Thank you from the 2019 Chair of Judges

I step down as 2019 Chair of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals judging panel with a mixture of pride and reluctance. This year, and indeed the previous year shadowing Jake Hope, the 2018 Chair of judges, has been a whirlwind of activity. I’ve read, reviewed, blogged and met authors, illustrators, publishers and book lovers of all ages. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive invitations to book launches and events and to arrive home from work virtually each day to parcels of every shape and size. These contained books which have inspired and entertained me, made me think and laugh and which I’ve been able to share with friends, family, colleagues…and my fellow judges. It’s been a joy and an honour to be part of the medals’ heritage and to have represented Yorkshire and the Humber as a regional judge from 2011-2014. My incredible journey is almost over; by the time my final blog goes live on the shadowing website, the 2019 winners of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals will have been revealed and we’ll all have had a chance to shout about the presentation of the inaugural Shadowers’ Choice Awards.

The Shadowers’ Choice Awards are one of the most special features of this medal cycle. Shadowing has always been at the centre of the medals; you, as readers, invest the process with its heart and vitality. You give it a future. The Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards shadowing scheme is unique among children’s book awards and it has been a treat to read your reviews, to look at the brilliant, creative entries for the video and certificate competitions and to meet some of you in person. I’m just as keen to discover which of the sixteen shortlisted titles you’ve voted for as your favourite written and illustrated books of the year. Will they be the same as the judges’ choices? You might appreciate some insight into our decisions; why did librarians select these two outstanding books as our Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal winners of 2019?

The CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 was awarded to Elizabeth Acevedo for The Poet X. The judges recognised The Poet X for its innovative verse structure, which follows Xiomara’s emotional odyssey and offers a powerful, unflinching exploration of culture, family and faith.  Xiomara comes to life on every page and shows the reader how girls and women can learn to inhabit, and love, their own skin. She rails, cries, laughs, loves, prays, writes, raps and, ultimately, offers hope. The Poet X is a powerful novel on every level and a memorable, multi-faceted read.

The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2019 was awarded to Jackie Morris for The Lost Words (authored by Robert Macfarlane). The Lost Words overwhelmed judges by the illustrator’s ability to celebrate life cycles of the natural world in vivid detail. Every tiny movement and variegated fleck of colour is rendered exquisitely and gives vibrance to Robert Macfarlane’s spells. Jackie Morris’ illustrations tested our acuity and made us all think on a much deeper level about scale, colour and proportion; also, about representations of loss and absence. This is an astonishing book, which we feel deserves recognition and the highest accolades.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your shadowing experience and that you join us again in 2020. There are some wonderful books which will be eligible next year. New novels by past Carnegie Medal winners, shortlisted authors and nominees; among them, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Patrick Ness, Sarah Crossan, Angie Thomas, Katherine Rundell, Marcus Sedgwick, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Muhammad Khan, and Savita Kalhan. Stunning debuts and poetry are likely to feature, not to mention some powerful illustrated texts from artists who span the globe: UK, Australia, United States, Ireland, Spain, Canada, Switzerland and Argentina.

Thank you on behalf of the judging panel for sharing your views and insights with us throughout the past few months. I am certain the 83rd and 63rd years, respectively, for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals will continue to celebrate excellence, diversity and the power of reading!

Alison Brumwell
Chair of CKG Judges

Words, words, words…

Jessica Dunnicliff is the CKG Judge for YLG West Midlands

Jessica Dunnicliff

As the West Midlands judge and one based in Stratford upon Avon it seems only fitting to start this blog with some Shakespeare.

The Carnegie experience is all about words, from the power of them on the page to the joy of hearing them read out loud, and even the sheer number of them that we have all read. One of my fellow judges has taken great delight in calculating the number of words we have devoured whilst reading the nominated titles for Carnegie  – over seven and a half million of them!

All of the shortlisted Carnegie titles demonstrate the importance of words, particularly the importance of having a voice, using a voice and being heard. From Xiomara discovering the freedom of expression of poetry in Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X  to Ruth and Emily’s discussions about grief and loss in The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders.

There are equally powerful experiences for the reader on the Greenaway medal shortlist. For example, the effect of listening to the comforting refrain of You’re Safe with with me said out loud at bedtime, to the silence and sadness that The Lost Words explores when such words disappear for our dictionaries, our everyday vocabulary and our landscapes.

Since embarking on my career in libraries in 1997 I have always wanted to be a Carnegie and Greenaway judge. To be part of something that has winners from my own childhood,  favourites such as Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden and KM Peyton’s The Edge of the Cloud, to books I have championed and shared as a librarian such as Frank Cottrell Boyce Millions and Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls. It has been an exhilarating and challenging experience that I would recommend to anyone.

One of the great pleasures of being a judge is hearing others discuss the books, from discussions with my fellow judges, hearing readers champion and argue for their favourites to reading the reviews on the website. I cannot wait to find out the result of the Shadowers Choice Award.

To borrow from Geraldine McCaughrean’s 2018 Carnegie Medal speech, throughout the nomination, longlisting, shortlisting and shadowing process I have been bombarded with words like gamma rays, steeped in words like pot plants stood in water, pelted with them and I have loved every minute of it. I cannot wait to repeat it next year.


I’m A Terrible Dancer

Dr Liz Chapman is the CKG Judge for YLG Yorkshire & Humber

Liz Chapman

In the early 2000s, I briefly met Seamus Heaney at a literary event, and for some reason felt the need to loudly announce to him that I couldn’t write poetry. No doubt weary of hearing this sort of thing, he assured me that if I could dance, I could write poetry. I explained that I am a terrible dancer.

Despite this, I have been inspired by the far more talented poets on the Carnegie (and Greenaway) shortlists to try my hand at a couple of poems for this blog post.


Crates of books, and more, and more

And more, arriving at my door

Reading till my eyes are sore

Notes on post-it pads galore

Eventual target: two-five-four

Ghosts, and guns, and grief, and gore

Inventing rhymes, surviving war

Eight great books that I adore!


Great escape into the wild

Refugees, and mermaid child

Elephant who guards you well

Emmeline and Christabel

Naming spells to conjure words

Adventure, loss, and bookish birds

Wolf that swallowed mouse and duck

Any topic, if you look

You’ll find it in a picture book.

I don’t think I will ever read a book in quite the same way again

Anne Thomas is the CKG Judge for YLG Wales


As I write, my 2 year stint as a Carnegie/Kate Greenaway judge is drawing to a close. The time has flown by. I’ve read and enjoyed all sorts of books and genres that I would never have chosen, leading to some surprising discoveries which I won’t forget in a hurry.

I’ve learned to appreciate picture books in a completely different way and am totally amazed by the work that goes into them. I don’t think I will ever read a book in quite the same way again; looking at a book in such detail has become a habit.

As we all know, books give you a different view of the world, introduce you to new experiences and can have a very therapeutic effect, which can change a reader forever, very powerfully. I have been to a session about the Books on Prescription scheme this week and it seems to me that some of the books I have read would easily be as powerful, albeit in a more understated, subconscious way. This has certainly been the case for me. There have been times when what I’ve read has stayed with me for a long time and has provided a different slant on a difficult situation. The lists contained some outstanding writing which provided food for thought.

This year I was fortunate enough to attend my first YLG conference in the autumn, which was inspirational from beginning to end, and a reminder of the most important aim of it all –  to get high quality literature into the hands of children and young people.

And last but not least, it has been a privilege to work with such dedicated and knowledgeable colleagues to produce the end result. So thank you for this opportunity – I will not forget it for a long time.

Timing is everything!

Lisa Penman is the CKG Judge for YLG Scotland


I was absolutely delighted to be chosen as the Scottish Carnegie and Kate Greenaway judge for 2018 and 2019, and the timing could not have been more perfect!  Coming from Fife, the home of Andrew Carnegie, it felt very fitting that I would be judging for the 80th celebration of the Carnegie medal and the fact that the 2018 winning book – Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean – was set in Scotland only cemented that feeling.

Wild at Heart created a special bench in celebration of Geraldine’s success, its design bringing her book to life. I was thrilled to hear that this celebratory bench would find its home at Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries, the world’s first ever Carnegie library, situated in the very town that lays claim to being the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie himself.

In celebration we held a special unveiling ceremony, which celebrated Geraldine’s success whilst also encompassing 100 years of the Carnegie legacy.  Geraldine demonstrated not only her great story-telling ability through reading extracts from her winning book, but also showcased her poetic finesse in her poem written about Andrew Carnegie. The audience was enthralled as she spoke about winning the Carnegie medal, not once but twice in her career, and how winning has inspired her. To top it all off, we also had musical memories from Star Spangled Scotsman as well some very moving folk songs from the Bowhill Players.


Geraldine later held a closed session with a local shadowing group, The Page Turners from Dunfermline High School. It was wonderful to see how engaged and full of questions they were, keen to learn from her wisdom.

The bench looks amazing in the garden of Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries, and was used by visiting families right away.  It will always hold special memories for me whenever I visit in the future.

So not only did my first year as Scotland’s Carnegie and Kate Greenaway judging fall on the 80th celebration of the Carnegie medal, bringing with it the chain of events that resulted in my hometown being gifted the winner’s bench; but my second and final year also falls on the 100th anniversary of Andrew Carnegie’s death, bringing with it a calendar of celebrations. Timing is indeed everything!




Challenging, Intense & Exciting

Zoey Dixon, CKG Judge


I have always thought it sad that so many people stop reading children’s books when they stop being children. I never stopped reading children’s or teen novels, but I did forget about picture books. When I became a children’s librarian I re-discovered my joy of picture books. I found that I could sit for hours marveling at the clever stories that were told using fantastic illustrations. I came across old favourites and made new ones. I hunted for the perfect books for my under 5s sessions or class visits because I know that a good book will stay with you forever.

Geraldine McCaughrean’s A Pack of Lies was the first Carnegie Prize winning novel that I remember reading. It quickly became a favourite and I re-read it countless times, hypnotised just like those characters listening to MCC Berkshire tales were. Many more winners went on to become some of my favourite books, from the epic fantasy of Philip’s Pullman’s Northern Lights to Melvin Burgess’ Junk. These were the novels I remember recommending to friends as I adored them so much. I wanted to share my joy of reading especially as I love talking about books. Sometimes I couldn’t always find the words to articulate just how much I’ve enjoyed it or how a book made me feel.  But I don’t have that problem now!

To be a judge for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway has been one of the most challenging, intense and exciting experiences of my career so far. It is hard to describe the feeling when all the judges came together to discuss the nominations and create the longlist for both awards. The passion and the energy in the room is palatable. It has allowed me to develop my knowledge of children’s literature and illustrators and given me an insight into the breadth of stories that are being told. And having read so many books (the most in a very long time) I can engage in my favourite past time: sharing and talking about them!

I’ve really enjoyed visiting groups that are shadowing the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Award. The shadowers are far more articulate than I was at their age. They are knowledgeable, insightful and passionate. Their understanding of the books takes into account their life experience and is shaped by what they see happening in the world, and their place in it. They have constantly surprised and challenged me as well as teaching me new things. To see them as enthusiastic about the shortlist as I am has been a joy and I leave those sessions feeling energised.

But I haven’t only shared the books with kids. I also persuaded my adult reading group to give a title from the shortlist a try. They were reluctant at first, and some admitted some snobbery. But they loved it, and that title got the highest scores out of all the adult books we had read that year. They were surprised at the calibre of children’s literature and are now regularly reading more children’s literature. To me this proves that the books shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal are not just examples of outstanding children’s literature, but of the written word.

Oh, the places you’ll go …

Carol Hales is the CKG Judge for YLG South East

Carol Hales CKG photo

I approached my first year as a CKG judge with a heady mix of excitement and trepidation.  I have always read avidly, but slowly.  How on earth was I going to read all of the nominated titles (137 Carnegie and 117 Greenaway)?  In the words of Frank Zappa: So many books, so little time!

As all judges must, I became adept at squeezing reading time into each day, however busy.  Train delays and missed connections on my journey to work became cause for celebration, as they gave me valuable extra minutes.  I pretty much gave up on my social life (friends and family were very understanding) and stopped watching TV, other than allowing myself my weekly fix of Strictly.  I learnt to carry a book ( and usually two) with me at all times – there is nothing worse than having the gift of unexpected reading time, but no book.  I tried setting my alarm for 5.30 to fit in some early morning reading, but sadly, more often than not, I pressed the snooze button instead.

There were certainly times when I thought I wasn’t going to be able to read all of the books in time, but somehow, miraculously, I did.

And was it worth it?  Absolutely it was!

Jeanette Winterson has said, “Books and doors are the same thing.  You open them and go through into another world”.  Over my months of CKG reading, I have opened and gone through doors into so many extraordinary and unexpected worlds, many of which I would never have entered were I not a CKG judge.

I have travelled back in time and found myself caught up in the intrigues and dangers of Civil War England and both World Wars.  I have been alongside the Montgolfiers as they pioneered hot air balloon flight, and have experienced life in the jungles of the Philippines.  I have spent time on remote British islands and in the heart of cities.

I have marvelled at brilliantly imagined fantasy worlds, and have been immersed in realms of ancient magic, witchcraft and faerie.  I have entered terrifying dystopian futures, and have journeyed into space.

Illustrated books have taken me up mountains, below the oceans, into deserts, and even to Mars.

My reading has also taken me to places and landscapes already familiar to me, but seen from new and different perspectives.  And on these journeys, I have had a glimpse into so many lives: women fighting for the vote, indigenous people whose way of life is under threat, young carers, refugees, young people caught up in cycles of violence, children working in sweatshops, young addicts and many, many more.

It has been a joy and a privilege to enter all these worlds and to spend time with their inhabitants.  I have laughed and cried, cheered and raged, and been enriched by the experience.  I can’t wait to see what new worlds next year’s books will have in store for me, although I’m pretty sure that I will still be panicking about how to read so many books!

Everyone Should Exist in Literature

Janet Noble, CKG Judge


In July 2018, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) published Reflecting Realities, the first UK study looking at diversity in children’s literature. Funded by the Arts Council, CLPE’s aim was to quantify and evaluate the extent and quality of Black and ethnic minority (BAME) representation and diversity in children’s publishing in the UK in 2017.

Summary of Findings

  • There were 9115 children’s books published in the UK in 2017. Of these only 391 featured BAME characters
  • Only 4% of the children’s books published in 2017 featured BAME characters
  • Only 1% of the children’s books published in the UK in 2017 had a BAME main character
  • Over half the fiction books with BAME characters were defined as ‘contemporary realism’(books set in modern day landscapes/contexts)
  • 10% of books with BAME characters contained ‘social justice’ issues
  • Only one book featuring a BAME character was defined as ‘comedy’
  • 26% of the non-fiction submissions were aimed at an ‘Early Years’ audience

These findings are disappointing but not surprising.  I am 54 years old and yet I struggle to find books about the kind of child I was, and still meet, in schools and libraries across London every day.

That every child should be able to access and enjoy great books in which they see themselves depicted is eloquently advocated in this extract from the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie’s The danger of a single story 2009 TED Talk.

Janet Ted

I’m a storyteller. And I would like to tell you a few personal stories about what I like to call “the danger of the single story.” I grew up on a university campus in eastern Nigeria. My mother says that I started reading at the age of two, although I think four is probably close to the truth. So I was an early reader. And what I read were British and American children’s books. 

I was also an early writer. And when I began to write, at about the age of seven, stories in pencil with crayon illustrations that my poor mother was obligated to read, I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading. All my characters were white and blue-eyed. They played in the snow. They ate apples. And they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out. Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. I had never been outside Nigeria. We didn’t have snow. We ate mangoes. And we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to. 

My characters also drank a lot of ginger beer because the characters in the British books I read drank ginger beer. Never mind that I had no idea what ginger beer was. And for many years afterwards, I would have a desperate desire to taste ginger beer. But that is another story. 

What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children. Because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that books, by their very nature, had to have foreigners in them, and had to be about things with which I could not personally identify. Now, things changed when I discovered African books. There weren’t many of them available. And they weren’t quite as easy to find as the foreign books. 

But because of writers like Chinua Achebe and Camara Laye I went through a mental shift in my perception of literature. I realized that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature. I started to write about things I recognized. 

Now, I loved those American and British books I read. They stirred my imagination. They opened up new worlds for me. But the unintended consequence was that I did not know that people like me could exist in literature. So what the discovery of African writers did for me was this: It saved me from having a single story of what books are. 

Chimamanda Adichie has written the novels Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013), the short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), and the essay We Should All Be Feminists (2014). Her most recent book, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, was published in March 2017.

To view the full video of Chimamanda Adichie’s The danger of a single story 2009 TED Talk, please go to :

CLPE’s Reflecting Realities study can be found at:




Tears and Laughter

Ruth Keys is the CKG Judge for YLG Eastern

Ruth Keys

Hello there, I feel privileged to be a CKG judge and little bit of me still cannot believe it.

What an honour and privilege to be part of something so wonderful and inspirational. We were asked to read the books and at the same time check the books fitted into the criteria for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals.   It was not just reading for pleasure, but reading 254 books and having to judge them.  I didn’t find it the easiest of tasks.  I however did have help; I am an advocate of reading aloud and my two dogs have had to listen to quite a few passages from the lists.  Always attentive and never judging!

What struck me was the sheer quantity, variety and scope of books I came across. The unbelievable mix of writing and illustration talent that is present in children’s books.   I have read books which have made me cry, laugh, think and be challenged.   What a cornucopia of marvelous books came into my hands. It has widened my reading horizons. I have read and learned from books that I would not have picked up previously.  So do not judge a book by its cover… I didn’t have that luxury and I am so pleased I didn’t.

I have been shadowing in schools and loved the interaction between the pupils and the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway shortlists.   Seeing students read new genres, catching snippets of conversations, hearing people talking about books, language and pictures.     It is a wonderful thing to hear a student champion a book with passion that is tangible. I have seen some students wipe away a tear and some laugh out loud.  The Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals give us a chance to bring high quality books to the students’ attention.  It is great to see the empathy for other people in new situations that is found through reading.

   “Fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gifts of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.” Neil Gaiman

The books shortlisted this year of 2019 are, in my opinion, an awesome group of books and I really hope having read them all you will agree.

Finding an outright winner in the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals is a challenge.  So, I wish you well in choosing winners for the Shadowers’ Choice Award.  To all you CKG shadowers out there…  Good luck and happy reading.

I am a lover of books.

Jenny Jones is the CKG Judge for YLG South West

Jenny 1

I am a lover of books. A book lover. When I hear myself talking about books I say things like “I adore this book”,“this book made my heart sing”,“I never wanted this book to end”, “I was up all night with this book”, “This book made me cry/laugh/write/dance around the room/want to run away to sea/join a circus” (delete as appropriate). I am a lover of books and this is the language of passion. As a book lover I love the whole of a book, I am entranced with the essential nature of it, its charm, the cut of its jib, its swagger and sway. I pass over its imperfections (if I even notice them at all while I’m busy in its company). Often the imperfections themselves make a book special to me.

But to take the role as a CKG Judge seriously I had to become a surgeon, not just a lover of books. I had to cut into each book’s surface and look at its spine, its muscles, its sinews, its lifeblood. I had to study the imperfections, to weigh them up, to put my feelings towards certain types of books, for particular authors and illustrators aside. It was difficult. It was even upsetting at times but it had to be done. I had to become a different kind of reader.

Jake Hope, previous Chair of Judges, offered us a useful metaphor during our training sessions. He said to imagine each book as a snowglobe, a world complete in itself with its own rules, logic and aesthetic. How well does this enclosed world work within its own boundaries? If there are imperfections are they scratches on the surface of the glass or are they cracks that you can’t pass over because they threaten the integrity of the whole? You can’t compare one completely different style of book with another directly but you can ask yourself  ‘Is this book outstanding at being what it has set out to be?’

I turned to writers for guidance with the Carnegie Medal judging process. Writers dedicate their lives and livelihoods to their art, so who better to go to for guidance?

I read Stephen King’s illuminating and inspiring manual-come-autobiography On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and noted his dislike for adverbs and the overuse of adjectives. “Show don’t tell,” is his repeated advice. Yet simplicity is often deceptively difficult. Anton Chekhov is often credited as writing, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Learning to see this art clearly was vital to my new skill set.

The sad news of Ursula Le Guin’s death came at the beginning of my time as a judge, and I took many pieces of advice from her. She has written wise, acerbic works on the art of writing. It was this point about exposition (setting the story out, background, context) that I copied into the front of my judging notebook and referred to constantly:

Jenny 2

Well-crafted exposition is difficult to spot; poorly crafted exposition isn’t, once you start to look carefully. If a passage is dragging (especially near the beginning of a book) then a lot of the time it will be because the background information, the exposition, hasn’t been ground up finely enough.

Le Guin also writes in Steering The Craft: “A story is made out of language, and language can and does express delight in itself just as music does.” When language expresses this delight in itself you can’t help but notice it. It takes outstanding writers to achieve this but it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard to access.

I also turned to my friend and picture book expert Melanie McGilloway aka @LibraryMice for guidance in developing Greenaway Medal judging skills. She lent me a large collection of books and this was a huge help. They expanded my visual literacy skills, ensured I could really ‘see’ skillful illustration clearly and helped me to be confident in using the language with which to discuss it.

The extraordinary book Picture This by Molly Bang uses illustration to teach visual literacy, composition and the psychology of visual storytelling in a playful way. It made me look at every illustration and think about the many choices involved in its creation. It showed me how absolutely every part of an outstanding illustrated book has been thought through and is as it is for a reason. This might sound obvious but until you really start looking at illustrations and thinking about them carefully it is all too easy to look at but not ‘see’ the artistry.

Jenny 3

From Picture This by Molly Bang

Reading Picture Books With Children by Megan Dowd Lambert teaches adult readers how to start conversations and discussions about visual literacy. I imagined reading the 117 nominated Greenaway titles aloud to my readers at school and talked myself through her ‘whole book approach’ as I studied each page. Greenaway Shadowing groups might find her Whole Book Approach Tweets from November 2016 really helpful when they are looking at the judging criteria as she included lots of examples.

Jenny 4

The ‘Whole Book Approach’ Tweets are collected and linked to here:-

I am at the midpoint in my time as a CKG Judge now. The Shortlists for 2019 are out and I am re-reading these extraordinary books and studying them even closer than before. I am also busy reading books that are eligible for 2020 because any day could see the publication of a CKG 2020 winner and I want to have given all of the nominations the best consideration that I can.

Has becoming a CKG Judge dampened this book lover’s passion for books? Absolutely not.

Does the surgeon love the sinews? Absolutely.

This last year and a half has taught me to see the beauty in the bones beneath the skin, to really appreciate the skill in the hand of the maker. It has deepened my love of children’s literature immeasurably because I have a deeper understanding of it and of the vast variety of voices and visions out there.