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Interview with Jackie Morris - winner of the 2019 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal

Posted By Jacob Hope, 25 September 2019
Updated: 25 September 2019

With nominations currently still open for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals (nominate by clicking here), we talk with 2019 winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal, Jackie Morris about her work, the impact winning has had upon her and the extraordinary book that she and Robert MacFarlane created.


Kate Greenaway winner, ‘The Lost Words’ initially began as a chat with Emily Drabble about producing  a web slideshow of images to highlight words that had been dropped from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.  The words had fallen from common use and so were no included in the dictionary whose purpose OUP described as being ‘to reflect language as it is used, rather than seeking to prescribe certain words or word usages.’


Recognising the importance of the natural world, several authors, naturalists and broadcasters signed a letter composed by Laurence Rose, conservationist and editor of the Natural Light blog.  The letter cited the National Trust’s ‘Natural Childhood’ campaign stating


‘Every child should have the right to connect with nature.  To go exploring, sploshing, climbing, and rolling in the outdoors, creating memories that’ll last a lifetime.’


Among those who signed the letter were Margaret Atwood, Nicola Davies, Robert MacFarlane, Michael Morpurgo, Sir Andrew Motion and Jackie Morris.  Talking about the removal of the words, Jackie says ‘it highlighted the disconnect between language and nature and was a clear indication that something was wrong.’


Fearing that a slideshow of images would be there and then, like the words in the dictionary, disappear, Jackie began to think about a book and decided to write to co-signatory, Robert MacFarlane to see whether he might be willing to pen an introduction.  When the reply came back a couple of weeks later, the suggestion was to collaborate on something more than just an introduction.


We started knocking the idea back and forth between the two of us.’  Jackie was clear that she didn’t want children to be in it and wanted it to be wild.  ‘The idea of spells clicked in his mind.  The first one he wrote was the kingfisher and I painted it against a background of goldleaf’.  Taking it to the Hamish Hamilton offices, was the first  time Jackie met with Robert and she didn’t meet him again until the project was finished.  ‘Everything was done via e-mail, I’d send sketches, he would send spells to be spoken aloud.  It was the most collaborative piece of work of all of the things I’ve done.’


Jackie did not create roughs for any of the illustrations, submitting the artwork in batches.  Part of the collaborative process involved the work of designer Alison O’Toole.  Jackie describes finding ‘The Lost Words’ font as having been key, ‘I was conscious about legibility, but something about the space given to the words means that reluctant readers aren’t intimidated.  We’ve had feedback about how well reluctant readers have responded and how they love it and are not put off by the complexity of language because of the relationship with the pictures.’


Hamish Hamilton were extremely trusting and have supported the crowd-funding ideas where copies of the book have been gifted to local .  The book has caught the public imagination in an inspiring way.  The dynamism of the relationship between written and pictorial language has acted as a catalyst enabling creative responses that have crossed a variety of artistic boundaries with folk songs, exhibitions and even a performance at the 2019 proms.   


Talking about this year’s Kate Greenaway win, Jackie explains the impact it has had upon her career.  ‘After twenty-eight years working in children’s books, I have a big backlist.  For the first time ever there is a plan of my work being taken to Frankfurt Book Fair.’  Her Canadian publisher was also very excited on hearing the news.  ‘My work now has a connection with other books that have won and which I love.  It has given me a new confidence.’



Tags:  books  Kate Greenaway  libraries  nature  nominations  reading for pleasure 

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Stand Out Nominations for Outstanding Books - An Interview with CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Co-Ordinator Amy McKay

Posted By Jacob Hope, 19 September 2019
Updated: 19 September 2019
One of the most exciting times for the profession is the stage when nominations open for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals, the UK's oldest and most prestigious children's book awards award for an outstanding reading experience created respectively through writing and illustration. On the opening day of nominations, we are pleased to have the opportunity to speak with the award co-ordinator, Amy McKay, to glean exclusive behind the scenes insights.
Amy starts by discussing her job.  There are numerous duties the awards co-cordinator has, these include looking after the judges and ensuring they are organised and on track with the Herculian reading task they face.  There are also meeting sto organise as well as overseeing the nominations, communicating with regions about their choices days, checking eligibility and monitoring what has been published.  'It's a really busy point in the year,' Amy explains, 'but it's also one of the most exciting as this is when the process begins.'  
After pondering which part of the role she enjoys the most, Amy says, 'working closely with the judges is definitely one of the highlights, you see them grow in confidence across the two years and it's fascinating to hear their opinions and thoughts'. 
'It's so important that people nominate the books they are most passionate about,' Amy enthuses, 'without nominations and the profession's engagement, the awards would not exist.' What makes a good nomination?  Amy feels consideration of the criteria is key and that the books need to have an x-factor, something more than just enjoyment.  Nominations don't have to be massively long, Amy urges.  Statements are an integral part of the process and can be used in judging discussions to help widen debate and give insight to other viewpoints and experiences.  'It is passion that really shines through.'
The nominations lists provide a snapshot of contemporary publishing for children and young people and are valuable for all of the profession.  They can be useful for stock and collections providing insight into what other professionals consider as outstanding and presenting a curated list for selection.  It is something Amy uses herself to help with selecting for the bustling school library in Corby where she works.
This year has seen changes to the nomination's process with members of CILIP able to nominate only one per medal within a two week window, making it even more crucial to carefully consider the titles being put forward.   Amy gives some top tips for nominating:
  • Consider the criteria and how the books you put forward match these
  • Think carefully about all you've read and not just the latest titles as books are eligible for 2020 cycle from 1 September 2018 to 31 August 2019.  Amy mentions that she keeps a reading journal so that she does not overlook the books published in the first months of nominations.
  • Nominations don't have to be hugely long, strong nominations tend to be formed around the criteria headlines - plot, theme, characterisation and style for the Carnegie and aristic style, format, synergy of illustration and text and visual experience for the Kate Greenaway  - and are usually clear and concise.
  • Enjoy nominating as it is a real statement of belief in the work of illustrators, authors and publishers alike and acts as a flagship for the expertise of the profession
  • Use resources like publishers lists, CILIP's new 'Pen & Inc' magazine  to raise awareness to make sure that some of the titles by smaller independent publishers that might not have the same promotional budgets do not get overlooked.

Nominations are open now until Friday 27 September, visit to put forward your choices.



Tags:  Carnegie  Kate Greenaway  libraries  nominations  professional development  reading  reading for pleasure 

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