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Shadowers and judges unite in award winners

18th Jun 19


The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo has won the CILIP Carnegie Medal, while illustrator Jackie Morris has won her first CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal with 'cultural phenomenon' The Lost Words. Both books were also the first choice of thousands of school children for the separate 'Shadowers' Choice Awards.


The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are the UK's oldest book awards for children and young people.

Dominican-American author and slam poetry champion Elizabeth Acevedo has also become the first black woman to win the Carnegie Medal. She was inspired to write The Poet X by a student in her class asking, "Where are the books about us?"

The daughter of Dominican immigrants, Acevedo realised that most of the books she had been teaching didn't contain characters of colour that reflected the pupils she worked with, and that this feeling of being unseen consequently led to a marked disinterest in reading.

In her speech, she said, "I felt like this student had given me a challenge, or at least permission, to grab the baton. She gave me permission to write a story about young people who take up space, who do not make themselves small, who learn the power of their own words."

Closing her speech with an empowering poem celebrating girls of colour, Acevedo said: "I think we should have poetry in every room as much as possible, and because I fundamentally believe in Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop's words that children's literature should be a mirror and a window."

The Lost Words was born in response to the removal of everyday nature words, such as 'acorn', 'bluebell', 'kingfisher' and 'wren', from a widely used children's dictionary on the basis that they were not being used enough by children to merit inclusion.

Since its publication in 2017, The Lost Words has been adopted by environmental activists, most recently during the Extinction Rebellion protests in London, with actress Dame Emma Thompson reading one of the poems to crowds alongside Morris's composition, 'Letter to the Earth'. A proportion of the proceeds from each book are donated to youth charity, Action for Conservation.

In her speech, Jackie Morris, said: "The times ahead are challenging. It seems to me that artists, writers, musicians have one job at the moment to help to tell the truth about what is happening to this small and fragile world we inhabit, to re-engage with the natural world, to inspire and to imagine better ways to live. Because there is no Planet B and we are at a turning point. And because in order to make anything happen it first needs to be imagined. And as writers and illustrators for children we grow the readers and thinkers of the future.

"I'm learning so much as I watch our young people call politicians to account. Together we can make a change. And we must. While politicians nod and pretend to listen to Greta Thunberg, declare Climate Emergencies, then continue with 'business as usual' finding money always for bombs and seldom for books we need to stand beside these children and hold our deceitful leaders to account."

It is the first time in the Medals history that both winning titles have been written in verse: in The Poet X, in verse influenced by slam poetry; in The Lost Words, in the form of spells. Only one verse novel has previously won the Carnegie Medal: Sarah Crossan's One, in 2016.

In a speech that paid tribute to the recently departed John Burningham and Judith Kerr, Chair of judges Alison Brumwell praised the immeasurable, lasting impact children's books and illustration have on our minds, both as young people and later as adults.

She said, "2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The right to an education and to be able to read are fundamentals. We know how much power a book holds between its covers. This year's two Medals winners are a case in point, each offering a rich, layered reading experience and an enduring power to inspire."


THE WINNERS:

CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (Electric Monkey)

The Poet X explores themes of identity, freedom, first love and finding your own voice. A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother's religion and her own relationship to the world.

Elizabeth Acevedo was born and raised in New York City and her poetry is infused with Dominican bolero and her beloved city's tough grit. Acevedo is a National Slam Champion, Beltway Grand Slam Champion, and the 2016 Women of the World Poetry Slam representative for Washington D.C, USA, where she lives and works.


CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2019: The Lost Words illustrated by Jackie Morris, written by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton)

The Lost Words is a spell book that seeks to conjure the near-lost magic, beauty and strangeness of the nature that surrounds us, for readers both young and old. Taking the form of 20 'lost' words, each word becomes a spell which summons the image and the word back into being, making this a book of enchantment in more than one sense.

Jackie Morris grew up in the Vale of Evesham and studied at Hereford College of Arts and at Bath Academy. She has illustrated for the New Statesman, Independent and Guardian, has collaborated with Ted Hughes, and has written and illustrated over 40 books children's books. She lives in Pembrokeshire, UK.




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