CILIP Kate Greenaway medal shortlist announced

Published on: 19 March 2020 Author: Jake Hope

CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal judge Jake Hope takes us through this year's shortlist, and explains why they were nominated.

The CILIP Kate Greenaway medal is awarded to a book that creates an outstanding visual reading experience through illustration.

They are named after Kate Greenaway, a Victorian illustrator whose work for children gained widespread acclaim. The fusion between words and pictures in illustrated texts creates a special dynamism and an accessible and enaging reading experience. Here we explore the 2020 shortlist as selected by our fourteen judges from across all areas of the United Kingdom.

Environment plays an integral role in each of the books, sometimes this is geographic, other times social and at many points is influenced by attitudes and preoccupations of the time. Each book provides insight into immersive worlds.

The Undefeated book cover

The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson 

Power and poignancy ring out both through Kadir Nelson's illustrations and Kwame Alexander's verse which documents both spoken and unspoken moments of Black History in ‘The Undefeated’. There’s a vigour behind the hyper-realistic illustration which, combined with their photorealism makes them feel almost confrontational in their urgency. Stunning artwork with a sense of hope combines with a punchy text that begs to be read, or performed, aloud.

Read our review

Book cover of The Dam

The Dam, by David Almond and Levi Pinfold

History and geography converge in ‘The Dam,’ the story of Kielder Water, the largest artificial lake in the UK created through flooding after the building of a dam. Levi Pinfold's impressively expansive illustration match the spare nature of David Almond's text. A visual feast that captures some of the melancholy of loss but that balances this through its celebration of creativity and its detailed exploration of fragile flora and fauna.

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You're Snug With Me book cover

You're Snug With Me, by Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry

The natural world is also evoked central in the hugely successful union between words and pictures created by illustrator Poonam Mistry in her artistic response to Chitra Soundar’s text for ‘You’re Snug With Me’. The illustrations are inspired by Indian folk art and create a rich visual tapestry. Amidst the snow and ice of the North, two polar bear cubs are born and are taught about their new world by their mother. Mandala inspired illustrations, cleverly evoke warmth and feelings of love and subtly allude to climate change in this book which invites careful observation and exploration.

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Mary and Frankenstein book cover

Mary and Frankenstein, by Linda Bailey and Julia Sarda

Close inspection is also rewarded in the informative and atmospheric ‘Mary and Frankenstein’ which explores the origins of Mary Shelley’s story and its Gothic sensibilities. The limited sombre palette is used to great effect by illustrator Julia Sarda and accomplished use of perspective and tone blurs the lines between reality and fantasy and makes comment around the boundless nature of human invention and imagination.

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The Iron Man book cover illustrated by Chris MouldThe Iron Man, by Ted Hughes - edition illustrated by Chris Mould

Size and scale create an epic reimagining with Chris Mould's punchy illustrations which add new dimensions to Ted Hughes story of the devastation wreaked by ‘The Iron Man’. Drawing upon conventions of the graphic novel and use of a controlled palette alluding to earthiness and metallic tones help make the story accessible to new audiences and capture the awe-inspiring nature of this timeless tale.

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Tales from the Inner City by Shaun TanTales from the Inner City, by Shaun Tan 

Union between text and illustration is embraced in Shaun Tan's 'Tales from the Inner City' which explores the relationship between human and the animal worlds. This is achieved so naturally that in places it feels as natural as a conversation whilst in others is startling in its contrast. Illustrations stimulate a vast range of moods ranging from the funny, surreal to the tender.





The Suitcase book coverThe Suitcase, by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

The white space of the page is used to great effect in Chris Naylor-Ballesteros minimal tale, ‘The Suitcase’. The weariness of the traveller leaps from the page in this clever allegory about new beginnings and the burden the past can present. A powerful message about the dehumanisation of refugees is communicated through a deceptively simple style which creates a lasting impact on readers and utilises considered use of colour in both text and illustration.


Child of St Kilda book coverChild of St Kilda by Beth Waters

Combining informative text about one of the last children born on St Kilda prior to its evacuation with monoprint illustrations. History is brought to life in ‘Child of St Kilda’ by Beth Waters. The stark atmosphere of a wind and sea swept existence is placed in contrast with the warmth and cosy closeness of the community.

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Having been selected by the fourteen judges who comprise the selection panel for this year’s award, the books are now subject to further close reading and inspection not only by each of the judges, but also by children and young people the length and breadth of the country – and further afield too – as they start considering which book they feel is most worth of being the Shadowers’ Choice for 2020. To find out more about shadowing and to get involved visit

Topics: Features

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