The opportunity of a lifetime

Kathryn Flagner is the Senior Librarian at Workington Library, Cumbria.

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Next Monday the 2015 Carnegie and Greenaway winners will be announced at the presentation ceremony at The British Library.  I am looking forward to the event as a celebration of the best in children’s literature and illustration with people who are passionate about the subject, creating  a great atmosphere.  For me there will also be a certain sadness, as it will mark the end of my 2 year stint as a Carnegie judge.

This drawing to an end of my judging period has made me reflect on my involvement in CKG  and ask myself  what I most enjoyed about the process, the answer could be everything!  It was inspiring to meet and work with the other judges and the CKG team, as they were all so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about books for children and young people.  A real team spirit developed and although there were times when the debate over the books became heated everyone’s views were listened to and valued.  We were after all aiming for the same thing, to find the best books in each category.

The number of books nominated each year was overwhelming.  This hit home when they started to arrive and I had them arranged in “to read” piles which were much taller than the “read” pile.  Eventually this balance shifted and as I read I discovered new authors and read books I would not otherwise have picked up.  This has had a knock on effect on my professional life as I feel I can speak confidently about more books, even though I was quite widely read before being a CKG judge.  In future I will look out for other books by some of the authors I discovered, increasing my pleasure in reading.

Across the country thousands of children and young people shadow the CKG awards each year and meeting some of these has been inspiring and surprising.  This year I visited Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Blackburn where I met and talked with this year’s Carnegie shadowing group, mainly year 7s, but with 1 year 8 pupil, who were all enthusiastic and eager to share their views on the books.  I then  spent some time with a group of Year 9 pupils, one of whom spoke about Maggot Moon being a brilliant winner of the Carnegie Prize.  It struck me that shadowing the medals must have had a big impact on this pupil to remember it a couple of years later.  I also worked with a group of pupils from Victoria Junior school in Workington, Cumbria, who were shadowing the Kate Greenaway Prize.    Here I was impressed by the ease and confidence with which the Year 5 pupils involved used quite technical language, talking about end papers and the texture of the illustrations for example.

I will miss being a CKG judge and consider it to have been the opportunity of a lifetime.  I look forward to next year’s nominations and aim to read a good number of them, but won’t kid myself that I will read them all!

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