Reading is a powerful way to find out who you really are.

Victoria Barton is the East Midlands CKG judge, she is a Locality Librarian for North West Leicestershire.

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A Year in the Life of a Judge

When I was at school, my best friend told me that I would make a great librarian.  She knew me better than I knew myself because it took me ten years to realise that she was absolutely right.  I’ve tried a few different jobs but nothing suits me better than getting books into the hands of the people that need them.

When you become a librarian, you can join CILIP special interest groups which match up to what you like about being a librarian.  I love children’s books so I joined the Youth Libraries Group.  The judges for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards are chosen from the librarians who join the group.  I am the judge representing the East Midlands and there are people at our meetings from all over the country.

I was really nervous and excited to go along to the first meeting, it was a training day to teach us more about how to judge the books according to the criteria.  I had seen the gold Carnegie stamp on many of the books that I had loved when I was younger and I knew that judging the awards was a huge honour and the highlight of my career as a librarian.  I had always dreamed of being involved in the awards and now here I was about to meet other judges and start living my dream.

I also knew that judging would be really hard work.  Judges read every single book that is nominated for the awards.  All the books are nominated by librarians from around the country and every CILIP member can nominate books that they think meet the Carnegie or Kate Greenaway criteria.  That adds up to a lot of books!

The training was really interesting.  We had talks from experts in analysing books and art.  It was really fun to meet other people who loved books as much as I do.  I felt ready to judge!

The next three months were intense.  Beautiful, brand new books started arriving at my desk.  I was reading whilst cooking dinner, I was reading when I woke up, I was reading whilst I was cleaning my house, I was reading whilst other people were chatting.  Every moment that I was not working in the library, I was reading or making notes about the books that I had read.  I kept my notes, filed carefully so that I could get to them easily when we discussed the books at our judges’ meeting.  I tried to make notes according to the criteria under the headings, plot, character and style to make sure that I was judging the books according to them.

At the meeting we talked about the books.  For each book we would talk in depth about what happened in the book, the characters and the way that it was written, checking it against the criteria.  There are so many books to choose from and all of them have something great about them, so making our decision is not easy.

The awards ceremony was a wonderful day.  I met with some of the authors whose work we had been judging and got to hear some great speeches, praising libraries, librarians and the awards.  I reflected on the friends I had made and the experiences I had enjoyed which would never have happened without judging.

With each and every book I have read, whilst judging I have entered another world, met new characters and seen things differently.  Each book has changed me in a subtle way or taught me something new.  Reading is a powerful way to find out who you really are.

Must Keep Reading! Must Keep Reading!

Elizabeth McDonald is the South East YLG Judge, she is Reader Development Officer for Young People and Families at Wokingham Library.

Being a CKG judge this year has been a rewarding experience, the huge nominations list of ​91 ​Carnegie books and 70 Kate Greenaway Books ​was a varied and interesting read. The list included lots of books I would not normally have read and I looked forward to exploring some new genres.

My first challenge as a CKG judge was to read this great list of books for the first time.  ​It was intensely exciting when the parcels arrived at my library, and all the lovely shiny new books started to pile up. When I​ brought the books home and stacked them all up my six year old son counted how ​many there were.

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I began the task of reading and critiquing each book.  My son would count each day, to see how many books I ​had left to read.  ​I just kept thinking; I​ must keep reading, I must keep reading!  Keeping up the reading momentum in the short space of time available was helped by encouragement and support from colleagues, friends and family, and my son’s daily countdown.   It was essential to read everywhere, during lunchtimes, the car and the park! I​ must keep reading!

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​My six year old son, was excited to see the Greenaway titles and it was amazing to explore some of them with him. He adored a lot of the ones we shared and I have had to buy another bookcase!  Some of them really captured his imagination, he wanted to be an explorer in space and the Antarctic, then laughed at bird thieves and a funny squashed frog!

As a Book Judge you also have to promote and raise awareness of the Carnegie and Greenaway awards and encourage participation in the shadowing groups.   As part of this I have been visiting shadowing groups across Berkshire in schools and libraries. We were also lucky to have one of the shortlisted authors Geraldine McCaughrean come and talk to several of our schools and shadowing groups.  Talking to fellow book lovers about the books and the judging process has been really enjoyable.  It was brilliant to have the opportunity to talk about books so much!

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Moving onto the judging process, we had an amazing discussion on each of the books nominated. When it came to making decisions, there were lots of heated debates, outcries of despair, near-tears and a bit of laughter thrown in too. Revisiting the shortlisted books has been quite a different experience; going away and re-reading and re-reading (must keep reading!), so you can completely justify how each of the books stand up to the criteria.  During this process it starts to become more obvious which books stand out that little bit more.  Even if you have decided which book you adore and love and think should win the prize, you have got to make sure that the criteria is fully met.  This is where heartache comes, you are passionate about which book should be the winner, but the more you consider and talk about the text and images with the other judges, the more it becomes clear who the winner has to be.  I’ve really enjoyed the debating and banter of exploring and defending the books and I’m already looking forward to starting again!

My first year as a judge has been emotional, satisfying and great fun.  I look forward to my second year, reading more new books, and I know I will find something amazing for the 2016 prize.

What happens when you leave your CKG Shortlist alone…….

Once upon a time, in a faraway place in the Middle Of Nowhere, a boy called Jim set out on an adventure. He had travelled a long long way, further even than Shackleton had on his epic Journey, and on into the wilderness … but now he realised that he was lost! He found himself in a strange place; a place where Buffalo and Lions played chess with each other; a place where the Cuckoos played the trumpet whilst they glide along on the warm evening’s breeze.

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All of a sudden it began to Rain. It was the middle of Summer, it shouldn’t be raining! But it poured and it poured, so Jim ran as fast as his legs would take him until he reached a huge Apple tree. ‘Wow!!’ said a little voice, ‘You’re a REALLY fast runner!!’. Jim spun around, and out from behind the branches up in the tree poked a little head. ‘Who are you?’ said Jim, trying to peek round the twisted old trunk to get a better look. ‘My name is Goth Girl, and this is MY tree!’ came the reply. ‘Oh, I’m terribly sorry, I was just sheltering from the rain, do you mind if I stay a while?’ said Jim, wondering if the little face was going to show herself more clearly. The next thing he knew, the branches began to shake and, quick as a flash, Goth Girl was standing beside him. ‘Yes, I suppose you can keep me company, I’ve been hiding here for AGES’ she said. Jim looked puzzled, ‘but what are you hiding from?’. Goth Girl looked a bit taken aback, ‘haven’t you heard? Mr Dog has escaped from the Dark Satanic Mills and is terrorising everyone!’ she cried, ‘but More Than This, When Mr Dog Bites, he bites anyone! Even Smelly Louie!”.

Jim didn’t know who Mr Dog was, but he didn’t sound very friendly at all. ‘Please, you have to help’ begged Goth Girl, ‘You must be The Fastest Boy In The World, do you think you could run and get the Soldiers from the village?’. Jim thought about it for a moment, then explained ‘but I don’t know where the village is! I’m lost!’. ‘Don’t worry’ said Goth Girl, ‘Tinder will show you, he isn’t scared of Mr Dog because he’s a Ghost!’. Tinder floated down from the tree and greeted Jim with a wiggle of his whiskers and a jiggle of his tail; he was the ghost of a mouse!. Goth Girl stared at him bleakly, tears running down her cheeks, cascading off her chin and down into onto the lush green grass. Jim realised that he simply must help. ‘OK, I’ll do it’ he said, ‘I’ll bring help, I Promise!’. And with that, and with Tinder floating in front of him to show him the way, Jim began to run.

He ran like the wind, faster than he’d ever run before. Faster than a dog. Faster than a lion. Faster than a horse. Faster even than a cheetah! After what seemed like an eternity, Tinder turned to Jim and beckoned over to the left. Jim looked, and ahead of him down the path he could see the dim lights of the village away in the distance. Jim raced down the path, straining every muscle in his body to get there as fast as he could. He arrived in the village and went straight to find the soldiers. Once he told them what had happened, the soldiers headed off towards the tree to rescue Goth Girl. Jim waited anxiously; he hoped they had managed to find Goth Girl and that she was OK!

After a while, Jim heard the sound of marching boots and began to walk towards them. ‘Jim!’ a voice shouted, and up ahead of him, with a beaming smile across her face, was Goth Girl. ‘Thank goodness you’re OK!’ exclaimed Jim, ‘I ran as fast as I could but I was really worried!. ‘I’m fine’ said Goth Girl, ‘but only thanks to you for running all that way and finding the soldiers’ she said, hugging Jim as she talked, ‘I think you should get a medal!’ And, the very next day when they had both had some sleep, that’s exactly what happened. The Mayor of the town, Kate Greenaway, came to find Jim and presented him with the town’s highest honour for bravery, the Carnegie Medal.

Jim was so excited, he couldn’t wait to tell his mum and dad! Now, if he could only remember his way home…

Written by North East Judge Lucy Carlton-Walker. Lucy is the Children & Young Person’s Librarian at Stockton Central Library, Stockton-On-Tees.

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On Voting

Cath Skipper is the Librarian at Campbell College, Belfast.

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You might be surprised to discover that there are parallels between trying to choose a winner for the CKG book awards and the current general election campaign happening in the UK.

While the CKG award is perhaps not as ruthless as politics and electioneering can sometimes be, I have found myself musing as much on the merits of the shortlisted CKG books as I have on my local candidates’ election literature. Just as I am judging the potential MPs and their manifestos in my area against my own personal criteria, I am rereading the shortlisted books with a close eye on the awards criteria, which are so vital to the judges in helping us decide which book most deserves to win each award. Watching the televised election debates reminded me of the discussions we have as judges about the merits of each title nominated for the award – although I have to say that ours are much less heated, as we are all very good at listening to the points that everybody makes. Our debates also tend to involve very nice tea and cake. I know which I would rather take part in!

I have really enjoyed listening to my own shadowing group’s reactions to the shortlisted titles, and also reading your views on the CKG Shadowing site. Just like the election’s opinion polls there does not yet seem to be one clear winner. Will there be a sudden swing towards one title as we get closer to the conclusion of the process in June?! Similarly, the judges are only able to discuss and vote for the books that were nominated. This is why it is so important that there is engagement with the award and with CILIP’s Youth Libraries Group (YLG) – our version of the electoral roll. If you’re not already a member consider joining your local YLG, and make sure the candidate that you would like to see win next year’s award is nominated (remember, any member of CILIP can nominate) – and perhaps even take part in the judging process yourself!

At the end of June I, along with half of the judging panel, will have finished my two year term of office as a judge. Being Northern Ireland’s representative on the judging panel has been both a privilege and an unforgettable experience. For now, we will discover who will make up the next Government in early May. As far as the CKG award winners are concerned, you have a little longer to wait. It’s still all to play for!