Verse books triumph at ALCS-sponsored children’s book awards

18 June 2019

The winners of the prestigious CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the UK’s oldest book awards for children and young people have been revealed

The Poet Xby Elizabeth Acevedo (Electric Monkey) was awarded the Carnegie Medal, while The Lost Words illustrated by Jackie Morris and written by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton) won the Kate Greenaway Medal. ALCS is pleased to sponsor these two prestigious awards, which respectively honour outstanding writing and illustration for children.

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

The Poet X explores themes of identity, freedom 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. Angie Thomas, a judge for the awards and author of the bestselling novel The Hate U Give said: “I fell in love at slam poetry. This one will stay with you a long time.”

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 twenty ‘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.

This 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. In both cases, the books use verse to create space for forgotten or marginalised voices and words. Acevedo conceived The Poet X while working as an English teacher at a secondary school in Maryland in the US. The daughter of Dominican immigrants, she 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.

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

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.”

In a first for the Medals, the winners of the Shadowers’ Choice Award – voted for and awarded by members of the 4,500 school reading groups that shadow the Medals – were also announced at the ceremony. Elizabeth Acevedo and Jackie Morris won each award respectively.

The Shadowers’ Choice Award evolved out of CILIP’s recent Diversity Review, which identified opportunities to empower and celebrate the young people involved in the Medals through the shadowing scheme by giving them a more significant voice and visible presence in the process and prize-giving.


About CILIP

ALCS and CILIP have been in partnership for over a decade. The hugely successful CILIP CKG Shadowing Scheme reaches an estimated 100,000 children each year across the country. Participating children read the books shortlisted for the CKG Awards, discuss with each other which they think is the best, post reviews and vote for their favourite books before the official winners are announced. The CILIP CKG Shadowing Scheme is one of the UK’s major ‘reading for pleasure’ initiatives and is almost exclusively run as an extracurricular activity by English teachers and school librarians.

Read more about the CKG Awards winners here.

#CKG19 / #BestChildrensBooks

Photograph © Katariina Jarvinen