A host of star names – including JK Rowling, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Chris Riddell and Philip Reeve – are ranged against virtual unknowns on the longlists for the UK’s oldest and most prestigious children’s book awards. However, the Carnegie choices immediately provoked anger in some quarters that not one of the BAME authors nominated has been included.
The 20 books on the longlist for the 80-year-old CILIP Carnegie medal include Mal Peet’s final novel, Beck, which was published posthumously after friend and fellow novelist Meg Rosoff completed it, while children’s laureate Riddell is longlisted for the Kate Greenaway medal, now in its 60th year, for his illustrated books.
Announcing the longlists, chair of judges Tricia Adams said it was the strongest year for nominations she could remember, in part because many of the books tackled issues that, in previous generations, would not have been addressed in children’s literature.
“Themes that emerged this year were refugees, sexuality, transgender issues and depression – some quite difficult concepts for children to talk about,” Adams said. Though sexuality did not appear in titles aimed at the youngest readers or in the 20 books longlisted for the Kate Greenaway medal, depression was tackled, with emphasis on how it affects children of depressed parents. Adams added: “It must be horrendous for children to face that, but books really do provide a refuge and a safe place for them to explore almost everything.”
Rosoff said Peet, who died in 2015, would have greeted news that his final novel was longlisted by saying: “Excellent news, darling, excellent news!”
Rosoff took over the book when Peet told her of his diagnosis with terminal cancer. “He’d done a good deal of the hard stuff – the plot, the research, the basic shape of the story and a lot of the writing,” she said. “I came in and made the arc work, filled out the characters – and toned down a few of the sex scenes.”
Should Beck win, it will not be the first posthumous novel to take the Carnegie: Siobhan Dowd took that honour in 2009, with Bog Boy. Dowd had finished the novel in May 2007, two months before she died of cancer.
Other books in contention for the Carnegie, which is nominated by librarians, are Philip Reeve’s epic fantasy Railhead, set in a whimsical future world in which sentient trains crisscross the universe; Zania Fraillon’s acclaimed novel about refugees, The Bone Sparrow, which was shortlisted last year for the Guardian children’s fiction prize; and Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth. Describing the Carnegie as the gold standard for children’s book prizes, Cottrell Boyce said he was elated to be on the longlist. “Librarians really know what they’re about,” he said.
But others were much less happy with this year’s Carnegie longlist, which is entirely white. (The prize itself has never been won by a BAME author.) Alex Wheatle, who was longlisted for the Carnegie and won the Guardian children’s fiction prize in 2016, said he had instructed his publishers to not submit his next book for the 2018 prize: “[My publishers] were as appalled as I am and I would urge other black writers of YA children’s to do the same until they think about this situation.”
“You are telling me there is no Malorie Blackman, no Patrice Lawrence, no Kiran Millwood Hargrave?” he said, naming three BAME writers who were nominated but not longlisted for the Carnegie this year. “It’s been an incredibly strong year for BAME writers of children’s and YA books. It’s appalling … it feels like there is an agenda. Why not include Patrice? Why not Malorie? This has been the strongest year in my memory for BAME YA novels, it just beggars belief.”
Novelist Catherine Johnson, who was longlisted in 2015 and 2016, said she was not surprised. “Most of the big awards and literature festivals are always white, with – if we’re lucky – one ‘other’.”
The Kate Greenaway illustration prize longlist is slightly more diverse, with the presence of illustrator Bessora, who is Belgium-born with a Gabonese background, and the writer Vita Murrow, who wrote picture book The Whale with her illustrator husband Ethan.
In a rare double, writer and illustrator Brian Selznick’s The Marvels made it on to the longlists for both awards. Illustrator Jim Kay’s work resulted in an unexpected listing for JK Rowling, with Kay’s illustrations for a new edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone putting it on the Kate Greenaway longlist 20 years after the book won the Carnegie prize in 1997.
Children’s laureate Chris Riddell made the Kate Greenaway longlist for his illustrations in Michael Rosen’s book A Great Big Cuddle – if he wins, it will be for a record fourth time. Fellow previous winners up in contention again include Emily Gravett, who wrote and illustrated Tidy; Levi Pinfold, writer and illustrator of Greenling; and William Grill, for The Wolves of Currumpaw. These veterans are joined by several debuts – notably Francesca Sanna’s the Journey, which is based on her experiences of working with refugees in southern Italy and Switzerland.
The winners of the awards will receive £5,000 each, plus £500 of books to donate to their local library and a specially commissioned gold medal. The shortlists will be announced on 16 March, with the winners announced on 19 June at a dinner in London.
2017 CILIP Carnegie medal longlist
Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot by Horatio Clare (Firefly Press)
Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Pan Macmillan)
Unbecoming by Jenny Downham (David Fickling Books)
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon (Orion Children’s Books)
How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss (Simon & Schuster)
The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Faber & Faber)
Whisper to Me by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)
Beetle Boy by MG Leonard (Chicken House)
The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard (Old Barn Books)
Pax by Sara Pennypacker (HarperCollins)
Railhead by Philip Reeve (Oxford University Press)
Beck by Mal Peet with Meg Rosoff (Walker Books)
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt (Andersen Press)
The Marvels by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (Puffin)
Island by Nicky Singer (Caboodle Books)
Dreaming the Bear by Mimi Thebo (Oxford University Press)
Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford (HarperCollins)
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (Corgi)
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (Andersen Press)
2017 CILIP Kate Greenaway medal longlist
Alpha illustrated by Barroux, written by Bessora, translated by Sarah Ardizzone (The Bucket List)
Return illustrated and written by Aaron Becker (Walker Books)
Wild Animals of the North illustrated and written by Dieter Braun (Flying Eye Books)
Bob the Artist illustrated and written by Marion Deuchars (Laurence King Publishing)
The Lion Inside illustrated by Jim Field, written by Rachel Bright (Orchard Books)
Perfect illustrated by Cathy Fisher, written by Nicola Davies (Graffeg)
Tidy illustrated and written by Emily Gravett (Pan Macmillan)
The Wolves of Currumpaw illustrated and written by William Grill (Flying Eye Books)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone illustrated by Jim Kay, written by J.K. Rowling (Bloomsbury)
The Whale illustrated by Ethan Murrow, written by Vita Murrow (Templar)
Greenling illustrated and written by Levi Pinfold (Templar)
A Great Big Cuddle illustrated by Chris Riddell and written by Michael Rosen (Walker Books)
A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting illustrated by David Roberts, written by Michelle Robinson (Bloomsbury)
The Journey illustrated and written by Francesca Sanna (Flying Eye Books)
The Marvels illustrated and written by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)
There is a Tribe of Kids illustrated and written by Lane Smith (Two Hoots)
Rain illustrated and written by Sam Usher (Templar)
Counting Lions illustrated by Stephen Walton and written by Virginia McKenna and Katie Cotton (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books)
Little One illustrated and written by Johanna Weaver (Hodder Children’s Books)
The Great Fire of London illustrated by James Weston Lewis, written by Emma Adams (Wayland Books)