Jason Reynolds is the winner of this year’s CILIP Carnegie Medal with Look Both Ways (Knights Of), while Sydney Smith has received his second CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for his picture book Small in the City (Walker Books).
Both books follow children who are in urban landscapes by themselves: Look Both Ways is a series of interconnecting stories about a group of children walking home from school, and Small in the City shows a young child getting off a bus then giving advice about being safe in the city. The reader is not sure who that advice is for until the end of the story. Chair of the judges Ellen Krajewski described both books as “compelling stories told from a child’s viewpoint that deliver a powerful emotional punch”.
“Look Both Ways is a breathtakingly gripping collection of intertwined stories brimming with humour, empathy and humanity,” she said. “Each story has its own heart, with deft characterisation and narrative voices that feel child-like and completely real and recognisable, making it identifiable for children and adults alike. It’s such an innocent tale which covers hard-hitting issues including bullying, homophobia and bereavement. The title sums up the way it challenges the reader to see differently in an engaging and fresh way.”
Small in the City, on the other hand, is an immersive book that is understated but builds to a “moving emotional end”, she added, and is “almost cinematic in its depiction of a child’s view of an imposing urban landscape”.
Reynolds (pictured, top), who is currently the US National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, was chosen ahead of competition from authors such as Sophie Anderson, Elizabeth Acevedo and Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick.
In his acceptance speech, he said his book was about three things: a child’s autonomy, the idea that every child has a different journey, and the fact that even though everyone’s journey is different, we are all connected.
“Even though we all have separate journeys, our lives organically bump up against one another,” he said. “That’s the miracle of life.”
Smith (pictured, right) also talked about the power of connection in his speech, saying in this time of isolation, stories are more important than ever in ensuring we stay connected.
“Around the world we are self-isolating, social distancing, quarantining and taking measures to get through this. It is a difficult journey but we are on this journey together… 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.”
The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals are the most prestigious children’s book prizes in the UK, and are judged by librarians. The winners receive a gold medal and a £5,000 cash prize, as well as £500 worth of books for a library of their choice.
CILIP has also since 2017 run a Shadowers’ Choice Awards, which involves young readers choosing their favourite books from the shortlists. This year’s winners were Run Rebel by Manjeet Mann (Penguin Random House) from the Carnegie medal shortlist, and Starbird by Sharon King-Chai (Two Hoots) from the Kate Greenaway shortlist.