1970s Medal Winners
Carnegie Medal Winners
1970 Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen: The God Beneath the Sea | 1971 Ivan Southall: Josh | 1972 Richard Adams: Watership Down | 1973 Penelope Lively: The Ghost of Thomas Kempe | 1974 Mollie Hunter: The Stronghold | 1975 Robert Westall: The Machine Gunners | 1976 Jan Mark: Thunder and Lightnings | 1977 Gene Kemp: The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler | 1978 David Rees: The Exeter Blitz | 1979 Peter Dickinson: Tulku
Kate Greenaway Medal Winners
1970 John Burningham: Mr Gumpy's Outing | 1971 Jan Pienkowski: The Kingdom Under the Sea (Joan Aiken) | 1972 Krystyna Turska: The Woodcutter's Duck | 1973 Raymond Briggs: Father Christmas | 1974 Pat Hutchins: The Wind Blew | 1975 Victor Ambrus: Horses in Battle / Mishka | 1976 Gail E. Haley: The Post Office Cat | 1977 Shirley Hughes: Dogger | 1978 Janet Ahlberg: Each Peach Pear Plum (Allan Ahlberg) | 1979 Jan Pienkowksi: Haunted House
I looked at the list of books for the Carnegie and Greenaway awards during this decade and was besieged with memories. My first daughter was born in 1971, my second in 1975. We lived in cold, windy, rainy Scotland for some of that time, spending hour after hour tucked up in bed with books. The rest of the decade we were in North America, and because my ex-hubby is an academic, always had access to superb libraries. So I know almost all of these Carnegie books, and read some of the Greenaway winners aloud so often I can still recite them backwards.
So this time, we'll start with the Greenaway, and pick out a few favourites from the decade. First, of course, Mr Gumpy's Outing, in 1970, by John Burningham. In this adored classic, more and more animals join Mr Gumpy's boat for a summer outing and the boat sinks lower and lower. There's a real sense of summer heat and haze with the sketched yellow line, and the use of crayon gives a natural pastoral quality to the illustrations. The animals' characteristics are perfectly captured and there's a delicious wit in the way the story unfolds to its inescapable ending.
Jan Pienkowski's most original work shot to prominence in this decade. In The Kingdom Under the Sea (1971), written by Joan Aiken, the marbling and silhouettes give opulence and depth, and the book has that other-worldly quality we associate with fairy tales. It summons magic and imagination, and Pienkowski's vivid use of colour creates a startling effect. The same long lasting impact is to be found in this artist's second winner of the decade, Haunted House, in 1979.
Raymond Brigg's Father Christmas was the 1973 winner. And Janet and Allan Ahlberg's Each Peach Pear Plum took the prize in 1978. But between them came another massive family favourite, Shirley Hughes' Dogger, in 1977. Dave leaves his favourite toy on a park bench, leading to sadness and anxiety, then huge relief at its eventual return. The warm, good-humoured illustrations bring out the sense of a realistic family in a realistic home, with Hughes' trademark chubby children and her clever evoking of the relationships between different generations. This book is so beloved by all that it deservedly won the Greenaway of Greenaways in 2007, during the award's 50th anniversary.
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And now to the Carnegie. True confessions time - Greek Myths send me straight to sleep so I've never got even a quarter of the way through the first winner, The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen. But do note that it's illustrated by Charles Keeping (who, it seems, also intensely disliked Greek myths) and I'm certainly a fan of his work.
1971 gave us Ivan Southall's Josh. Teenage Josh leaves his city life for a week of being tormented and despised by the Ryan Creek youngsters for qualities like his love of poetry and dislike of hunting. Misunderstandings explode into violence, and instead of the traditional fight back, or outwitting of the aggressors, this first Australian Carnegie winning author shows Josh choosing the more mature response of walking away.
Before J K Rowling came along, Richard Adams' Watership Down was the novel most famous for cheering up authors whose work had also been rejected over and over. Still, in the end, this epic tale of rabbits bravely journeying to a new home hit the jackpot, winning not just the Carnegie Medal in 1972 but also the Guardian Award. Ask around. Almost everyone over forty has either read the book, or remembers the film or later television series.
Penelope Lively's interest in the passage of time shows up in her novels. James's family move to a new house only to have to deal with a poltergeist, namely The Ghost of Thomas Kempe (an old sorcerer). This 'low fantasy' story is a rattling good read that won the prize in 1973 and has lasted extremely well.
Mollie Hunter, the Scottish writer whose novel The Stronghold won the following year remembers standing in the very real 'brochs' - unique circular stone fortifications - of the faraway Orkney islands and wondering how on earth they came to be built. This imaginative tale follows Coll's brilliant idea from first conception to its use in the successful repulsion of Roman slave raiders.
Robert Westall won in 1975 with The Machine Gunners. Set in the hardy north east of England during WWII, it tells the story of a gang of children who find a crashed German aircraft along with a machine gun and heaps of ammunition. Seriously immersed in the wartime atmosphere of their consistently and heavily bombed home area, they build a fortress and capture and imprison a German gunner. The book's been a play, and also adapted for both television and radio. As a teacher as well as a writer, Westall knew his onions, and you'll come across a copy of this novel in pretty well every school library.
I won't forget the next book. Jan Mark entered her first novel, Thunder and Lightnings, for a prize for previously unpublished writers. She won, and I came second. (You should see the photos. We both have seventies hair, flying all over the place.) It seems that Lightning fighter jets were taking off from RAF Coltishall and flying 200 feet above the roof of Jan's house in Norfolk, and that's what gave her the idea of Andrew and Victor sharing a passion for the planes, and Victor being so devastated at the idea that they're to be replaced with Jaguars.
In 1977, Gene Kemp (a woman) won with The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler, a cheerful story set in a primary school. I knew a teacher who made a point of always timing the reading of the last pages for the end of a Friday afternoon. He said the boys in his classes identified happily all the way through the novel with the bold and boisterous Tyke, only to get such a shock at the end that they became impossible - so rattled and infuriated that the sooner he got them off the school premises for the weekend, the better. Try reading it, and guess if any of the boys in your class would feel the same even now.
The Exeter Blitz is another historical novel, this time by David Rees. It features the heavy May 1942 air raid on Exeter, and its effect on both that city and the life of one family, the Lockwoods. The story's not entirely historically accurate, but it's close enough. During the bombing, Exeter cathedral took a direct hit. Just look at this photograph of the vaulted ceiling - the longest uninterrupted medieval vaulted ceiling in the world. Winston Churchill, the wartime leader, is often quoted (somewhat inaccurately) as having said the words, "Better to jaw-jaw than war-war." And thinking of all the damage caused in wars all over the world to buildings as ancient and beautiful as this, it should be impossible not to agree.
Home stretch, and our last winner of the decade is Peter Dickinson's Tulku, another adventure historical novel set in remotest China and Tibet during the Boxer Rebellion. Orphan teenager Theodore takes refuge at a Buddhist monastery and is briefly mistaken for the 'Tulku', a great lama (no, not llama!) until another candidate for the office appears. Dickinson's work always raises thought-provoking issues, in this case about religion, cynicism and the nature of belief.
Come back next month, when we'll be on the 1980's ("Creeping closer, day by day..." And that's a line from one of my family's favourite picture books ever: The Judge, by Margot and Harve Zemach. Whatever you do, don't miss that!
Photograph of Exeter Cathedral by Edward Swift Wikimedia Commons.