuss, debate and reflect upon these superb texts during the next three months. They’ll encounter brave new worlds, real and imagined, become immersed in other cultures and develop understanding and empathy for the characters they’ll meet throughout their shadowing journey. The 2019 judges and I share their excitement and are immensely proud that these 16 books will become part of the illustrious Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals’ legacy.”

The winners of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals 2019 will be announced on Tuesday 18th June 2019 at a special daytime event at The British Library hosted by Konnie Huq. 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.

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. This new award has evolved out of CILIP’s recent Diversity Review, which identified opportunities to empower and celebrate the young people involved in the Medals through the shadowing scheme by giving them a more significant voice and visible presence in the process and prize giving.

Amnesty International UK continues to support the Medals in partnership with CILIP, providing educational resources and training to raise awareness and understanding of the power of children’s books to explore human rights, encourage empathy and broaden horizons. Amnesty have produced human rights-based materials for all the shortlisted books to aid reflection and discussion in classrooms and libraries.

The 2019 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are sponsored by Peters and ALCS, and funded by Carnegie UK Trust.