Graphic novel wins Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal for first time 50 years

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American graphic novelist Danica Novgorodoff has won the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal for her illustrated edition of Jason Reynold’s 2019 book Long Way Down – the first graphic novel to win in 50 years.

The winners of the Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards – the UK’s longest-running book awards for children and young people – were announced during a ceremony at The British Library.

Author Katya Balen’s novel October, October scooped the Yoto Carnegie Medal. Her debut novel The Space We’re In was longlisted in 2019.

October, October follows a girl who must learn to spread her wings after a childhood spent living in the woods changes dramatically when she reaches the age of 11.

The story was reportedly inspired by Balen’s father-in-law who lives off grid.

Novgorodoff’s graphic novel was awarded the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal, making it the first graphic novel to win since Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas in 1973.

Long Way Down is Novgorodoff’s debut children’s book published in the UK and is an adaptation of the original verse novel of gun violence and grief written by 2021 Yoto Carnegie Medal winner Reynolds.

The book features watercolours depicting the decisions that 15-year-old Will must make after his brother is shot.

Novgorodoff said: “I am honoured and humbled to receive the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal.

“Working on Long Way Down, interpreting Jason Reynolds’ beautiful text into images, was a dream project for me and its own reward, but I am thrilled to find that the graphic novel has resonated with readers as well.”

Balen’s October, October achieved further success after it also scooped the Shadowers’ Choice Award for the Yoto Carnegie Medal, as voted for by young people across the UK and internationally.

Balen said: “I am so thrilled to have won the Yoto Carnegie Medal, not only because it’s the award every children’s writer dreams about, but because it is so committed to promoting reading and sharing stories. Sharing stories is something I believe to be one of the most important parts of our lives, simply because stories are our lives.

“They are threads that connect us all. They make us understand, they give us a shared experience, and they give us something special and private too. They give us wild freedom and they give us safety and comfort.”

The Midnight Fair, illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio and written by Gideon Sterer, was announced as the winner of the Shadowers’ Choice Award for the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal.

The wordless picture book uncovers the secret life of animals who gather in a fairground at night.

The winners were revealed in a ceremony held in person at The British Library for the first time since 2019 and hosted by poet and novelist Dean Atta, and featured chair of judges, librarian Jennifer Horan, alongside a selection of the young people who officially shadowed the 2022 awards.

Katya Balen was awarded the Yoto Carnegie Medal for her novel October, October (Tom Pilston/PA)
Katya Balen was awarded the Yoto Carnegie Medal for her novel October, October (Tom Pilston/PA)

The awards celebrate outstanding achievement in children’s writing and illustration respectively and aim to inspire a new generation of readers.

Horan said: “I am delighted to share this year’s Yoto Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal winners, both of which provide outstanding reading experiences for young people.

“October, October by Katya Balen is a captivating story featuring exquisite descriptions of the natural world and relationships that develop and heal. It is an expertly written, beautiful and lyrical novel alive with wonder and curiosity.

“Long Way Down, illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff, is a brilliant, innovative adaptation of the novel by Jason Reynolds.

“It uses stunning watercolour to powerfully portray the tragedy of gun violence and the emotional impact it has on young people’s lives.”

The winners each receive £500 worth of books to donate to a local library of their choice, a specially commissioned golden medal and a £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize.

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