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2008 CILIP Carnegie Winner challenges Arthurian legend

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Philip Reeve’s book, Here Lies Arthur, wins the Carnegie Medal 2008

Here Lies Arthur

Today, the prestigious CILIP Carnegie Medal 2008 went to Philip Reeve for Here Lies Arthur his fresh, bold retelling of the Arthurian legend.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” says Reeve, “but as I got over the shock and it began to sink in, I felt totally honoured. It is very special to win the CILIP Carnegie Medal. It has such a history and I admire so many past winners’ work it is quite humbling to be ranked alongside them.”

Reeve already has three major book prizes to his credit. In 2001 his first novel Mortal Engines was an instant success winning both the Nestle Smarties Gold Award (2002) and the Blue Peter Book of the Year (2003). Mortal Engines was the first of his Hungry Cities quartet the last of which, A Darkling Plain, won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2006.

Here Lies Arthur is an outstanding book, and deserving winner,’ said Tricia Adams, Chair of the 12 strong librarian judging panel. ‘Reeve’s is a consistent story-telling voice that brings us a subtle and credible retelling of the King Arthur myth. It is both a page turning adventure story and a clever historical novel. It also has clear political resonance for our times, demonstrating humanity’s need to sustain hope and optimism, and our tendency to favour myth over reality to achieve that end.’

Reeve’s fascination with the legends of Arthur began with John Boorman’s film Excalibur. As a teenager he found out all he could about the myth through the various retellings and portrayals that punctuate our culture and history. It became the novel he was determined to write, however, it took over 20 years before he decided how to tackle it.

Reeve gives the story Welsh Celtic roots and his choice of the young orphan girl Gwyna as narrator gives a fresh perspective on Arthur’s world and time. It’s AD 500, the Romans have left, and the Celts live in fear of the Saxon invasion. The character of Myrddin (Merlin) is no magician but instead relies on trickery to spin myths around Arthur, creating the credible leader the Celts so badly need. However, in reality, Reeve’s Arthur is no more than a self-interested thug. However, he is clear that what he set out to do was to write an adventure story for young people, although he is pleased to hear that children get the ‘pun’ of the title.

Here lies Arthur is published by Scholastic for more information.