Words shape our lives

Jake Hope

Jake Hope is the Vice-Chair of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals.  Throughout 2017 to mark the anniversary of the awards, Jake will be blogging about each past winner, exploring their themes and writing.  You can follow these blogs here .  There are opportunities for groups to adopt one of the past winners and read this.  The list of past winners make for fascinating reading with an incredible breadth and range of themes and styles, something to suit all tastes, interests and abilities, find out more and sign up for one of the exciting titles here.


Words shape our lives.  They give definition to who and what we are.  Words lend structure to the experiences and memories that constitute our past.  They build our present through the communication and commitment we have with all that lies around us and they help to determine the paths we make from past and present into our possible futures.  Words are powerful.  They hold the opportunity to bind and to bridge, but also to divide and destroy.  How we use words holds an immeasurable force – that usage links us to past ideas, associations and accrued levels and weight of meaning.  Words flock as flecks and flicks on pages coalescing and grouping to form sentences and stories providing accounts of our experiences and emotions, guiding us, letting us know that we are never alone.

Many of the stories we encounter as children leave a lasting impression on our lives.  Some are carried with us as we grow, develop and make choices about our future.  Parts might challenge or comfort us in our views and decisions.  One thing is certain, the best books change us, often in small and subtle ways, but in ways that nonetheless alter how we think, feel and approach aspects of our lives.  These stories are literally outstanding because they affect us deeply.

Since its inception, the CILIP Carnegie Medal has sought to recognise and reward outstanding literature for children.  In so doing, it has contributed to creating a bedrock of classic titles – stories, characters and ideas that every reader should encounter, that offer a rich reading experience that lasts long after the final page has been turned.  The list of previous winners offers snapshots of particular times and preoccupations, it guides us through ideas of how our concepts and understanding of childhood and maturation has changed and adapted.

Reading through every winner feels an incredible experience, one that sparks myriad memories and thoughts and this is what the best stories do… they connect our ideas joining individual points together and creating a gossamer web of ties and threads that increase our awareness of the awe-inspiring complexity and sophistication of life.

From Arthur Ransome’s  Pigeon Post, the inaugural winner in 1936, through to Sarah Crossan’s One, last year’s winner, the CILIP Carnegie Medal offers outstanding writing and outstanding reading experiences.  Though tomes and tones may differ, these words have pushed boundaries, have innovated, illuminated and inspired.

Being able to explore each title and try to entice new readers to delve into their depths and fathoms feels incredibly exciting and a real journey.  I hope you might be tempted to join me on some of this, to try something different or new and to encourage others to do likewise.  Literature lives when it is not only in the hands of readers, but in their hearts and minds too.  Let’s make this anniversary an exciting one, let’s look forward to this year’s eventual winner when it is announced in June, but most of all let’s rejoice in the words of winners and challenge ourselves to write and speak new words about these…



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