Danica Novgorodoff’s ‘innovative’ graphic novel adaptation of Jason Reynolds’ novel Long Way Down has won the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal, making it the first graphic novel to win the illustration award since Raymond’s Santa Claus. Briggs in 1973.
Meanwhile, Katya Balen won the Yoto Carnegie Medal, which celebrates outstanding achievement in children’s writing. The “expertly written” October, October was inspired by Balen’s stepfather, who lives off the grid.
Novgorodoff, a writer, graphic designer and horse trainer from Kentucky, has created a number of graphic novels, but Long Way Down was her first children’s book published in the UK.
The illustrator said that although it deals with the “heavy” subject of gun violence, she hopes her victory will mean more people can connect with the book. “I think it’s important to open up the conversation about gun violence and the fact that it’s people of color who are most affected by it, and that the United States is really failing to address many of them. many root causes of the violence that victimizes blacks and browns. people,” she said.
After 20 years of creating graphic novels, Novgorodoff added that it’s “validating to win this award and to understand that readers have connected with this particular book and graphic novels in general.”
Reynolds’ original book, published in 2017, is about Will, who gets into an elevator with a gun to exact revenge after his brother is shot in a gang crime. As the elevator descends, Will is joined by friends he lost to a shooting, prompting him to ask if he really knows what he’s doing.
The graphic novel version features hundreds of watercolor illustrations by Novgorodoff. The judges said they were “blown away” by the “powerful and immersive illustrations” and said that “the union of stark reality with the delicacy of watercolor as an artistic device is startling and breathtaking in its execution”. They thought it was “an amazing book that will stay with the reader long after the last page”.
Novgorodoff said Long Way Down was a book that asked readers “to empathize with a character who plans to harm another person and put his own life in danger, out of grief and revenge.”
“Through the illustrations, I wanted to show that emotional torment, bring her inner feelings to life on the page,” she added. “The book does not preach, but asks readers, how do you feel and what would you do?”
Novgorodoff described graphic novels as “an extraordinary, complex and versatile medium in itself, not simplified versions of ‘real’ books” and a “fascinating way to express emotions and ideas that cannot be expressed in words alone.” “.
October, October, illustrated by Angela Harding, is Balen’s second novel and is about an 11-year-old girl called October who must learn to spread her wings after a childhood spent living wild in the woods.
The author said it was “every children’s writer’s dream” to win the Carnegie, and the prize was a sign that the risk of being a writer was worth it. “I feel like I can keep writing,” she said. “I feel like it validates the risks that I took and my family took to help me do something quite risky.”
The judges called the book “an evocative exploration of what it means to be truly alive and fully human.” October, October also won the Shadowers’ Choice award for its category, voted for by young people in the UK.
Balen, who has spent her career working in SEND schools and is co-director of Mainspring Arts, an organization that runs creative workshops for neurodivergent people, said she believes sharing stories “is one of the most important parts of our lives”.
“In my book, October is saved by stories,” Balen said. “She is isolated, unusual, angry, friendless, lost, out of place, wild. But through stories, she is able to connect to the world around her and the people around her.
Jennifer Horan, president of the judging panel, said the winning titles “provide exceptional reading experiences for young people”.
Both books “contain themes that help young readers develop empathy, providing them with tools to create a better world,” she added. “They offer hope, comfort and fun, and demonstrate the key role that writing and illustration play in children’s development and well-being.”
Novgorodoff and Balen each win £500 worth of books to donate to a library of their choice, a specially commissioned gold medal and a £5,000 Colin Mears Prize.
Novgorodoff’s books will go to the West Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library; it opened in 1905 and was the first library in the United States to be served and operated entirely by African Americans. Balen’s donation will go to London’s South Norwood Library, which was recently threatened with closure.
The winners were announced at a ceremony at the British Library on June 16. Both books are published by independent publishers: Faber’s Long Way Down and Bloomsbury’s October, October.
The winners were chosen from a shortlist of eight books for each prize, by an expert team of volunteer judges, including 14 librarians from CILIP’s Children’s Libraries Group based across the UK.