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Double US win in prestigious Carnegie and Kate Greenaway book awards

Ruta Sepetys takes the Carnegie Medal for her book about a Second World War disaster; while illustrator Lane Smith scoops the Kate Greenaway Medal

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Ruta Sepetys takes the Carnegie Medal for her book about a Second World War disaster; while illustrator Lane Smith scoops the Kate Greenaway Medal

The author of a children's book about the wartime sinking of a German ship carrying 10,000 people, mainly refugees, has won the prestigious Carnegie Medal.

The Carnegie Medal, now in its 80th year, is awarded for outstanding writing for children and young people.

Ruta Sepetys, 49, an American author, won the award for Salt to the Sea, her story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff by a Soviet submarine in 1945. Her interest in the incident began when she discovered that her father’s cousin should have been on the boat but missed boarding time, saving his life.

The book has been described as “fantastic and unique” by pupils at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in Shepherd’s Bush, West London, writing a Tes class book review earlier this year.

The winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration, which has its 60th anniversary this year, was also announced today. Lane Smith, 57, was honoured for There is a Tribe of Kids, a book about collective nouns and the importance of play and exploration. Smith, who is based in Connecticut, was given the American Society of Illustrators' lifetime achievement award in 2014.

The ceremony for both awards took place at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London today. It is the first time that both winners have been from the US. 

'Helping children to understand the world'

Previous winners of the Carnegie Medal include CS Lewis, Neil Gaiman, Phillip Pullman and Sally Gardner. Previous winners of the Kate Greenaway Medal include Shirley Hughes, Raymond Briggs and Quentin Blake.

The awards are sponsored by CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.

"The books that have triumphed demonstrate the vitally important role literature and illustration play in helping children and young people to understand the world around them, be that through a historical lens or through the natural world around them," said Tricia Adams, chair of the 2017 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel.

Last year, the Carnegie Medal went to Sarah Crossan for her book One about conjoined twins, while the Kate Greenaway Medal was given to Chris Riddell, the then children’s laureate, for his illustrations of Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle. Mr Riddell was the first person to win either of the medals for a third time.

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