A daunting task

Hilary Gow is the CKG Judge for YLG South East and an Early Years Librarian in Bournemouth.

Hilary Gow

I recently had the pleasure of visiting two schools in rural Dorset to talk about the Carnegie book awards. One of the talks was to 70 or so young people in a small theatre.  As a visual aid I had taken advice from a colleague and photocopied the covers of all the books nominated for this year’s award – 114 in all.  I had attached the first one to the centre of a used roll of cling-film and then stapled the rest together and spooled them around the tube until it resembled a gigantic spindle.

At the beginning of the session volunteers unrolled the spindle and stretched the book covers across the front of the stage, up the steps and then along the back of the theatre. As it unspooled the audience raised their hands when they recognised covers they had read and talked about what they had thought of those books.  It proved an effective way of showing the sheer quantity of books that had been nominated this year and the quality of those books – all of them having their merits even if only 20 of them could be longlisted, 8 of them shortlisted and then finally only 1 win.

It was a graphic reminder for me of the enormity of the task the judges had been set and, looking back, I wasn’t surprised that at times I had felt daunted by the sheer volume of reading remaining to be done as I opened yet another box full of unread books! At one point my 11 year old grandson offered to read some of the books for me.   For a moment I was tempted to make use of his fast reading skills.  But, as I explained to him, it was important that the same person read all the books in order to be able to assess them against each other.  Also the judges have to use a set of criteria around the writing style , plot and characterisation to ‘grade’ the books and this takes a bit of getting used to.

One of the reasons I volunteered to be a judge was that I love reading for pleasure. I love that feeling of being immersed in another world.  Reading as a judge, because it involves assessing, is not quite the same thing.  However, as this year’s judging draws to a close I feel satisfied that the results of our work has brought some excellent books to the attention of a much wider audience.   All judges on the Carnegie Greenaway Awards panel sign up for 2 years.   I have already started looking forward to coming across lots of excellent books that I might not have read if I hadn’t had to as I start work on my second year as a Carnegie Greenaway judge.  And I have read a few books just for pleasure!

My favourite things…and a shortlist playlist

Jennifer Horan is the CKG Judge for YLG Scotland and Network Librarian at Kemnay Academy, Aberdeenshire.

Jennifer Horan

My favourite things in life are reading, music, cats and white chocolate Magnums.  Being a CKG judge these past two years has been a dream as far as reading is concerned, and it can be done whilst stroking cats and eating Magnums, but where does music come in?  I love books that come with accompanying playlists – often a sign that the author has really thought of the story behind certain songs, and an inventive and exciting extension to reading.  I’ve always thought that coming up with a book playlist would be far easier said than done, so set myself a challenge to come up with one to accompany this year’s CKG shortlist.  I was proved right…

Here is my shortlist playlist.  Some tunes are straightforward links between titles, some have a bit more depth as far as plot is concerned.  Can you think of any other songs that would tie in with the shortlist?

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on EarthSatellite of Love by Lou Reed

The Bone Sparrow All that you have is your soul by Tracey Chapman

The Smell of Other People’s HousesAlaska by Maggie Rogers

The Stars at Oktober BendAstronomy by Trashcan Sinatras

BeckA Place Called Home by PJ Harvey

RailheadLong Train Runnin’ by The Doobie Brothers

Salt from the SeaWar Requiem by Benjamin Britten

Wolf HollowUmbrella by Rihanna  

Wild Animals of the NorthThe Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns

TidyBig Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell

The Wolves of CurrumpawThe Last Cowboy Song by Willie Nelson & Johnny Cash

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s StoneI Put a Spell on You by Nina Simone

There is a Tribe of Kids The Animals Went in Two by Two (traditional)

A Great Big CuddleTeddy Bear Hug by The Wiggles

The Journey Where is the love? by Black Eyed Peas

The MarvelsI Was Meant for the Stage by The Decemberists


My small book-eater

Caroline Fielding is the CKG Judge for YLG London and is the librarian at Charlton Park Academy

Caroline Fielding

I remember discovering, years ago, that the judges for the CKG medals are librarians from the Youth Libraries Group & deciding at that moment that it wouldn’t just be great CPD but that I *needed* to get more involved. But fate did not want to make it easy for me, deciding that the short period of my judging tenure should coincide with the arrival of a small book-eater we named Beatrice. Pre-Bea, reading 200+ books would have been a walk in the park, I used to read all the nominated books anyway, but there were times during my pre-reading (often in the early hours over a breast pump) that I feared I wouldn’t be able to do it.
Thankfully, by the time the nominations were announced she slept reasonably well at night so I only had to worry about ignoring my hubby every evening in order to get a decent wedge of reading in before bed. 6am alarms generally got me a chapter or two before she demanded release from the cot. I’d carry a book with me wherever we went (well, who doesn’t anyway?) in the hopes that she might doze off in the buggy so I could sit on a bench & read, cursing CILIP for timing the heavy reading in winter but thanking my lucky stars it didn’t rain much. We’d surround ourselves with Greenaway titles in the living room & I would point out exceptional pages or ideas to make a note of. She’d potter around the piles of books, picking them up & saying “ooo”, even occasionally sitting with me to read one.

Even with my speed reading this wasn’t enough, so visitors had a toddler thrust at them while I buried my nose in a book, & hubby & Bea went out without me whenever possible so that I could concentrate on properly evaluating the titles against the criteria. I’m also ashamed to say that she developed a small addiction to the iPad while I wrote notes & I have felt like a terrible mother & wife (especially as hubby’s lost 1/4 his annual leave to judging meetings).
Worth it though? Hells yeah! I still can’t quite believe I’m the London Judge; it is the greatest honour & responsibility, a peak in my career at a time when really my career would otherwise be on hold. With the longlists & then shortlists chosen I’m happily getting a bit more sleep & procrastination in, as the date to pick our winners looms & I keep tweaking my notes & re-reading passages. Itching not only to have conversations about these books but also to get on with pre-reading for next year. And even more excitingly, Bea turns 2 & starts preschool next month two mornings a week, giving me nearly 6 extra hours a week reading time!