Writer’s final words receive lasting accolade: Siobhan Dowd wins posthumous CILIP Carnegie Medal
Two years after her untimely death from breast cancer at the age of 47, Siobhan Dowd’s fourth and final novel, ‘Bog Child’, has been awarded the UK’s premier accolade for children’s writing: the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2009.
“This is the greatest endorsement of the quality of Siobhan’s writing yet,” comments her editor and publisher, David Fickling, “The CILIP Carnegie Medal has real integrity and is unique amongst literary awards: there is no prize money; it does not reflect the commercial interests of publishers and book-sellers; it does not depend on votes or the celebrity status of the author. Judged by librarians who spend their lives connecting young people to good writing it is the purest recognition of quality writing for children.”
Dowd wrote her fourth and final novel ‘Bog Child’ in Spring 2007, completing it just as Waterstone’s named her one of only three children’s authors amongst their 25 ‘Great Writers of the Future’.
‘Bog Child’ is set in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles. The story opens in 1981 close to the North-South border as teenager Fergus McCann makes an illicit raid to the South to gather peat with his uncle and discovers a child’s body buried in the bogs, perfectly preserved for 2000 years. The child’s history unfolds as Fergus struggles with the normal challenges of being a teenager: his driving test, ‘A’ levels, his ambition to study medicine and first love for the flighty Cora. But this is also a time of war in Northern Ireland and Fergus must deal with exceptional circumstances: his parents arguing over the Troubles, the mounting pressure on him to take sides in a raging sectarian conflict; and a brother on hunger strike in the Maze
“Set against the bleakest of backdrops, ‘Bog Child’ is also profoundly heart warming,” comments Chair of the Judges, Joy Court, “This is thanks to Dowd’s extraordinary ability to illuminate the dark corners of human existence. The reader is drawn totally into Fergus’s world; the turbulence of adolescence is vividly portrayed and equally vividly evoked is the political conflict of the time. Her story is told with great sympathy without ever descending into sentimentality, and there’s a surprising amount of humour too. A truly outstanding novel of great humanity.”
The CILIP Carnegie Medal celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2007. It is the UK’s oldest and most respected award for children’s writing. Over the last seven decades it has come to be regarded as the arbiter of quality in writing for children and young people. Since 1937, the judging panel of children’s librarians which annually selects the shortlist and winning title, has recognised world class writers and frequently spotted fresh talent ahead of the market. Siobhan Dowd joins a roll call of Medal winners that includes many of the greats of 20th and 21st century children’s literature: Eleanor Farjeon, Anne Fine, Elizabeth Goudge, CS Lewis, Mary Norton, Noel Streatfield, Philip Pullman and David Almond to name but a few.
Writers often describe the Carnegie as the one they want to win. Although there is no cash reward, it is thought of as the most prestigious acknowledgement of writing due to its unique judging process. Most of today’s literary and book awards seek submissions from publishers and votes from the public. The CILIP Carnegie Medal’s selection process however, is rooted in the professional expertise of librarians.
The CILIP Carnegie Medal and its sister award, the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, are awarded annually by CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. The 2009 winners were announced at a ceremony at BAFTA, Piccadilly, London on Thursday 25 June.
25 June 2009