A book which aims to reacquaint children with “lost words” like acorn and bluebell has scooped a major prize.
Jackie Morris won the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, which is awarded for distinguished illustration in a book for young readers, for The Lost Words.
The book began as a response to the removal of words such as kingfisher, wren, acorn and bluebell from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, because children were not using them enough.
The Lost Words has since been dubbed an “instant classic”, with actress Dame Emma Thompson reading an extract during the Extinction Rebellion protests in London.
Morris told the Press Association that it was refreshing to see an illustrator honoured.
“If you Google The Lost Words, you can see how many times it’s described as Robert Macfarlane’s book,” she said of the author who wrote the “spells” which accompany the illustrations.
“It’s slightly irritating. It’s not his fault. It’s just how images are perceived in a literate society. Images are seen as second to words…
“When children are very small they have picture books and then you hear it in shops.
“They really love picture books but their parents go ‘It’s much too young for you. There are not many words in that’ and they won’t give them that sheer joy of just reading the pictures.
“Kids are fantastic at visual literacy.”
The illustrator criticised publishers for heavily discounting popular books.
“As a working-class illustrator, it’s becoming increasingly hard to make a living,” she said.
“When you see books being discounted it’s almost like saying ‘I know you’ve worked really hard for the last two years but you’re going to earn half of what you thought you were because we cut the price of your books by 50%’.
“The way to make books available to everybody is through libraries.
“Discounting has a detrimental effect on diversity in publishing because it undermines illustrators’ and authors’ incomes to the point where it is really hard to make a living.”
She said she hoped the book would reacquaint children and adults with the natural world.
“If you don’t know what a bluebell is, how are you going to fight a developer wanting to build on a bluebell wood?
“I went into schools and said ‘Who here knows what a wren is?’ Not one child put their hand up, they didn’t even know it was a bird.”
In her acceptance speech she criticised politicians for “finding money always for bombs and seldom for books”.
The ceremony also saw Elizabeth Acevedo, a slam poetry champion, win the CILIP Carnegie Medal, awarded to a writer for an outstanding book for children, for her debut novel, The Poet X.
The Dominican-US author’s story sees a young girl in Harlem discover slam poetry and explores issues of identity, freedom and first love.
The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are the UK’s oldest awards for children’s books.