The winners of the UK’s longest-running and best-loved book awards for children and young people, the Yoto Carnegies have been announced.
Jeet Zdung has won the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration, formerly the Kate Greenaway Medal for Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear (Kingfisher, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Books). This is the second consecutive year that the prize has been awarded to a graphic novel. Written and inspired by the real life of Vietnamese wildlife conservationist Dr Trang Nguyen, the manga-inspired illustrations offer “something new to discover on each re-reading” and inspire and educate young wildlife activists.
For the first time in the awards almost 90-year history, the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing is awarded to a book in translation – The Blue Book of Nebo (Firefly Press), written and translated by Manon Steffan Ros. The original Welsh publication, Llyfr Glas Nebo, won multiple awards, including the 2019 Wales Book of the Year.
The Yoto Carnegies celebrate outstanding achievement in children’s writing and illustration and are unique in being judged by an expert panel of children’s and youth librarians, including 12 librarians from CILIP, the library and information association’s Youth Libraries Group.
Selected from shortlists of six and seven titles respectively, both winners were praised by the judges for providing an “immersive” reading experience, addressing questions about how we live now and how this might affect the future.
Each year thousands of reading groups in schools and libraries in the UK and around the world get involved in the Awards, with children and young people ‘shadowing’ the judging process, debating and choosing their own winners. This year their choices are I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys for the Yoto Carnegie Shadowers’ Choice Medal for Writing, and The Comet by Joe Todd-Stanton for the Yoto Carnegie Shadowers’ Choice Medal for Illustration.
Ruta Sepetys previously won the Carnegie Medal for Writing in 2017 for Salt to the Sea and was shortlisted in 2021 for The Fountains of Silence.
The winners were revealed at an in-person ceremony held at The Barbican, which was live-streamed and watched by shadowing groups around the country. The awards were hosted by former Children’s Laureate Lauren Child CBE, who won the Carnegie Medal for Illustration – then known as the Kate Greenaway Medal – in 2000 for her first Charlie and Lola book, I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato.
Janet Noble, Chair of Judges for The Yoto Carnegies 2023, said, ‘From an incredibly strong shortlist, our panel of librarian judges debated long and hard to choose our two worthy winners of the Yoto Carnegie Medals 2023.
In The Blue Book of Nebo, the world building and distinct voices of the two main characters, the son and his mother, are expertly realised and the reader is compelled to question their own relationship with the modern world. Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear is a beautiful story, elegantly told, which brings together a global view of conservation and an empowering true story of an inspiring female environmentalist, told through dazzling manga art and watercolours. Jeet has crafted every illustration to immerse the reader, just as Manon draws the reader in completely with her vivid, deliberate prose.
Thanks to the young readers far and wide who have engaged with our shortlists and voted for their own deserving Shadowers’ Choice Medal recipients. Huge congratulations to all four of our Yoto Carnegie medal winners for this year, who demonstrate the best of children’s writing and illustration in its myriad of forms.’
Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing winner, Manon Steffan Ros, said, ‘I used to see the word Carnegie on the covers of my favourite books as a child, and the fact that The Blue Book of Nebo now has that honour bestowed upon it means more than I can say – and to be the first book in translation to win the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing is a source of great delight. One of the greatest privileges of my life has been the fact that I was raised through the medium of the Welsh language, and having access to two languages has brought me so much joy and opportunity. There’s a huge, lively, thriving Welsh language cultural scene that I’m honoured to be a part of. Each language offers a unique and enriching perspective on the world, and so literature in translation has the potential to enhance our lives greatly. Your favourite book might not yet be translated into a language that you understand.’
Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration winner, Jeet Zdung, said, ‘When I was a child, I always wished that I could create my own cartoon movies. The process of creating the book Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear was a journey to satisfy the child’s longing inside of me – to create an immersive movie on paper using influences of comics and manga. Together with Trang Nguyen, we hope these books will contribute to the conservation of wildlife by sharing with the readers what we know, what we love and care about. For me, this is a long and enduring journey. Winning the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration is a great honour. We hope that the impact of the prize will be felt widely and draw attention to the plight of the Sun Bears and other wildlife.’
Manon Steffan Ros and Jeet Zdung each receive £500 worth of books to donate to a library of their choice, a £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize and a newly designed golden medal. For the first time, this year the Shadowers’ Choice winners were also presented with a golden medal.
Ros is making her donation to her local library, Tywyn Library in Gwynedd, where she wrote a few of her books when she didn’t have the means to get internet at home. Dr Trang Nguyen and her organization WildAct have set up libraries for children in localities near Vietnamese national parks to heighten their reading skills and knowledge of conservation; Zdung’s donation will be supporting this effort.
Yoto, the innovative, screen-free audio platform for children, is the headline sponsor of the Awards. The Yoto Carnegies are sponsored by ALCS and Scholastic as the official book supplier, with First News as the official media partner for 2023.