Train delays, traffic jams and family: reasons to be cheerful

Jenny Hawke is the CKG judge for YLG South East and is the Library Supervisor at Petts Wood Library, Kent.

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I don’t have a very long commute to work, a short bus ride and then a short train journey. Nonetheless, along with all the other passengers on the train, when we heard the driver telling us we were held up at a red signal, I used to groan and sigh thinking about all I had to do at work and the day I had got planned slowly disappearing as I realised I would be late. However, once I became a Carnegie and Kate Greenaway judge last autumn all this changed. Train delays were a joy as it meant I could read an extra page, or maybe two, and if I was really lucky and the delay was going to be a long one, a whole chapter. When you are faced with 40,144 pages to read in a few months anything which gives you more time is very welcome!

It was very exciting opening the boxes and unpacking all 114 Carnegie nominations and 93 Kate Greenaways, but it was also very daunting. We have a lot of books in our house already so finding somewhere for another 207 was a tall order. Luckily the hall fitted the bill and we used a recently inherited bookcase for the Carnegies and storage from IKEA for the Kate Greenaways. Once unpacked our recycling pile looked as though it was about to take off and it was at this point I realised what I had in store for the next few months!

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My birthday and Christmas fell within the judging period. My birthday was so low key: blink and you would have missed it. Christmas was a bit trickier when my sister asked us all to go and stay with her in Wales. I said I couldn’t possibly due to all the reading I had to do. However, she persuaded me and the car journey provided me with 5 hours reading time. Luckily I can read in cars without feeling ill. Once in Wales I would sneak upstairs and furtively read a few chapters of a Carnegie or flick through a Kate Greenaway. This was between opening presents and eating Christmas lunch and lots and lots of chocolate. Nevertheless, when we set off for home I felt I needed to read more and more. Luckily I got my chance as we got stuck in a traffic jam on the M4 for over 5 hours. It actually took us 8 hours to get home. I managed to read a whole Carnegie in that time and the start of another one. So for me train delays and traffic jams are not just reasons to be cheerful but essential elements in a judge’s life!

Throughout the whole judging period my family gave me lots of support and this brings me to one of the main themes which runs through all the books on the Carnegie shortlist this year: the importance of family. In a year when we are celebrating 80 years of the Carnegie Medal I started to think about the books my late father use to read to me as a child and how that had influenced me and developed my love for reading. I have fond memories of him reading stories to me like The Borrowers, Watership Down and The Family at One End Street (again all books which have the notion of family running through them). JH2.jpgI’ve always worked in libraries, for the last few years mainly with children, and my Dad’s passion for reading and books has inspired me greatly. Visiting the library with my parents was a regular activity which we all loved. With my Mum it was slightly different, and although she did read books to me, her main skill was to make up wonderful stories about a little girl called Jane who meets a fairy (called Fairy) at the bottom of the garden. Fairy and Jane went on to have many adventures together and despite not having physical pictures to look at the images were very vivid in my mind and have stayed with me throughout my life.

I have five nephews who are all grown up now but during their childhoods I would regularly read to them picture books such as Dogger, Each Peach Pear Plum and Mr Gumpy’s Outing. I remember them clinging onto me while we read Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski and opening up all the flaps and gasping at the cat in the toilet!

All the above books were duly passed down to my daughter and again reading these and other classics became a regular part of our family life. And of course I also told her the Fairy and Jane stories which my Mum told me.

During my chartership I became fascinated by the past Carnegie and Kate Greenaway winners and decided I wanted to collect as many of these as I could, and read them of course! Over the years I have built up a quite a good collection (although as you can see I do have quite a few gaps!).

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However, my stipulation is that the copies all need to be second hand (apart from the more recent ones of course) which stops me spending too much money. I have bought them from charity shops, second hand bookshops and boot fairs. There is a thrill when I walk into a shop and find one. I take my hat off to Jake Hope who not only has been reading the nominations list for this year’s Carnegie but is also reading his way through all the past winners and posting reviews on the Anniversary Blog   Once my judging stint is over that will be my plan. In the meantime in the public library where I work the teen groups have adopted three past winners to read this year (if you run a shadowing group do consider doing this). The books chosen are Skellig, The Family at One End Street and Dear Nobody. I’m also reading as many of the past Kate Greenaway winners that I can this year to the reading group I run every Friday for children aged 5-7 with their parents and carers.

A couple of years ago I reached the tender age of 50 and my family showed how much they all knew me by producing this wonderful cake. The photo says it all! They may not be Kate Greenaway winners but they still tasted good! Here’s to more train delays and traffic jams for #CKG18.

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