Translation and the Yoto Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals

By Jake Hope

The Yoto Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are the UK’s oldest and most prestigious children’s books. Established in 1936, the Carnegie Medal is awarded to a book for children or young people which creates an outstanding reading experience through writing. The Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955 and is awarded to a book which creates an outstanding reading experience through illustration. The awards were partly set up to lobby for increased quality and standards in publishing for children. A review of children’s literature published by the Library Association in 1932 described the field as having ‘A few admirable books submerged in an ocean of terrible trash.’

Since their inception, there have been numerous changes and evolutions to how the awards run. This feels an important way to help keep them relevant and to ensure they are responsive to the shifts in the society and culture that they exist within.

Changes have included a new eligibility criterion to enable books published in English from other countries to be considered if they were published within the UK too. Enabling winners to win on more than one occasion was another change. And in the 1990s, a shadowing scheme was established to enable children and young people to read the shortlisted books and to decide for themselves which they felt best met the criteria that the judges use to guide their critical thinking and discussions.

In 2015, the eligibility criteria were altered to enable books in translation to be considered for the awards. Joy Court, Chair of the Working Party 2013 – 2018 who introduced the change, explains the reasons for the changes.

 “As awareness of world literature in translation has risen within both the book trade and amongst the wider public, it feels absolutely right that, as a globally recognised award, the CILIP Carnegie Medal should reflect this. At CILIP, we believe that this clarification of the eligibility criteria will maintain and strengthen the reputation for our two Medals as recognising the most outstanding writing and illustration for children and young people in the world.”       

At CILIP we have been pleased to feature blogs by translators of shortlisted titles and to include translators in events like our Twitter takeover and in webinars we have run. We are keen to showcase the expertise of translators and the importance of having books from other cultures available in the UK to help to expand and enrich the experiences of children and young people and are delighted that works in translation can now be considered for both awards and it is exciting to wonder where in the world the awards will now take us!

Wild Animals of the North           

Illustrated and written by Dieter Braun
Translated by Jen Calleja
Translated from German [Germany]
Published by Flying Eye Books

This became the first ever book in translation to be shortlisted for the medal when it was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway in 2017. Judges described it as ‘A gorgeously illustrated study of the Northern Hemisphere’s wild animals.’

Lampie

Written and illustrated by Annet Schaap
Translated by Laura Watkinson
Translated from Dutch [ The Netherlands]
Published by Pushkin Press

This became the first book in translation to be shortlisted for the Carnegie medal. ‘Every evening Lampie the lighthouse keeper’s daughter must light a lantern to warn ships away from the rocks, but one stormy night disaster strikes. The lantern goes out, a ship is wrecked, and an adventure begins.’

The Bird within Me        

Illustrated and written by Sara Lundberg
Translated by B J Epstein
Translated from Swedish [Sweden]
Published by Book Island Books

This was shortlisted for the 2021 Kate Greenaway medal. ‘Berta is a young girl with an artistic soul growing up on a farm in the Swedish countryside at the beginning of the 20th Century. Her father doesn’t understand her, and her mother is dying.  Berta longs to be an artist and cannot stay on the farm forever.’

Meet Jake Hope

Jake Hope is a reading development and children’s book consultant and is the current Chair of the YOTO Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals Working Party. He loves working reading, reviewing (and occasionally writing), children’s books. When he was little he was enchanted by stories and always hoped to work with them. Jake’s favourite word in a foreign language is Waldeinsamkeit which is German for the feeling of connectedness when alone in the forest. If Jake could travel anywhere in the world, he would love to go to the Faroe Islands, which seem very wild and unspoiled.