An ode to CKG judging

Sophie Hawkey-Edwards is Senior Learning Development Officer for Dumbarton


I love to read wherever I can,
Such as when I am stuck in a traffic jam,
And there’s precious little else to do,
When cosying down in the library loo.
Mid-morning a reader recommends
A graphic novel that completely transcends
The jammy dodger on my saucer,
I read at luncheon and meeting an author.

Then after my day of work is done,
I read on my roller-skates on the home run,
Reaching my pad I open the door,
The postie’s brought parcels of new books galore.
The life of a CKG book judge,
Means reading a tome whilst you’re stirring some fudge,
Or sawing a sturdy plank in two,
As you stalk the plot and decipher a clue.

I read with a glass of grog and lime,
But on an adventure’s the perfectest time:
I read when climbing dinosaur trees,
To the sounds of the cheese-sneezing flutterbees,
And feast on words submerged in a loch,
As the barnacled turtles all laugh and mock.
Swimming with books is an utter hoot,
Until you’re captured by buccaneers hirsute,

When, as a prisoner, books are best,
What else would you find in a privateer’s chest?
Whilst reading up in the nest of crows,
I battle the pirates of terrible prose,
Their cannon are primed with dodgy verse
As they jostle and holler, cutlass and curse,
I open a book and start to read,
My foes sit to listen and battle concede.

Such adventures have lead me to this:
Judging the CKG book awards is bliss.
And thus my judging blog unravels
Longlist to shortlist, such fabulous travels;
So I urge you to read through the lot,
As words brighten your soul by a megawatt –
When reading we see supernovas,
Great books are magic as everyone knowses.

Engaged, impassioned, thoughtful, young people

Alison Tarrant is the librarian at Cambourne Village College, Cambridgeshire


This is my favourite time of year – the sun has been glorious over the past week, the Great Crested Grebes on the river are performing their elaborate mating rituals and we can start moving the narrowboat, on which I live, about more. Over the last week I have been enjoying the sun; while the sun laps at the bow I’ve had my nose firmly in the final part of the judging process.  I’ve been from Glasgow to Ethiopia, from the emotional pull of siblings to the deepest thoughts of what make us human, and how we work. What journeys to go on from the river bank! (I leave the Kate Greenaway shortlist until I’m back at work – space is tight on the boat, and these are books to be poured over!)

This is also my favourite time for being a judge. The re-reading stage of the process is so vital to the quality of the decisions that we come to – revealing hidden depths of characters, plots and atmosphere as it does. The delight of re-reading is when the book grows with you, when each time you read it you notice something new or read things in a different way. Reading is an art form that allows for interpretation, that (should, at least) have space for everyone, and everyone’s opinions count. The number of judges is key to the intense discussions that are had every time we meet. Everyone speaks and everyone is heard; this leads to great debates and passionate discussions.

I have also been doing a few talks to different CKG Shadowing groups around my region; one of my favourite parts of being a CKG judge. It is an absolute privilege to be invited to take part in your discussions and see what you’ve been up to. It gives me a chance to answer your questions, and explain how and why things work the way they do.  Most importantly though, often my presence is the starting point for discussions and debates- which I believe is the heart of the Medals. The process, the judges and the working party are the brains of the Medals, but the shadowing groups are the heart. Encouraging and prompting discussion, whether in agreement or perhaps more often outrage, is such an important part of the Medals. For me, it’s the part that makes giving up my life completely for 3 months totally worth it. To get young people discussing, sharing opinions, articulating what they think and why, may not be something that will tick any official boxes, but it is important. Important for the young people, as they learn communication and debating skills. But it’s possibly more important for everyone else – young people so often get a bad rap – allegedly they are thuggish, unengaged, apathetic, unable to string a sentence together. Not in these debates they’re not! Let’s show everyone what engaged, impassioned, thoughtful, young people exist in our schools and within our communities. The shadowing site is incredibly strong and at a time when most shadowing groups are only just starting there are already 1153 reviews listed! Last year this reached 14,800. That doesn’t strike me as being a sign of an unengaged generation.

The Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards shine a light on the strongest books published for children and young adults, but this light is refracted by the shadowers, through their rainbow of reviews and debates. Whatever your opinion on the books, there is a place for everyone on the shadowing website, so log on, and get your thoughts read!

Descending into the madness of the rabbit hole

Tom Wilcock is the Literacy, Learning and Engagement Officer for Doncaster Libraries.


I never set out to become a Library worker, it kind of just happened. I was studying English Language and Journalism at University before I left to become a rockstar. Unfortunately, both for me and potentially millions of fans, the UK just wasn’t ready. I then had to get a job, and I was attracted to the first one I saw, to work in Doncaster Libraries. After several jobs in the service I wanted to push myself further and really make a difference, my head of service was very supportive and suggested I joined CILIP, so I did, and then YLG.

I went along to the local meeting and found it all very strange. Being on a committee was new to me, and rather daunting. There was a National rep, a Chair, a Secretary and even a Treasurer! People had to second things, minutes were taken and after a few hours passed I was able to gather my thoughts on it all. Once I’d passed initiation I was one of them, and I had gained a new set of friends. I must have made an impression as months later I was asked if I wanted a role in the committee.

“Wow, what an honour” I thought, when asked if I wanted to be the next CKG judge for Yorkshire and the Humber. That was around three years ago, before I was married, before I had a baby…with another on the way.

Then the books began to arrive on my desk and it all became very real.

Of course very few people in my social circle understood what on earth any of it meant, “What, like kids’ books?” “Shouldn’t be too difficult then” and from the outside looking in it doesn’t look difficult, but believe me, it is. To prevent me from descending into the madness of the rabbit hole I had to plan my reading, right up until having half of a Carnegie book to finish on the train to London for the shortlist meeting. I read more books in three months than I had over the past year or so, and reading anything I wanted to read for pleasure was simply out of the question. Certainly reading all of the nominated titles was a pleasure, but in a different way.

I’d always read growing up, I’d class myself as a child of Harry Potter, I was 11 when The Philosopher’s Stone was released, and then I grew up with him. I was never a fast reader, and needed complete silence and several free hours to even attempt reading. That all changed. I started reading whenever I could, my reading became faster and more focused, until one day, when I had an epiphany. You know when Neo stands back up after we think Agent Smith has killed him? That was me, I. WAS. THE. BOOK!

Plus, I had this little cherub to help me too:

Sophia books