Poetry and wordless storytelling celebrated as "epic" and "ambitious" winning stories inspire empathy and imagination in young readers.

The winners of the UK’s longest-running book awards for children and young people, the Yoto Carnegies, were announced today in front of an audience of over 600 children at a live-streamed ceremony at the Cambridge Theatre, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s award-winning Matilda The Musical. The character of Matilda’s beloved librarian Mrs Phelps welcomed the audience to the theatre ahead of the winners being announced.

For the first time, the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing is awarded to a Black British author, and the current Children’s Laureate - Joseph Coelho - for his “beautifully descriptive” novel in verse The Boy Lost in the Maze illustrated by Kate Milner. The story portrays a boy’s journey into manhood and “cleverly integrates” the ancient legacy of the Minotaur with the contemporary journey of a teenager searching for his biological father.

Coelho’s win is a fitting tribute to an award that is uniquely judged by librarians and to his outgoing tenure as Waterstones Children’s Laureate (2022-2024) where he launched the ‘library marathon’ project – a personal mission which saw him visit and join a library in every region of the UK, a total of 213 nationwide, to highlight their importance and show the support they provide to local communities.

The winner of the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration is Aaron Becker for his “beautifully crafted” and “universal” wordless picture book The Tree and the River. Looking at the evolution of human impact on the natural environment through the fate of a lone tree and an enduring river, the timely story gives “a sense of hope”, with Becker’s use of colour to depict the seasons “transformative” and use of light “exceptional.”

The Yoto Carnegies celebrate achievement in children’s writing and illustration and are unique in being judged by an expert panel of children’s and youth librarians, including 12 librarians from CILIP: the library and information association’s Youth Libraries Group. The winning titles were selected from a shortlist of eight books in each category with the judges praising the “timeless storytelling” and “cyclical nature” of the winning author’s and illustrator’s work, allowing them to be “enjoyed in perpetuity”.

Each year thousands of reading groups in schools and libraries in the UK and around the world get involved in the Awards, with children and young people ‘shadowing’ the judging process, debating and choosing their own winners. They have voted for their favourites from this year’s shortlist with Aaron Becker’s The Tree and the River scooping a coveted double win. He adds the Yoto Carnegie Shadowers’ Choice Medal for Illustration to his Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration.

The winner of the Yoto Carnegie Shadowers’ Choice Medal for Writing is announced as Tia Fisher for her powerful debut novel told in verse, Crossing the Line. Based on a true story about teenagers swept up into county lines, this ‘innovative and engaging’ story shows the power of poetry to convey diAicult truths in a way that engages and excites young minds.

Commenting on why they chose Crossing the Line, Emelie from shadowing group KEVICHG said “the verse style fits this book like a glove” with Thomas from Team Berko saying “the verse novel structure works really well to keep the reader excited.” On The Tree and the River, Shadowers loved how the wordless story left it open to interpretation. Emilie from Rebel Readers said “it is like a movement of time and it could be in the past or in the future” and Rapha from Roche Readers added it was “a beautiful book, about growth, life and rebuilding.” Dyslexic reader Alec from BurlingtonBookReaders said it helped him learn about the “cyclical nature of the world.”

The winners were revealed at an in-person ceremony held for the first time at the Cambridge Theatre. Over 600 children enjoyed the ceremony in-person with the event live-streamed and watched by thousands of shadowing groups around the country. The awards were hosted by Manjeet Mann, winner of the 2021 Shadowers’ Choice Medal for Writing for her debut novel, Run, Rebel. Her second novel, The Crossing, was shortlisted for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing in 2022.

Maura Farrelly, Chair of Judges for The Yoto Carnegies 2024, said:The Boy Lost in the Maze is an extraordinary novel told through poems about two boys searching for their fathers. It is a multi-layered immersive read which is playful in its language and construction and is as architectural as the mythical maze itself. The Tree and the River is a beautiful visual narrative of the natural world and the impact of humankind which invites readers to become absorbed in the landscapes. The epic spreads are alive with intricate detail and gorgeous use of light and colour. Both are ambitious and exciting books that inspire the imagination and empower young readers.

Congratulations to our 2024 medal winners and to the Shadowers’ Choice winners. Thank you to all the young readers who took part in the Shadowing programme and to the librarians who continue to support and inspire readers and to champion the best in books for children and young people everywhere.”

Award-winning and bestselling author Joseph Coelho lives in Kent and is currently the Waterstones Children’s Laureate (2022-2024). His debut poetry anthology Werewolf Club Rules won the CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award in 2015. He has also written plays, picture books and non-fiction, with all of his work having an element of performance at its heart.

The judges admired the “unique” and “expertly crafted” story of The Boy Lost in the Maze and described the verse novel as “perfect” and “embroidered with beautifully descriptive language”.

Coelho has had a personal connection with libraries since he was young; his first job was at West Hill Library in Wandsworth, and he later worked in the rare books section at The British Library as an undergraduate. In his role as Children’s Laureate his personal goals included showcasing diversity, celebrating poetry and highlighting the vital role libraries have in inspiring a love of reading in young people. Coelho’s tenure comes to an end in July 2024.

Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing winner, Joseph Coelho, said: “I am absolutely delighted to be the recipient of this year's Carnegie Medal for Writing. The Boy Lost in the Maze is a novel that means a great deal to me and so to have it recognised by the UK's, if not the world's, most prestigious award for children's literature feels particularly special.

During my tenure as Laureate I have had the pleasure of joining a library in every local authority in the UK, meeting librarians and patrons of libraries on buses, in converted flats and in gorgeous Carnegie buildings. The one thing that has been consistent between all libraries has been the passion, skill and creativity of the librarians. Through their essential work they are tackling social isolation, providing access to essential services and of course creating the readers of the future. I feel completely honoured that it is librarians who have deemed The Boy Lost in the Maze as worthy of a Carnegie medal and will forever be grateful to the team at Otter-Barry Books, illustrator Kate Milner and my agent Caroline Sheldon for helping me bring this story to bookshelves and into the hands of readers.”

Aaron Becker is the bestselling American author and illustrator of the wordless picture book trilogy, Journey. His love of travel inspired The Tree and the River and to prepare for the illustrations, he constructed a scale model of the book’s rolling landscape, which he transformed with clay and wood.

Read our earlier features 
Poetry and Picture Books Dominate the 2024 Yoto Carnegies Shortlist 
2024 Yoto Carnegie Longlists Announced
The 2024 Yoto Carnegies Nominations Announced

All three winning titles are LoveReading4Kids Star Books. Click on a book below to buy, read our expert reviews or download an extract.