Books

Elizabeth Acevedo's 'searing, unflinching' debut The Poet X wins 2019 Carnegie Medal

The Dominican-American writer won the annual British children's literature prize. Canadians John Klassen, illustrator of The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse, and Eric Fan and Terry Fan, creators of Ocean Meets Sky, were Kate Greenaway Medal finalists.
The Poet X is a YA novel by Elizabeth Acevedo. (HarperTeen, acevedowrites.com)

Elizabeth Acevedo's debut novel The Poet X has won the CILIP Carnegie Medal, a British literary prize that celebrates books for young readers, for its "searing, unflinching exploration of culture, family and faith."

The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for children's illustration went to British artist Jackie Morris for her work in The Lost Words.

Both will receive the £5,000 ($8,443.50 Cdn) Colin Mears Award, £500 ($844.35 Cdn) worth of books to donate to a library of their choice and a gold medal.

Acevedo, a Dominican-American slam poetry champion, tells the story of Harlem teenager Xiomara Battista in The Poet X. Struggling to express herself without resorting to fighting, Xiomara discovers her voice at her school's slam poetry club.

"This is a powerful novel on every level: its vivid evocation of a Harlem neighbourhood, the challenges, disappointments and often misdirected love of motherhood and intimate glimpses of a young woman's interior life are laid bare for the reader," said jury chair Alison Brumwell in a press release.

"The novel's inventive use of language celebrates life and Dominican heritage."

The Carnegie Medal joins a long list of The Poet X's honours this year, including the Michael L. Printz Award and National Book Award.

Morris' The Lost Words celebrates 20 nature words — including 'kingfisher,' 'acorn' and 'dandelion' — which are vanishing from the vocabulary of children. The book was created after a popular children's dictionary removed nature words for not being used enough by children.

"In Kate Greenaway winner The Lost Words, illustrated by Jackie Morris, life cycles of the natural world are celebrated in vivid detail. Every tiny movement and variegated fleck of colour is rendered exquisitely and gives vibrance to author Robert Macfarlane's spells," said Brumwell in a press release.

"We are invited to 'read' on more than one level and to reflect upon a world in which change can mean irreparable loss, impoverishing both language and the environment. This is an astonishing book, which deserves the highest accolades."

Though this was Morris' first time winning the Kate Greenaway Medal, she was previously shortlisted in 2016.

Canadians John Klassen, illustrator of The Wolf, the Duck and The Mouse, and Eric Fan and Terry Fan, creators of Ocean Meets Skywere finalists for the Kate Greenaway Medal.

Nova Scotia artist Sydney Smith won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2018 for Town Is by the SeaBritish children's writer Geraldine McCaughrean won the 2018 Carnegie Medal for Where the World Ends.

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