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Winning author's plea over schools

Published 22/06/2015

Tanya Landman called for more support for schools and libraries
Tanya Landman called for more support for schools and libraries

The newly crowned winner of a prestigious children's book prize has criticised the Government for "squeezing every scrap of imagination out of our children" through the national curriculum.

Tanya Landman, 52, has been named winner of this year's CILIP Carnegie Medal, the UK's oldest children's book award, for Buffalo Soldier.

Her book is inspired by the true story of former African-American slave Cathy Williams, who disguised herself as a man to enlist in the US army and who managed to fool the authorities for three years before her true identity was discovered.

Landman used her winner's speech at a ceremony at the British Library to call for schools and libraries to receive more support.

"I've watched teachers tied in straitjackets by the demands of the national curriculum and Ofsted, and students imprisoned in boxes that need to be ticked," she said.

"At a time when China is looking for ways to teach their children to create and innovate, we seem to be heading in the opposite direction. Our system is in danger of squeezing every scrap of imagination out of our children."

She added: "In a healthy, affluent society, access to books should be freely available to everyone.

"So why on earth are our libraries under threat? Is it because they (politicians) are arrogant? Stupid? Or is a population that is disengaged, uninterested and apathetic easier to manage and control?"

Debut author and illustrator William Grill, 25, who suffers from dyslexia, won the Kate Greenaway Medal, for an outstanding illustrated book for children.

He used the "retro medium" of coloured pencils to "bring to life the vastness of the Antarctic environment" in Shackleton's Journey, an account of Ernest Shackleton's epic crossing.

He beat the newly crowned Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell, to the title and becomes the youngest winner in over 50 years.

Previous winners of the medals, judged by librarians across the UK, include Arthur Ransome, CS Lewis, Terry Pratchett, Raymond Briggs, Janet Ahlberg and Quentin Blake.

Agnes Guyon, chair of this year's CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel, said: "These books push boundaries, from ... often harrowing experiences in Buffalo Soldier, to the brutal landscapes and innovative colours of Shackleton's Journey. They do not shy from difficult topics but are ultimately life-affirming in the view they offer of the human spirit's will to survive and succeed."

Landman and Grill each receive £500 worth of books to donate to their local library. Grill, as winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, is also awarded the £5,000 Colin Mears Award cash prize.

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