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.
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!
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!
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.