Two children’s books with a historical theme have won this year’s CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, with Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman (Walker Books) picking up the Carnegie, and Shackleton’s Journey by Will Grill (from Nobrow imprint Flying Eye) receiving the Greenaway.
Both winners are well regarded by the trade but not hugely well known among readers. Buffalo Soldier, a YA novel, is set in the 19th century and was inspired by the true story of former slave Cathy Williams, who was the only known African American woman to enlist in the US army whilst pretending to be a man. And Shackleton’s Journey is a non-fiction picture book about Ernest Shackleton’s crossing of Antarctica in 1914.
Agnes Guyon, chair of this year’s judging panel, said both books “push boundaries” because “they do not shy from difficult topics but are ultimately life-affirming in the view they offer of the human spirit’s will to survive and succeed”.
She continued: “We were particularly impressed with how Buffalo Soldier explored what it means to be truly free: the evolving idea of freedom is an essential part of this gripping, often traumatic book. We are also stunned by how William Grill used such a retro medium – coloured pencils – to bring to life the vastness of the Antarctic environment. Every image, hue, every piece of negative space had a purpose.”
Landman [pictured] used her speech to emphasis the importance of reading for pleasure. “Someone who reads for pleasure is far less likely to be a bully or a bigot,” she said. “They are far less likely to cause harm to others because they can imagine how it would feel. They are far less likely to collude with any kind of persecution. Instead, they are far more likely to do something about it.”
Landman said schools and libraries need to do more to help children use their imaginations because “our system is in danger of squeezing every scrap of imagination out of our children”, adding: “I’ve watched teachers tied in straitjackets by the demands of the national curriculum and Ofsted, and students imprisoned in boxes that need to be ticked. At a time when China is looking for ways to teach their children to create and innovate, we seem to be heading in the opposite direction.”
Speaking about his win, Grill said: ““I believe there is a large, untapped reserve of non-fiction stories waiting to be re-interpreted that, handled correctly, can be educational and entertaining. They can also be more accessible for those who struggle with reading, as dyslexics like myself have.”
The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals were first awarded in 1936 and previous winners include Arthur Ransome, C S Lewis, Terry Pratchett, Shirley Hughes and Quentin Blake.
Last year, Kevin Brooks’ The Bunker Diary (Puffin) won the CILIP Carnegie medal, while Jon Klassen’s This is Not My Hat (Walker Books) was awarded the Kate Greenaway medal.
This year’s shortlists in full:
The CILIP Carnegie Medal 2015 shortlist:
When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan (Bloomsbury)
Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)
Tinder by Sally Gardner (author) and David Roberts (illustrator) (Orion Children’s Books)
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books)
The Fastest Boy in the World by Elizabeth Laird (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman (Walker Books)
The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean (Usborne Books)
More Than This by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2015 shortlist:
The Promise by Laura Carlin (illustrator) and Nicola Davies (author) (Walker Books)
Jim’s Lion by Alexis Deacon (illustrator) and Russell Hoban (author) (Walker Books)
Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill (Flying Eye Books)
Dark Satanic Mills by John Higgins and Marc Olivent (illustrators) and Julian Sedgwick and Marcus Sedgwick (authors) (Walker Books)
Smelly Louie by Catherine Rayner (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Tinder by David Roberts (illustrator) and Sally Gardner (author) (Orion Children’s Books)
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hodder Children’s Books)