Rebecca McNally, publishing director of children’s books at Bloomsbury, said she was “over the moon” after two of her authors, Chris Riddell and Sarah Crossan, picked up the CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) Kate Greenaway Medal and Carnegie Medal earlier this week.
McNally said Crossan, who won the Carnegie for One, and Riddell, who was awarded the Kate Greenaway for his illustrations for Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle, were “writers and illustrators at the peak of their powers, and it’s a hugely deserved [accolade] for both of them.”
Bloomsbury Children’s is the first company to win both CILIP medals in the same year with two separate titles; Walker Books won both in 2012, but with a single title, Patrick Ness and illustrator Jim Kay’s A Monster Calls. McNally said such a feat was “real testament to the strength and quality of our list”. She added: “When Sarah’s manuscript first came in, her editor and I knew it was her best work. It’s completely magical, real, vivid, warm, humane. And again, when I saw Chris’ work on The Sleeper and the Spindle I thought it was the best work he had ever done.”
Riddell, who described McNally as the “questing queen of Bloomsbury” when accepting his medal, said he was “humbled” to win the Kate Greenaway for a record-breaking third time, beating a shortlist that included illustrators Helen Oxenbury and Anthony Browne. “My children grew up with Helen’s books and Anthony looked after me when I was a young illustrator at Bologna [Children’s Book Fair] for the first time. I met him at the airport and then he introduced me to everyone.”
Crossan, whose Carnegie win follows two other book prize triumphs for One this year—it won The Bookseller’s YA Book Prize 2016 and the Irish Children’s Book of the Year Award—said she was “stunned” and “flabbergasted”. “I’ve been shortlisted twice before but didn’t think I would win,” she said.
“The Carnegie Medal is special because it has such a lot of history. That doesn’t mean the other awards aren’t special but it’s the award I always knew about as a reader and a teacher.”
Both winners praised the work librarians do in supporting the children’s book industry, with Riddell claiming that they “know where the great stories are”. He added: “Librarians love books, they love reading and they love turning children into readers. They really understand that it’s not about SATs or league tables: what’s really important is reading for pleasure. Librarians are bridge builders: they use the books of the past to build the book creators of the future.”
Crossan said librarians were the “gatekeepers” of literature. “Being a librarian is often a vocation. You get the impression they would read all these books even if they didn’t get paid. They literally read thousands of books.” She said she was “furious” with the fact that funding cuts have led to a reduction in library services, stating that her local library was vital to the community. “When you go in there are always older people reading the newspapers, parents with toddlers and children doing their homework. It’s always packed.”