Anthony McGowan has won the CILIP Carnegie Medal with Lark (Barrington Stoke), the fourth in his Truth of Things series of novellas, and Shaun Tan has claimed the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration for Tales from the Inner City (Walker Books). It marks the first medal win for independent publisher Barrington Stoke and the 12th Kate Greenaway Medal for Walker.
McGowan (pictured) clinches the Carnegie Medal after three prior nominations, previously shortlisted in 2018 for Rook, longlisted in 2014 for Brock and longlisted in 2008 for The Knife That Killed Me. His winning book, Lark, is the finale in a quartet of novellas for dyslexic-friendly publisher Barrington Stoke focused on the relationship between two northern, working-class brothers, Nicky and Kenny. In the gripping final instalment, a daytrip to the North Yorkshire Moors for the two teens becomes a quest for survival as the weather turns.
Tan, who is of Australian, Chinese and Malay heritage, becomes the first illustrator of colour to win the Kate Greenaway Medal in its history. He has worked as a concept artist for animated films including Pixar's "WALL-E" and also directed the Academy Award-winning short film "The Lost Thing". He takes the Kate Greenaway Medal for Tales from the Inner City, a collection of 25 surreal short stories that he both wrote and illustrated. The book reflects on the urban relationship we have with animals, with the accompaying artwork featuring wildlife in spaces usually reserved for humans, and it is the sister volume to his 2008 anthology Tales from Outer Suburbia.
The winning books were chosen by 14 volunteer youth librarians, from a total of 162 nominations this year, as "the very best in children’s writing and illustration published in the UK". The winners will each receive £500 worth of books to donate to a library of their choice, a specially commissioned golden medal and a £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize.
McGowan said: "Every writer for young people dreams of winning the Carnegie Medal. Its incredible history, the rollcall of the great writers who have won it and the rigour of the selection process, makes this the greatest book prize in the world. It is also a magnificent way of connecting with readers. The hundreds of shadowing groups in schools and libraries around the country provide that one thing that writers cannot do without: a living, arguing, debating, biscuit-munching population of brilliant readers!
"On one level, Lark is a simple adventure story. Two woefully ill-equipped teenage boys, and their old Jack Russell terrier go for a walk on the North Yorkshire Moors. A blizzard descends and their fun day out, their ‘lark’ turns into a desperate battle for survival. On another level, the book is about the unshakable love between two brothers, one of them with special needs, after enduring family break-up, poverty, bullying and cruelty. Lark is also a story about the power of stories and the way they weave through our lives. The book ends with the words ‘Tell me a story,’ and with those words we are led back again to the beginning."
Tan said: "I am surprised, delighted and then deeply honoured – what a wonderful thing to be! I am especially thrilled to receive the Kate Greenaway Medal in the fine company of so many brilliant artists and authors, many of whom inspired my own love of illustrated stories as a young west Australian scribbler.
"Tales from the Inner City is a strange book for strange times, suggesting that human frailty might well find expression in dreams of tigers, bears, frogs and lungfish reclaiming our cities. To know that I am not alone in enjoying such speculation – maybe even a bit too much – is no small thing. It is profoundly consoling, to feel part of a larger conversation about our relationship to this planet, particularly with younger readers, in whose imagination the future is already taking shape."
Julia Hale, chair of CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel, commented: "During challenging times, librarians believe books for children and young people are more important than ever. The best books provide adventure, solace, inspiration, comfort, escape, rich experiences and sheer enjoyment; they are a port in a storm, a reflective mirror and an entry to new worlds. In an unprecedented year for all of us, we are delighted to reveal the two extraordinary winners of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals that highlight our connection and codependency with the natural world.
"Carnegie Medal winner Lark, by Anthony McGowan is a powerful standalone novella that brings the exemplary Truth of Things series to an emotional ending. Lark picks up the story of the close relationship between Nicky and elder brother Kenny, who after surviving trauma and poverty in their past, must now endure the extremes of nature at its cruellest. This novella was admired for its clear, simple storytelling; combining authentic characters and realistic situations in pared down prose with blunt humour, genuine tension and moments of pure poetry as fleeting and transcendent as birdsong. It is incredible that such a rich reading experience is in no way impeded by its short and accessible form, indeed it is a strength. The book leaves the reader with hope for the future; that through the bonds of love from friends and family things can and will get better.
"Every detail of the Kate Greenaway Medal winning Tales from the Inner City mark it as a masterwork of illustration that generates an outstanding experience for the reader in every detail. In a collection of 25 surreal short stories set in a semi-dystopian dreamscape where the boundaries between urban and wildlife are close to collapse, Shaun Tan conveys the tangled, intimate relationship between humans and animals with breathtaking technique and awe-inspiring invention. Double-page spreads of oil on canvas give pause for necessary reflection and contemplation. Never have the bonds between us and the beautiful creatures we share the earth with been so exquisitely rendered with such prescience. The judging panel were moved, amused and astonished by the artistry and imagination of a stunning book that should be widely shared and celebrated."
CILIP will celebrate the conclusion of its shadowing scheme by announcing the winners of the Shadowers’ Choice Award – voted for and awarded by the children and young people who shadow the medals – on 9th October 2020, during National Libraries Week.