Ruta Sepetys’ refugee story Salt to the Sea takes 80th anniversary Carnegie Medal


Ruta Sepetys
’ refugee story Salt to the Sea, a fictionalised account of the worst maritime disaster in history, has won the 80th anniversary CILIP Carnegie Medal.

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are the UK's oldest and most prestigious children's book awards. The CILIP Carnegie Medal is awarded by children's librarians for an outstanding book written in English for children and young people.

Salt to the Sea, published by Puffin, is a New York Times-bestselling novel that explores the events leading up to the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the worst maritime disaster in history in which over 9,000 people, mainly refugees, perished. The daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, with a family connection to the disaster, Ruta spent three years researching the book, walking the path of some of those refugees who saw the boat as their salvation but who ultimately lost their lives. 

Ruta Sepetys with her CILIP Carnegie Medal 

Ruta Sepetys, who was previously shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in 2012 for Between Shades of Gray, commented: “As a writer, I am drawn to underrepresented stories and history in hiding. I spend a lot of time pondering the question – why do some parts of history penetrate our collective consciousness while others remain hidden? When I began work on the novel years ago, I had no way of knowing that when it was published, we would be amidst a refugee crisis. Then and now, my thoughts return to the children.” She added: “History allows us to examine decisions. Yes, history can be full of sadness and pain but it also shines light on hope, freedom, courage and the miraculous nature of the human spirit. History divided us, but through reading we are united in study and remembrance. That is the power of books.”

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