"Children don't need happy endings" say winners of UK’S most prestigious children's book awards

"Children don't need happy endings" say winners of UK’S most prestigious children's book awards

First published in News

EXETER authors Kevin Brooks and Jon Klassen have been announced as the winners of the 2014 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the awards that authors and illustrators say that they ‘most want to win’.

Speaking at the ceremony – live-streamed for the first time – at the Unicorn Theatre in London, both winners independently argued that children benefit from stories without happy endings.

Brooks was awarded the CILIP Carnegie Medal for The Bunker Diary (Puffin), a fictional diary of a kidnapped boy held hostage in a bunker.

After being rejected for its lack of hope, Brooks struggled for a decade to see his winning teen novel in print. Klassen – the first Canadian to be awarded the prestigious illustration prize – won the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for This is Not My Hat (Walker Books), which sees a thieving fish get his comeuppance. Both books have unusually dark finales.

CILIP Carnegie winner Kevin Brooks, speaking at the ceremony, said: “There is a school of thought that no matter how dark or difficult a novel is, it should contain at least an element of hope. As readers, children – and teens in particular – don’t need to be cossetted with artificial hope that there will always be a happy ending.

They want to be immersed in all aspects of life, not just the easy stuff. They’re not babies, they don’t need to be told not to worry, that everything will be all right in the end, because they’re perfectly aware that in real life things aren’t always all right in the end.

"To be patronizing, condescending towards the reader is, to me, the worst thing a Young Adult fiction author can do.”

The history of The Bunker Diary makes this win particularly special. I knew I could have got the book published years ago if I’d rewritten it – toned it down, changed the ending, explained a lot of unexplained things – but to me that would have meant writing a different book, a book that I didn’t want to write.”

Winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, writer and illustrator Jon Klassen, added: "Winning this award is hugely encouraging. Making a book, you're kind of going out on a limb in the belief that what you think of as a satisfying story is the same as what other people think of as a satisfying story. This doesn't mean everything in the story turns out alright for everybody, but you, as a storyteller, try and make sure it ends the way the story should end. Any audience, children included, take reassurance from that. Storytelling is an act of community, of looking at one another afterward and agreeing that we enjoyed it or not. Whether the story itself portrays happiness or doom, the hope is found when we agree we liked it, and I'm so glad you liked this one."

Both Brooks and Klassen triumphed over illustrious nominees to become first-time winners of the coveted golden medals. Brooks, known for tackling controversial subjects such as drugs, child abuse and violence, has previously been shortlisted three times and was this year up against award-winning authors Katherine Rundell, Rebecca Stead and Anne Fine. Unusually, Klassen was nominated twice for this year’s CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, having also been shortlisted for his illustration work on The Dark, authored by Lemony Snicket. His win for This Is Not My Hat also saw him prevail over books by former Children’s Laureates Michael Morpurgo and Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Olivia Gill and Rebecca Cobb respectively, and Kate Greenaway shortlist stalwart Oliver Jeffers. Klassen was last year shortlisted for I Want My Hat Back, a companion book to This is Not My Hat. His publisher, Walker Books, has also made history, by being the first to have 10 CILIP Kate Greenaway winning titles in their stable.

Brooks and Klassen each receive £500 worth of books to donate to their local library. Klassen, as the winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, is also awarded the £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize.

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