Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Children's Awards backlash

Kiran Millwood-Hargrave is one BAME author who some believe has been ignored

Kiran Millwood-Hargrave is one BAME author who some believe has been ignored

CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) has found itself facing some strong criticism about a lack of diversity, with neither the institute's Carnegie or Kate Greenaway Medal longlists featuring a single BAME author.

The Carnegie medal is awarded to an "outstanding" book written in English for children and young people, and the Kate Greenaway Medal recognises "distinguished illustration" in a book for children. The longlists for both awards are 20 nominees long, and despite a clear depth of talent neither features a title by an author of Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic identity.

We gave out a "wow" when we heard, and it's news which has been met with a strong response from some quarters of the book industry. That despite CILIP stating it: "acknowledges and respects the concerns expressed", and assuring all titles were "judged on merit and on an equal playing field".

It's a sentiment refuted by Jhalak Prize co-creator Sunny Singh, who took to Twitter to make her own feelings known: 

Those sentiments were echoed by Jhalak co-creator Nikesh Shukla, who revealed his sadness about CILIP's statement. He added: "An equal playing field happens when no one has any cause or suspicion to note the lack of diversity. An equal playing field happens when more than a handful of authors from marginalised backgrounds gets published."

It's hard to argue, and it's hard to argue further still with a series of tweets Ms Singh referred to - by Sarah Shaffi (online editor of The Bookseller). Ms Shaffi, we think, offers an excellent tear-down of the elements for concern, with the first tweet in the series highlighted below. Still, we recommend clicking through to read those that follow:

Finally we just want to pick up on the idea of 'ignorance', because one of the books that was ignored was The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood-Hargrave. Ms Millwood-Hargrave's book has already been selected for the shortlists of this year's Jhalak Prize and Waterstones Children's Book Prize. It's clear then that in general terms The Girl of Ink and Stars isn't being ignored outright. That title may have been ignored by CILIP, but we wouldn't dare suggest that one book by one author should be on every shortlist. It's not completely surprising it isn't.

What we are completely surprised by - astonished really - is that of two 20-strong lists (a combined 40 nominees) there is not any book by a BAME author. That represents...well, zero representation, and it feels, looks, and even sounds odd to us; just as we're sure it will to many authors (and aspiring authors) across the UK. 

(The full longlists can be found here).

WCBP17 and some unseen dynamics

We were going to write a by-the-numbers news story today; one about the shortlist being announced for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2017. We could do that, and it would go something like "the shortlist for Watersones Children's Book Prize has been announced!" And it would be true excitement because we loved books as a child, children's books are great, books are great, but books for young'uns are a little extra special in some ways.

In any case, the shortlist has been announced and we send our hearty and genuine congratulations to all those on it. They're actually listed nicely on Waterstones website, here. We'll list them below just because we enjoy typing their marvellous titles, but if this bores you a little rejoin us after the list (or, seriously, click here and check them out - aren't they some beautiful looking books?).

Ahem, the books:

  • Super San - Matt Robertson
  • The Journey - Francesca Sanna
  • The Bear Who Stared - Duncan Beedie
  • There's a Tiger in the Garden - Lizzy Stewart
  • Tiger in a Tutu - Fabi Santiago
  • Life is magic - Meg McLaren
  • Wolf Hollow - Lauren Wolk
  • Bettle Boy - M.G Leonard
  • Time Travelling with a Hamster - Ross Welford
  • The Girl of Ink & Stars - Kiran Millwood-Hargrave
  • Cogheart - Peter Bunzl
  • Captain Pug - Laura James
  • Hour of the Bees - Lindsay Eagar
  • Anna and the Swallow Man - Gavriel Savit
  • The Wildings - Nilanja Roy
  • Orangeboy - Patrice Lawrence
  • Paper Butterflies - Lisa Heathfield
  • The Sun is Also a Star - Nicola Yoon.

Okay, so there are five things are jumping out at us here. 

  1. Are those just some marvellous titles? They just make us so happy. They're bloomin' great!
  2. Excellent selection of animal-based tales, authors. Good stuff.
  3. Several books involving flying things. Flying things are awesome. 
  4. The Sun is Also a Star may be the best, science-related title ever to sneak onto a children's book.
  5. As shortlists go, it's not the shortest - but the more the better as far as we're concerned.

Another thing to notice is that it's been quite a week for Kiran Millwood-Hargrave. As well as a place on this shortlist, earlier this week the author also found a place on the shortlist for the Jhalak Prize. Well done, Ms Millwood Hargrave. Back to the list and it's nice to see such a strong selection of books from professional, creative, authors. We're referring to them as 'professionals' specifically, because of this piece on the website of the Guardian and the reported effects of celebrity authors. Celebrities writing books is hardly a new phenomenon, but the last few years have seen the idea diffuse in new waters with the rise of YouTubers and - specifically, for the purposes of this post - celebrity writers of childrens' books. 

We recommend the article, and can understand the concerns being raised. We suppose our thoughts are that there's nothing wrong with celebrity-written books if buyers (including ourselves) can support professional writers as much as possible. After all, book deals are based on appeal. Also, a bit like independent bookstores, professional writers presumably chose their profession for the love. But they are professionals and are invariably ruddy good at what they do. If the support that keeps the doors open falters - as it seems may sadly be the case for some authors - talent is unused and terrific tales are lost. 

Perhaps we're speaking to publishers more, being that they're in the position of power here. But really, we'll be sure to consider all these elements when next we pick up a title. As for the Waterstones Childrens' Book Prize, good luck to Watersontes for running it, and to all on the list for this year. More when we have it of course!

Jhalak Prize shortlist (and reactions)

Nikesh Shukla and Sunny Singh are the creators of the Jhalak Prize

Nikesh Shukla and Sunny Singh are the creators of the Jhalak Prize

The shortlist for the inaugural Jhalak Prize has been announced. What is the Jhalak prize? In its inaugural year, the Jhalak Prize aims to recognise the best books (and ultimately book) of the year written by a British or British-resident BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic) author. The winner of the prize receives the accolade along with a £1,000 prize. For this first year the books and authors on the shortlist are.

The Girl Of Ink & Stars - Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Chicken House)
A Rising Man - Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
Speak Gigantular - Irenosen Okojie (Jacaranda)
Black And British: A Forgotten History - David Olusoga (Macmillan)
The Bone Readers - Jacob Ross (Peepal Tree Press)
Another Day In The Death Of America - Gary Younge (Faber)

We will of course be posting when the winner is announced, but for now we'll leave you with some of the authors responses, including one from a new-to-Twitter Jacob Ross, and one by Gary Younge which seems to link to some other website. Not sure what that is...

Another Day in the Death of America

'The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales' wins Polari First Book prize

Kirsty Logan's The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales has won the Polari First Book prize. The annual award selects the 'very best debut books that explore the LGBT experience', and selects an overall winner from a shortlist of five titles. Logan's The Rental Heart... is described by publisher Salt Publishing thus:

Read More

New Man Booker International Prize - more great translations?

The Man Booker International Prize is to merge with the Foreign Fiction Prize, in what seems to be a second democratic prize-based story of the day. The merger sees the Man Booker International keep it's name, but be awarded annually rather than every other year from 2016.

Not only will this mean greater continuity for the award, but it also ensures a regular tribute to brilliant translated work, and a constant reminder of how much...just isn't translated.

The £50,000 award for the winning title is to take on the marvellous sensibilities of the Foreign Fiction Prize, being shared equally between both the author and translator. Shortlisted authors and translators will also receive £1,000 each, and to us that seems like a sensible bit of parity and a fine merging of ideals.

Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the Man Booker International Prize, has a goal in mind than simply shared monies though, telling The Bookseller, "What we are hoping is that this prize is going to encourage publishers to get more work translated and get more work published in Britain".

A mere 3% of the titles published in the UK and America on a yearly basis are translated. About that, and the merger itself, Jonathan Taylor, chair of the Man Booker Foundation, has said:

One of the persistent observations of Man Booker International Prize judges has been that a substantial body of important literary fiction has not been translated into English. We very much hope that this reconfiguration of the prize will encourage a greater interest and investment in translation.

We hope so too. Greater amounts of great fiction being read by a wider audience can only be positive. What's more, after the revelation today that Caine Prize winner Namwali Serpell wants to share her prize money, the story has left us feeling even more positive about the book industry. There seems a clear movement towards knowledge, entertainment, credit, and more books for all.

Something we certainly support.


The 2015 Man Booker International Prize was won by László Krasznahorkai.

Foyles's selection of his works is here.

Or shop locally with Hive here.

Namwali Serpell wins Caine Prize - shares sum

Congratulations to Zambian writer Namwali Serpell, who has won the Caine Prize - awarded annually to an outstanding African short story author writing in English. Serpell's story, The Sack, was selected from a shortlist of six stories as "a truly luminous winner", yet Serpell wasn't content to simply accept the award and the attached prize of £10,000 for herself.

At the Bodleian Library, Oxford, event last night, Serpell vowed to share the sum with her fellow shortlisted writers, each of whom formally receive £500.

Chair of judges Zoë Wicomb says The Sack, in which two men who live together love the same woman, "yields fresh meaning with every reading. Adding that it is, "stunning, haunting and enigmatic."

But while the praise is well-deserved, Serpell clearly feels the award should be better spread.

Speaking to the BBC, the author told that her decision to share the prize awarded was "an act of mutiny", clearly intended to highlight the community support of authors over elevation of individuals.

Something which, as Ms Serpell clearly feels in a position to do, we can only praise her for.

I wanted to change the structure of the prize. It is very awkward to be placed into this position of competition with other writers that you respect immensely and you feel yourself put into a sort of American idol or race-horse situation when actually, you all want to support each other."

Frankly, we say bravo, and have nothing but respect for that!

The Caine Prize powers-that-be have marvellously made The Sack available to read just here (it's a powerful 13 pages). And below you'll find details of the shortlisted runners up.



  • Segun Afolabi (Nigeria) for “The Folded Leaf” in Wasafiri (Wasafiri, London, 2014) Caine Prize winner 2005 for “Monday Morning” Read "The Folded Leaf"
  • Elnathan John (Nigeria) for “Flying” in Per Contra (Per Contra, International, 2014) Shortlisted in 2013 for “Bayan Layi”Read "Flying"
  • F. T. Kola (South Africa) for “A Party for the Colonel” in One Story (One Story, inc. Brooklyn, New York City, 2014) Read "A Party for the Colonel"
  • Masande Ntshanga (South Africa) for “Space” in Twenty in 20 (Times Media, South Africa, 2014) Read "Space".

Henry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' wins Ackerley prize

Dr. Henry Marsh's Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery has won the 2015 PEN Ackerley prize. It's a bit of news well-received here at W&M HQ. We're big fans of the book and its frank, insightful and beautifully written stories are excellently told - especially by a man who's hands are better used to intricate surgeries, not stanzas.

Intricacy certainly isn't missing from Do No Harm, and the award is proof enough of that! Making the award announcement, judge chair Peter Parker noted:

Several widely praise and heavily garlanded autobiographies were published in 2014, but the PEN Ackerley judges felt that few of these delivered on their promise. Henry Marsh's Do No Harm was, outstandingly, one that did…beautifully written, recklessly honest and morally complex.

Marsh writes superbly about the intricacies of the human body, about the sometimes conflicting impulses of professional ambition and human need, and about the difficulty of talking honestly to patients and their families in times of medical crisis. These ‘Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery’ present a compelling argument about the moral dimension of surgical intervention and build to a touching and rueful self-portrait.

On receiving the award, Dr Marsh told it was "very pleasing indeed to get this particular prize". Congratulations Doctor, very well-deserved indeed!


The Ackerley prize celebrates autobiography and memoir, and is named for JR Ackerley, the former literary editor of The Listener magazine. It is awarded by the (awesome) English PEN.

IBW 2015 Book Awards and more

Today marks the start of Independent Bookshop Week (IBW), and the IBW 2015 Book Award winners will feature in promotional and display materials. Three winners make up the list, and were selected by a panel of authors, sellers and journalists from shortlists of ten (Adult) and twelve (both Children's categories). The titles are:

- Adult category - The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa — a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants — life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

- Children's category - An Island of our Own by Sally Nicholls:

Siblings Jonathan, Holly and Davy have been struggling to survive since the death of their mother, and are determined to avoid being taken into care. When the family's wealthy but eccentric Great-Aunt Irene has a stroke, they go to visit her. Unable to speak or write, she gives Holly some photographs that might lead them to an inheritance that could solve all their problems. But they're not the only ones after the treasure...

- Children's Picture Book category - A Walk In Paris by Salvatore Rubbino:

Vive la France! Join a girl and her grandfather on a walking tour through Paris. Follow them as they climb to the top of Notre Dame — formidable! — sample tasty treats at bistros and pâtisseries — délicieux! — and take in a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower — magnifique! Young Francophiles and armchair travelers will be charmed by Salvatore Rubbino’s lively, sophisticated llustrations and fascinating trivia about this beloved city.

Which is great; nothing like some well-deserved awards to help promotion of the week long celebration of independent sellers. But really, it's nothing unless we take time out to visit those without the chain flag flying, chat, browse and enjoy.

Honestly, independent bookshops can be a home from home for passionate bibliophiles, and IBW seeks to prove just that. We'll certainly be taking a trip to our local shop, and sharing our experiences.

Should you wish to do the same and need to find your local indie, here's a tool to do just that.

Should you want to find out who was shortlisted for the awards, that can be found here.

And, finally, should you want to have your mind blown by a writer or work you've never experienced before...get out to your local indie and ask for a recommendation.

Good hunting!

Chris Riddell, children's laureate - and why it matters

Tuesday saw the crowning of a new Children's Laureate. The position, which we think deserves our capitalisation (others seem to disagree), is one worth highlighting. Equally so too is the new holder of the role.

What is the children's laureate?

Of course the poet laureate comes to mind, and it's not far off. It's similar, except with a brief for promoting excellence in writing or illustration of children's books. Illustration is particularly significant this time around.

The role was conjured up by former poet laureaute Ted Hughes and children's writer Michael Morpurgo. The aim was to honour and highlight excellence in the field, inspire others, and is managed by the Book Trust, with support (mainly) from Waterstones.

Who is it?

The Doodler! Or perhaps, illustrator and writer Chris Riddell. Whoever is the true recipient of the honour, they receive £20,000 and an inscribed medal as they take over from Malorie Blackman. The Doodler/Chris is the ninth children's laureate, and is already scribbling about his experiences on his Facebook page.

Should you know him?

Probably moreso if you've children - or you're a child yourself. Chris is behind the much-loved Goth Girl series of books, which are well worth a look. He holds the the British librarians' annual award for the best-illustrated children's book, and has won two Kate Greenaway medals for "distinguished illustration".

So there you have it - the new Children's Laureate is a man who wields his pen and pencils wonderfully. The Doodler! Chris Riddell! For the good of children's books.

Good luck to him. For his two year tenure and beyond.