2021 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal Winner Speech

Sydney Smith, June 2021

Thank you to CILIP, the UK’s library and information association, for this incredible honour.

I have a hard time believing this is real. But I have been in this position once before; it’s a familiar feeling of disbelief. Only, it was not so extreme, as I was standing before an actual audience in London, comprised of peers, librarians, editors and my wife.

Now, I am sitting three feet from my usual workspace in Nova Scotia which is hardly glamourous. The coffee is terrible and the hors d’oeuvres haven’t arrived and neither have the guests.

There is a real possibility that I’m imagining this award and I have finally snapped from all of this isolation.

The truth is 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.

I must thank a few friends; some I haven’t seen in a long time.

Thank you to Walker Books, and my agent Emily Van Beek. Thank you to Neal Porter, the editor to whom I owe a great deal. His encouragement and patience know no bounds.

Thank you to my family who don’t get a break from seeing me; my wife, Maggie and my young sons Salvador and Emrys. Thank you for showing me that I can love beyond what I thought capable while being more tired than I thought humanly possible.

Thank you to those mentors and fellow creators including the immensely talented artists with whom I share the shortlist. Your endless inspiration and encouragement through example keep me going. This is an industry of positivity and celebration. We lift-up and respect our friends, the readers. In this industry we work hard to create connections and awaken empathy, to educate, challenge and engage.

I am so proud to be a part of something so pure. Thank you.