Children’s Laureate ‘honoured’ to win Yoto Carnegie medal judged by librarians

Joseph Coelho, who has become an advocate for libraries during his reign as Children’s Laureate, has won the Yoto Carnegie medal for writing.

The awards, which celebrate achievement in children’s writing and illustration, are judged by a panel of librarians.

Coelho won for his novel The Boy Lost In The Maze, which blends Greek mythology with the modern-day quest of a teenage boy in search of his biological father.

The Boy Lost In The Maze by Joseph Coelho
The Boy Lost In The Maze by Joseph Coelho (Yoto Carnegie/PA)

The win marked a fitting tribute to Coelho’s outgoing tenure as Waterstones Children’s Laureate, during which he launched the Library Marathon project – which saw him visit a library in every region of the UK to highlight their importance.

Coelho, who lives in Kent, said he felt “completely honoured” that it was librarians who deemed his book “worthy of a Carnegie medal”.

“The Boy Lost In The Maze is a novel that means a great deal to me and so to have it recognised by the UK’s, if not the world’s, most prestigious award for children’s literature feels particularly special,” Coelho said.

“During my tenure as laureate I have had the pleasure of joining a library in every local authority in the UK, meeting librarians and patrons of libraries on buses, in converted flats and in gorgeous Carnegie buildings.

“The one thing that has been consistent between all libraries has been the passion, skill and creativity of the librarians.

“Through their essential work they are tackling social isolation, providing access to essential services and of course creating the readers of the future.”

Maura Farrelly, chairwoman of the judging panel, described his work as an “extraordinary novel told through poems about two boys searching for their fathers”.

“It is a multi-layered, immersive read which is playful in its language and construction and is as architectural as the mythical maze itself,” she said.

Aaron Becker with his book The Tree And The River and the Yoto Carnegie medal for illustration
Aaron Becker won the Yoto Carnegie medal for illustration (Tom Pilston/Yoto Carnegie/PA)

The Yoto Carnegie medal for illustration was awarded to American Aaron Becker.

His picture book titled The Tree And The River explores the evolution of human impact on the natural environment through the fate of a lone tree and an enduring river.

Becker said the award was an “honour and a testament to the power of wordless books”.

“Growing up, I was always drawn to illustrations and would get lost in pictures,” he said.

“When I began drawing images of my own I was able to create a space where I could create, imagine and escape into worlds of my own design.

The Tree And The River cover
The Tree And The River cover (Yoto Carnegie/PA)

“Pictures became the way I processed the world. Within the pages of my wordless books, I invite readers to slow down and interpret stories on their own terms.

“Children and adults alike can project themselves on to the characters within my stories and find their own meaning and discoveries within the details of each spread, free of a narrator to dictate their pace and thoughts.”

The winners, who will each receive a specially commissioned golden medal and a £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize, were unveiled at a ceremony at the Cambridge Theatre.

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