Friday, June 25, 2010

Graveyard Book wins Carnegie for Gaiman

24.06.10 | Caroline Horn in The Bookseller

Neil Gaiman and Freya Blackwood were crowned winners of the 2010 CILIP Carnegie Medal and the 2010 Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration respectively at a joint ceremony at Bafta in London on Thursday.

Gaiman triumphed with The Graveyard Book (Bloomsbury - Allen & Unwin in NZ/Aust)), a novel that was some 25 years in the making, and flew in from the US for the ceremony. Making the journey from Australia, illustrator Freya Blackwood won for Harry & Hopper by Margaret Wild (Scholastic).

The awards are selected by specialist children’s librarians and are regarded as the highest children’s literary awards in the UK.

Gaiman’s novel has already scooped the Newbury Medal in the US; he is the first author to achieve both awards. However, the author admits that he nearly abandoned his idea for the book several times.

He said: “The idea of The Graveyard Book, where a baby wanders into a graveyard and is adopted by ghosts, first came to me when I was a young father. I took my son to ride his tricycle in a graveyard across the road from our house and he looked so comfortable playing in the graveyard that the idea started to take shape.”

Gaiman also took inspiration from The Jungle Book in which a young child is adopted by an alien community. However, he said: “At that stage I thought the idea was a much better idea than I was a writer so I decided I would wait to write it.”

He made several visits to graveyards and wrote—and abandoned—several chapters. It was not until his daughter asked him to complete the book that he decided to finish it.
Having done so, Gaiman said he took an unusual pride in this book. “Normally I have a book in my head and when I write it, I am trying to catch the Platonic ideal of that book—but it always seems like such a sad failure.” In this case, he said: “The book in my head was really good but the one I wrote somehow managed to be better.
“I realised I had written a book about life and childhood and the value of childhood, but it is also a book about the tragedy of parenting because if you do well as a parent, your child will grow up and leave you

Bloomsbury published two versions of the book, one for children and another for adults. The children’s version is illustrated by Chris Riddell and it was also shortlisted for this year’s Greenaway Medal, the first time that a book has appeared on both shortlists for 30 years. Dave McKean illustrated the adult edition.

Gaiman said: “Illustration adds another dimension to a story. If it is done well, the illustration becomes indivisible from the text in a magical and special way.”

And I love this quote from him:
"For my seventh birthday I was given a boxed set of the Narnia Books by CS Lewis. The last of them, 'The Last Battle' had the words 'Winner of the Carnegie Medal' on it. I did not know what the Carnegie Medal was, but I knew it was something important. It was the first literary award I had ever heard of. And if the Narnia books had won it, then it had to be the most important literary award there ever was. Somewhere deep inside me, but not too deep, a seven-year old version of me is amazed and delighted that he's written a book that was given the most important literary award there ever was. And nothing you can say about Bookers or Nobels or Pulitzers will convince him otherwise."

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