Elizabeth Acevedo’s bestselling debut novel The Poet X has already won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Pura Belpré Award. Today she took home the UK’s most prestigious award for children’s literature, becoming the first writer of color to do so in the award’s 83-year history.
The Carnegie medal is the UK’s oldest award for achievements in children’s literature. Awarded annually by children’s librarians, one medal is given for writing and the other to literature (the latter prize went to Jackie Morris for The Lost Words). Past winners have included Terry Pratchett, C.S. Lewis, and Neil Gaiman.
The Poet X is a novel told in verse and follows Xiomara Batista, a Harlem teen who feels both “unheard and unable to hide” in her community and finds solace in poetry. “The force and intensity behind [Acevedo’s] words practically pushes them off the page, resulting in a verse novel that is felt as much as it is heard. This is a book from the heart, and for the heart,” writes the New York Times Book Review. In a starred review, Kirkus calls it “poignant and real, beautiful and intense.” (Acevedo’s second novel, With the Fire on High, was released in early May and also earned raves from critics, netting starred reviews from Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist.)
Besides The Poet X, the shortlist for the 2019 Carnegie medal featured two other novels written in verse: Kwame Alexander’s Rebound and Jason Reynolds’ Long Way Down. Other shortlisted titles included Sally Nicholls’ Things A Bright Girl Can Do, Sophie Anderson’s The House With Chicken Legs, Candy Gourlay’s Bone Talk, Francis Hardinge’s A Skinful of Shadows, and Kate Saunders’ The Land of Neverendings.