First double American win in historic 80th year of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenway Children’s Book Awards

June 20, 2017

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The double anniversary year of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals saw a historic first. For the first time ever, winners from the United States have triumphed in both categories of the UK’s oldest and most prestigious prize in children’s literature.

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards are the UK’s foremost literary medals awarding children’s and young adult writing, and are unique in being judged by a panel of professional librarians. The CILIP Carnegie Medal was established in memory of the Carnegie UK Trust’s founder, Scottish-born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, and is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children and young people. The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal is named for the popular nineteenth century artist known for her fine children’s illustrations and design, and is awarded to a distinguished illustrator of a children’s book. Since 2016, an additional Amnesty award category commends a title from the Greenaway and Carnegie shortlists which distinctly illuminates, illustrates or upholds human rights.

2017 is a special year in the history of the awards, marking the 80th anniversary of the Carnegie Medal and the 60th anniversary of the Kate Greenaway Medal. The awards ceremony, which took place in London on Monday 19th June before an audience of schoolchildren, librarians, publishers and previous Medal winners, coincided with the beginning of Refugee Week, and saw stories of refugees and displaced children predominate among the winning titles.

Forty-nine year-old music manager turned novelist Ruta Sepetys won the CILIP Carnegie Medal for the first time for Salt to the Sea (Puffin), a New York Times-bestselling novel that explores the events leading up to the sinking of the MS Wilhelm Gustloff, the worst maritime disaster in history in which more than  9,000 people, mainly refugees, perished. The daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, with a family connection to the disaster, Ruta spent three years researching the book, walking the path of some of those refugees who saw the boat as their salvation but who ultimately lost their lives.

Fifty-seven year-old Lane Smith, acclaimed US artist and author, won the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for his illustrations in There is a Tribe of Kids (Two Hoots), a picture book exploring the power of collective nouns and the importance of play and exploration.

Sepetys and Smith each receive £500 worth of books to donate to their local library, a specially commissioned golden medal and a £5,000 cash prize from the Colin Mears Award.

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, said ‘Promoting the joy of reading is central to Andrew Carnegie’s legacy, which is why we are delighted to continue to support the CILIP Carnegie Kate Greenaway Medals in this milestone anniversary year. I offer my congratulations to the winners and to all the shortlisted authors and illustrators.’

Tricia Adams, Chair of the 2017 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel, said: ‘It is a tremendous privilege to judge the Medals in this double anniversary year. The books that have triumphed demonstrate the vitally important role literature and illustration play in helping children and young people to understand the world around them, be that through a historical lens or through the natural world around them. These, and the Amnesty Honour commendations selected from the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway shortlists, poignantly prove the importance of stories in making voices heard – especially those of the dispossessed – encouraging the young reader to look beyond the headlines.’

For more information on all of the winning titles in this year’s CILIP Carnegie Kate Greenaway Awards, visit

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Photograph © Anthony Upton