Double Victory for Katya Balen’s October, October at the Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards

Posted on 16/06/2022

We are overjoyed that Katya Balen has scooped a double victory at the 2022 Yoto Carnegie Greenaway Awards, winning both the Yoto Carnegie Medal and the Shadowers’ Choice Award for her exquisite second novel October, October, which was published by Bloomsbury in 2020.

In a ceremony at The British Library, Katya was announced as this year’s winner for her “beautiful” and “captivating” story of a girl, October, who must learn to spread her wings after a childhood spent living in the woods changes dramatically the year she turns 11. The story was inspired by Balen’s father-in-law who lives off-grid, and her own love of mudlarking and the outdoors.

Established in 1936, the Yoto Carnegie Medal is one of the UK’s best-loved book awards, given annually to an author whose writing created an outstanding reading experience for children or young people. The winner is selected from a shortlist of sixteen books by an expert team of volunteer judges, featuring fourteen librarians from CILIP’s Youth Libraries Group. Running alongside this prize, the Shadowers’ Choice Award is decided upon by the tens of thousands of young people across the UK and internationally who read and debate the shortlisted books before voting on their favourites.

Jennifer Horan, librarian and Chair of Judges, said:

October, October by Katya Balen is a captivating story featuring exquisite descriptions of the natural world and relationships that develop and heal. It is an expertly written, beautiful and lyrical novel alive with wonder and curiosity.”

South London-based author Katya Balen has spent her career working in SEND schools and is the co-director of Mainspring Arts, an organisation which runs creative workshops for neurodivergent people. The judges called her winning book an “evocative exploration of what it means to be truly alive and wholly human” and said that main character October was “expertly written with an incredibly authentic narrative voice, leaving the reader feeling great empathy towards her”. Meanwhile, The Times felt it “deserves classic status.”

Katya Balen commented:

“I am so thrilled to have won the Yoto Carnegie Medal, not only because it’s the award every children’s writer dreams about, but because it is so committed to promoting reading and sharing stories. Sharing stories is something I believe to be one of the most important parts of our lives, simply because stories are our lives. They are threads that connect us all. They make us understand, they give us a shared experience, and they give us something special and private too. They give us wild freedom and they give us safety and comfort.

“In my book, October is saved by stories. She is isolated, unusual, angry, friendless, lost, displaced, wild. But through stories she is able to connect to the world around her, and to the people around her. Stories make her who she is, but they also help her to see who other people are too. Stories make her a part of a new world, and keep her old life alive. They connect everything and everyone, and that’s what is so magical about stories. They build us, they anchor us, they let us be wild. They are everything.”

We would like to also congratulate Danica Novgorodoff, winner of the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal for her illustrated edition of Jason Reynold’s 2019 Carnegie-shortlisted book, Long Way Down (Faber), and Mariachiara Di Giorgio, winner of the Shadowers’ Choice Award for the Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal for The Midnight Fair (Faber). You can catch up on Katya’s moving speech by streaming the ceremony here and purchase October, October from Bookshop.org or from all good bookshops.