Category Archives: Kate Greenaway


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.

Thewinner of the Yoto Carnegie Shadowers’ Choice Medal for Writing isannounced as Tia Fisher for herpowerful 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.

Pushback against the renaming of the Kate Greenaway Medal continues

Ahead of the upcoming CILIP AGM, creators of the petition to return Kate Greenaway’s name to the award Dr. Rose Roberto & Tamsin Rosewell issued a statement urging members of the organization to speak up about the removal of the Kate Greenaway name from what is now the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration.

We’re delighted that this petition has attracted so much attention, interest and, above all, support. We’re disappointed with what we feel is a brush-off response from CILIP, which we feel is unnecessarily dismissive to more than 3200 people who signed a petition that was constructively worded, and behind which was genuine industry knowledge.

You can read the full statement (& sign the petition if so inclined) here:

If any CILIP Members reading this are interested in attending and raising this issue, you should have an opportunity to do so during the any other business section of the meeting.

You can find information about the upcoming AGM here.

Having read the recent Minutes of the July 20th CILIP Board Meeting it appears as if CILIP does not have the appetite to revisit their decision:

11. A.O.B.

NP alerted the Board to a petition that had been launched by people dissatisfied with the change of name from ‘Greenaway Award’ to ‘Carnegie Award for Illustration’. This change happened in 2022 and we do not intend to change it further.

However, if enough members make their voices hard then it may give them pause.

You can read more coverage about the Kate Greenaway Medal here:

Erasing Kate Greenaway

Great article about the removal of Kate Greenaway’s name from what is now the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration written by Dr Rose Roberto.

Erasing Kate Greenaway

Kate Greenaway and the Carnegie Medal for Illustration

In February of last year the news broke that Yoto had become the primary sponsor for the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals and they would henceforth be known as the Yoto Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals.

In September of the same year there came an announcement that there was a wholesale rebranding, and that the Kate Greenaway Medal had become the Carnegie Medal for Illustration. I was surprised that the reaction to this was pretty muted, but there has been a lot going on and the majority of people outside of the awards circle had other things going on to take their attention.

More people noticed when the medal winners were announced in June. People’s heads popped up online and suddenly more folk were shocked that Kate Greenaway’s name had disappeared from the award was founded using her name. Interest and anger has been building steadily & quietly since then and on Monday a friend messaged me on social media with a link to a petition to return Kate Greenaway’s name to the award that had been set up by Rose Roberto, a Librarian and Historian, and Tamsin Rosewell, an Illustrator and bookseller.

The Kate Greenaway Medal is the oldest British literary award focused on illustration. It remains one of very few that highlights the contribution of illustrators and actively promotes the importance of their work. Kate Greenaway’s own work is a hugely important part of the heritage of the British Book Industry; she remains an influence on illustrators today and should also be recognised as one of Britain’s great female artists. In an age when illustrators’ names are still very often left off promotion and reviews for books, we feel it is vital to retain her name in association with this award...

You can access the petition & join the over 1600 people who have already added their names to it if you have an interest in celebrating illustrated works for children & recognizing one of the greatest British illustrators here:

News and Articles for more information:

New Sponsorship of the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals by Matt Imrie

The Carnegies by Matt Imrie

Bring Back Kate Greenaway by Rose Roberto (archive link here)

CILIP responds to petition to bring back Kate Greenaway Medal (archive link here)

The Yoto Carnegies 2023 Shortlist

The Yoto Carnegies celebrate outstanding achievement in children’s writing and illustration and are unique in being judged by children’s and youth librarians, with the respective Shadowers’ Choice Medals voted for by children and young people.

Matt and I have both been judges for the awards, many moons ago, and it is and extraordinarily rigorous process involving reading and re-reading dozens of books and forming proper arguments as to why things should be shortlisted (or not…in fact sometimes I was very passionate about *not* letting something get further…), judges can’t just say “this is my favourite because it is cute”. So we love seeing the longlist and then shortlist announcement and imagining the conversations that went on for them to be the chosen few! I definitely have favourites in this year’s lists:

The 2023 Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing longlist is (alphabetical by author surname):

·        The Light in Everything by Katya Balen (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·        When Shadows Fall by Sita Brahmachari, illustrated by Natalie Sirett (Little Tiger)

·        Medusa by Jessie Burton, illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·        The Eternal Return of Clara Hart by Louise Finch (Little Island)

·        Needle by Patrice Lawrence (Barrington Stoke)

·        I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys (Hodder Children’s Books)

·        The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros (Firefly Press) 

The 2023 Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration longlist is (alphabetical by illustrator surname):

·        Rescuing Titanic illustrated and written by Flora Delargy (Wide Eyed Editions)

·        Alte Zachen: Old Things illustrated by Benjamin Phillips, written by Ziggy Hanaor (Cirada Books)

·        The Worlds We Leave Behind illustrated by Levi Pinfold, written by A. F. Harrold (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·        The Visible Sounds illustrated by Yu Rong, written by Yin Jianling (UCLan Publishing)

·        The Comet illustrated and written by Joe Todd-Stanton (Flying Eye Books)

·        Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear illustrated by Jeet Zdung, written by Trang Nguyen (Kingfisher)

Click here to read more about the fantastic books that have been chosen.

The Carnegies

Well the latest news took me by surprise, actually it seems to have taken a lot of people by surprise, it may just be me but the name “The Carnegies” sounds more like a soap opera or sit-com – but wait, I am getting ahead of myself here.

Let’s rewind back to February of this year when the news broke that CILIP & Yoto had entered into a partnership for Yoto to become the headline sponsor of what was then known as the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards, and that they were being renamed the Yoto Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals.

Being an inquisitive sort and having what may kindly be described as a possessive attachment to the awards (an affliction that most ex-judges seem to have) I reached out to the press people with some questions (see below) that I had put together after reading the press release several times.


  • How did the idea of a partnership between CILIP & Yoto with regards to the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards come about?
  • How will this partnership work with books that do not have audio versions? Take for example, the 2020 Carnegie winner Lark by Anthony McGowan which is published by Barrington Stoke who do not currently offer audiobooks.
  • If no official audio versions are available, is there a deal with Calibre Audio or the RNIB Talking Books to offer the audio versions they make available for print disabled readers through Yoto?
  • If the answer to the previous question is yes, how will this affect the rights of copyright holders?
     Will CKG shortlisted titles available on Yoto be sold via the official book suppliers Peters or will they be exclusively available via the Yoto store?
  • Does CILIP endorse Yoto Player as the “official” audiobook device for the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards in any way?
  • With fuel, transport & food costs skyrocketing across the UK is there a concern that the price of the Yoto Players and smartcards may be a barrier to equitable access?
  • How does CILIP envision Yoto being “able to engage and include more young people in reading the best books for pleasure”?
  • How will “audio content for promotion through point of sale for retail, libraries and schools” work? Will there be excerpts of the books available to download, interviews with authors/illustrators etc?
  • What does the Yoto Player offer to CKG Shadowing that audiobooks via digital library services like Overdrive and Playaway or CD audiobooks do not?
  • How will Yoto actually work with promoting the Kate Greenaway Award? It is a Medal for an “outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people” being a screen free device, the Yoto Player will not be able to show the best of the works nominated for it?
  • Do audiobooks downloaded onto the Yoto Player stay on the device until they are deleted or do they have to be redownloaded periodically?
  • Will Yoto smartcards be available through Public & School Libraries?
  • If no – why not?
  • If yes will there be a limit on the number of times each item is able to be loaned?

I was put in touch with Jake Hope, the Chair of the CKG Working Party and, after several e-mails back and forth we were able to arrange a date for a skype chat to discuss the sponsorship news.

The long-term battering that Public Libraries in the UK had been experiencing brought up the question of the awards sustainability and that they (CILIP) had been looking for sponsorship for quite some time, and, working with Agile Ideas to find new opportunities of spreading the messaging of the awards and increasing their reach they had been connected with Yoto. Jake stressed during the interview that it was less a partnership and more straightforward sponsorship deal. In Yoto CILIP had found an organization that was as driven by a passion for promoting reading for pleasure that matched the passion held by those that worked in driving the CKG awards forward.

Neither CILIP nor the CKG Working Party would endorse the Yoto Player as an official device, rather they see it as a new element of accessibility, joining the options already offered by their RNIB & Calibre Audio partners.

All in all Jake felt that the positives of the (not) partnership far outweighed any potential negatives and would make the awards sustainable for years to come.

I always enjoy chatting to Jake and for years have found him to be a nigh-inexhaustible well of information and great stories about the medals and librarianship in general. However, he was not able to answer any of the Yoto specific questions I had, the biggest one (in my mind anyway) being: How will Yoto actually work with promoting the Kate Greenaway Award? It is a Medal for an “outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people” being a screen free device, the Yoto Player will not be able to show the best of the works nominated for it?

Sadly, when I reached out to the Yoto, their press officer declined to participate in an interview or answer the questions I had via email as (and I am quoting here): Given that we worked closely with Jake on his kind replies to your recent enquiries, we feel we’ve responded to the queries as best we can at this stage.

They did however offer to send me a Yoto Player and some cards. It is a fantastic device and very child friendly – I will be posting a review of it in due course.

Unfortunately the questions I had for Yoto still remain unanswered – except for a clarification coming over the future of the Kate Greenaway Medal tht came out of the news today, and, sad to say, I think my concern was justified.

Now back to the news that broke today of the rebranding of the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals as “The Carnegies” I found the documentation very interesting, but what caught my eye was this sentence in the Q&A document: The three-year sponsorship deal with Yoto Player, was secured on the basis that the brand would be refreshed

Was deemphasizing the Kate Greenaway Medal and making it just one of “The Carnegies” the price that CILIP and the working party had to pay to close the deal with Yoto? Instead of “elevating the illustration medal” as they claim, does this not just make it harder to stand out from the medal for writing? The medal for writing has historically always had a higher profile, but the awards were in no way dependent on each other. This is just my reading of it and I welcome being corrected, but my concern that an audio device sponsoring an illustration medal did not make complete sense seems to be borne out, it is easier to overlook it as the Carnegie Medal for Illustration than it was when it was the separate Kate Greenaway Medal.

The Carnegie Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal were always two distinct awards and now the line between has been blurred and I feel that with this rebrand something is being lost.

It also looks as if The Carnegies are being positioned to appeal more to children. Historically the awards previously known as the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals were awarded to writers for an outstanding book & artists recognizing distinguished illustration in a book (both for children). In the past judges have seldom voted for the popular choice, and many librarians who ran shadowing schemes complained that the books awarded the medals were often a hard sell to young readers who often selected other titles as shadower’s choices.

My feeling looking to the future is that there will be more changes coming down the pipeline, possibly splitting the Carnegie Medal for Writing into an older & younger award. This has always been rejected by the Working Party and everyone involved with the awards, but with the scale of the current changes, it remains impossible to rule out.

The muted response to this news on social media is also very telling; in the past, updates and changes to the awards have been hotly debated and discussed, but this refresh appears to have been received with little warmth, however, only time will tell as the news trickles down to everyone with an interest in the awards.

Something else I have noticed, the website for the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals as they were ended in a indicating that it was a not-for-profit organization or charity. The address now points to  a new website ending in –  denoting a commercial domain address more commonly used by businesses. The address currently remains unclaimed.

Only time will tell if these changes will lead to a watering down of the awards and if they will move in a populist choice direction, becoming one of many book awards or if they will maintain their position as “the one that all authors and illustrators want to win. Indeed throughout their history the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals have provided a literary standard by which other books are measured…

I may be wrong, it is possible that I have been involved with the awards for so long that I am unable to see the good things that this may bring. Do you disagree with me? Let me know via

Also if any of of past and present awards judges from YLG that participated in the consultation group are interested in chatting to me (in confidence) please drop me an e-mail

The Yoto Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards… what?

When I saw the announcement that the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals had been renamed the Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards, my first thought was “What the heck is Yoto?”

So I started poking around.

Yoto is an old idea in 21st century packaging, gone are the books on audiocassette (or even CD or MP3 player) in is a child-friendly smart speaker (set up and monitored by parents via an app) that kids can control using RFID smart cards. The smart cards provide a link to stories on a server run by Yoto, these are downloaded to the player, once this is done parents can disconnect the wifi via the app which can also be used to link “stories, songs and sounds that you record yourself. Or use songs or audiobooks from your own collection – if you have a bunch of MP3s you’d like to make a playlist from. You can also make cards from our curated selection of radio stations and podcasts, so you can play these on your player directly from a card without needing to go via the app.

Yoto also offers a monthly subscription club for £9.99 per month or £99 per year with free shipping 10% discount on all purchases and two cards per month sent to your address. Full details here:

Online response seems to have been overwhelmingly positive:

To quote but a few.

It has been touted that this partnership will reach more people and inspire more children which is of course hard to refute, but only if people can afford to purchase the Yoto Player and all the books to be played on it.

In the UK the basic Yoto Player retails for £79.99 and the portable Yoto Mini goes for £49.99.

Smart card prices start at £1.99 for podcasts, with most books ranging between £4.99 to £11.99 with collections of cards going up to £19.99.

Having been keeping a close eye on news out of the UK and seeing the difficulties many families are having with food costs, travel high energy bills, I fear that these devices and the smart cards may be out of reach for many that may benefit from them.

As Joy has said, this partnership will make the CILIP CKG (actually the Yoto CKG) Awards more financially secure; but in return Yoto gets the implied imprimatur of CILIP and the CKG Awards themselves which have stood for outstanding quality since 1936 (Carnegie) and 1955 (Kate Greenaway).

At this point it is hard to see who would be getting the better end of the deal.

As a former CKG Judge I have strong feelings about the Awards and whenever something crops up concerning them I get concerned. These concerns may be meaningless but I will watch how things develop going forward while hoping for the best.

FInd out more about the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards here:

Find out more about Yoto Player here:

The Hideaway by Pam Smy

The Hideaway tells the story of a boy, Billy McKenna, who runs away from a difficult situation at home and takes refuge in an overgrown graveyard. While hiding there he meets an elderly man who is tending the graves in preparation for a day in November when something magical is set to happen.

The book is written in two alternating narratives, both different aspects of the same story. One thread tells of Billy’s experience of hiding away in the graveyard, his mixed-up feelings and emotions, and the supernatural events he eventually witnesses. The other tells of his mother’s situation at home and the police search for Billy. Covering themes of family, childhood, separation and reunion, domestic violence and doing the right thing, this is an important and beautiful book for middle grade readers right up to adults.

Billy’s story is illustrated throughout with tonal and textured black and white drawings, until the event on All Souls’ Eve, when the text gives way to a series of double page images of the supernatural happening.

The Hideaway is a compelling, exciting and emotional story that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.

Pavilion Books

Pam Smy is such an interesting illustrator, Thornhill is a wonderfully unique book (shortlisted for the Carnegie Award), so I was very excited to be sent a review copy of her 2nd novel The Hideaway…which is haunting and sad and uplifting and will really stay with you…and then even more excited to ask her a few questions! And of course, the most appropriate book to highlight for Halloween!

Which aspect of The Hideaway came to you first?

The scene-setting of The Hideaway came to me first. The graveyard where it is set is a real place here in Cambridge, and it has the chapel in the middle, the row of yew trees, the poem carved into the back wall, and most importantly, the World War 2 pillbox. The combination of the meaning of the poem All Souls’ Night by Frances Cornford and the idea that someone could use the pillbox to hide away sparked the idea for the book.

Thornhill was alternate chapters, a wholly illustrated contemporary voice and a historical diary, while The Hideaway is an illustrated story. Did you draw and write at the same time or had you mainly got the words down before choosing which sections to illustrate?

With Thornhill I wrote the text and made the rough drawings for the story in turn, so both elements of the story evolved at the same time. With The Hideaway I wrote the manuscript first, and then illustrated it – but I knew that I wanted there to be a wordless sequence in it from the outset and I knew what I wanted the feeling of the graveyard to look like in the illustrations.

Do you lay out the pages alone or with a designer?

For The Hideaway I worked directly into an InDesign document so that I could move the text around the illustrations I was making, and the very patient designer, Ness Wood, tidied it all up at the end.

They’re both a bit spooky with extremely atmospheric illustrations, very suitable for Halloween season, is the supernatural your favourite genre to read?

I read a variety of books. I love books about people and relationships, and stories that are set in the past or in rural environments. I also love crime novels. I read a lot of picture books and illustrated books of all kinds for all ages. I wouldn’t say that I especially read supernatural books, although they are certainly on my bookshelf.

I think I am drawn to write and illustrate spooky books because I love making atmospheric artwork, and building a world that is based on the everyday, but is different from what we may typically see – but without tipping into fantasy or sci-fi.

You’ve also published a picture book, Merrylegs! Three very different books, which was most enjoyable to work on?

I enjoyed making the artwork to The Hideaway the best. I was trying to work without using much linework – so it was a new challenge for me.

The Mermaid in the Millpond, written by Lucy Strange and illustrated by you, is being published in January by Barrington Stoke. Do you find it easier or harder when the words aren’t your own?

Both easier and harder. If I am illustrating my own ideas the vision of those illustrations is already in my head, and the excitement and the challenge is to get that across on paper. When I am illustrating someone else’s writing it is a joy to be able to bring to life the words, and to add atmosphere or understanding to what is being described. I love illustrating other people’s texts, especially if the art direction and design layout isn’t too prescriptive and I have a little bit of a free reign.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I am reading and re-reading Captain Rosalie by Timothee de Fombelle, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. I am recommending it to everyone I know, and buying copies of it to send to my friends. I think everyone who is 6 and over should read it. It is a beautiful piece of writing and Arsenault’s illustrations are absolutely stunning. Also by my bedside is While You’re Sleeping by Mick Jackson and John Broadley, and All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison.

What might we see from you next?

I am working on developing a few collaborations at the moment which I am VERY excited about, but can’t say anything about yet.

The Hideaway by Pam Smy is published by Pavilion Books, out now, 14.99 hardback.

CKG21 Shortlists Announced!

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.

I’ve still got to read two of the Carnegie shortlist before I think about my personal winner, they’re so varied that I can only imagine the conversations the judges will have trying to pin down a winner, I’ve honestly loved all of those that I’ve read so far.

Again, two books I haven’t seen the inside of on the Greenaway list, but I’ve ordered them to shadow at school, really looking forward to sharing them with students! Fascinating fact on the announcement blog – this is the first shortlist ever that are all author-illustrator creations!

The winners will be announced on Wednesday 16th June, so get reading…

The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals 2019

On Tuesday the 2019 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals were awarded to the most outstanding books as selected by the judging panel, assisted by the advisory panel.

These were the first medals awarded since the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards Independent Diversity Review Final Report was published in September last year. As a long-time observer (and one-time judge) of the Medals I was excited to see how the CKG process would play out this year and I was not disappointed.

Most of the changes to the Medals involved behind the scene stuff – although the majority of the processes are not hidden from public view. The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals have some of the most transparent processes in literary medals anywhere; from how the judges are selected, how the eligible titles are nominated and how the entire judging process works. The only thing that is done behind closed doors is the actual process of choosing the long and short lists and the most outstanding titles for each of the medals.

You can read about the changes that were made to the processes here.

The most publicly visible change to the medals is the addition of the Shadower’s Choice Awards – voted for and awarded by members of the 4,500 school reading groups who shadow the Medals. This is important, as for years people (myself included) have called for the involvement of the shadowing groups to be more visible and to recognise their choices in some way. Going forward, future participants of the shadowing process can join in knowing that their views will be listened to and acted on.

What is also amazing is that this year the Shadower’s Choice Awards and the official medals went to the same books! When I heard this it gave me a frisson of excitement as for years in conversations with colleagues and friends online and face to face, many have complained that the judges never choose the books that their students love, thus showing that the awards are out of touch and out of step with popular reading.

Jackie Morris won the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for her frankly amazing artwork in The Lost Words, a spell-book of poetry about words from nature that we are losing, written by Robert MacFarlane. I knew from the first moment that I delved into this book that Jackie was going to win – and it is a well-deserved recognition. I don’t often say this but The Lost Words is as close to perfect a work of art that is a book can be and I never tire of losing myself in its pages!

Elizabeth Acevedo won the CILIP Carnegie Medal for her verse novel The Poet X. Elizabeth wrote the most outstanding book for children and young people as chosen by the judges in accordance to the judging criteria of the Carnegie Medal, and, is also the first writer of colour to win the medal in its 83 year history. There was a lot of excitement over her win in certain parts of the US kidlit twittersphere, this cheered me as it is not often that book folk outside of the UK take such an active interest in the medals.

I have said this before and will reiterate it here, the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are a living and vibrant part of the literary landscape in the UK and abroad. For being such well-established awards, with a pedigree of winners, the organisers of the awards are able to effect changes fairly swiftly and respond to criticism and advice from all quarters. This bodes well for the future, and not just of the medals but also, (hopefully) publishing in the UK; seeing BAME writers winning high-profile awards will give agents and publishers the push to find new authors and stories that will give more young readers the opportunity to see themselves represented on the page and open the minds and eyes of others to a wider, more vibrant world.

In closing I would also like to say a massive thank you and well done to the judges.

Judging the awards is never an easy task, especially at this time, after the often critical scrutiny the medals and judging panel have faced over the past several years. Often the biggest criticism the judges get when the most outstanding books are announced is that they have “got it wrong” and that observers and critics know which book should have won.

This year, as they have done every year, following the criteria, the judges have made the only choices they could and made the right choice in selecting the most outstanding books for children and young people!