Slipping through a time wormhole

Alison Cassels is the CKG Judge for Yorkshire & The Humber YLG and is a Reading Officer in Wakefield.


As I head towards the end of my second year as a judge, I’ve made a few notes to slip through a time wormhole to the me who was just starting this adventure…

  • Invest in clothes that don’t need ironing. Wave goodbye to your garden (hello weeds!) and make space for the biggest pile of unsorted junk mail in Yorkshire.
  • At the end of Year One you will think the record number of nominations was because of the anniversary and there won’t be so many the following year. You will be VERY wrong…
  • You will feel even more how lucky you are to have such supportive managers and colleagues, and a husband who was so proud of what you were doing, did all the washing up for months and made a cup of tea every time you looked up at him.
  • However, teach do him to cook a few things before you start. You will get a bit tired of his signature dish of a plain omelette.
  • Don’t panic, the notes you are taking are fine and will be what you need on the day.  You will still get ‘notebook envy’ though when you see a fellow judge’s clever way of organising things or beautifully colour coded pages.
  • Don’t spend time trying to decide the obvious (to you) potential winners. There are 12 other people in the room and funnily enough they will all have their own views on this. You will have the most wonderful discussions though.
  • You will find that you actually really enjoy the challenge of reading big piles of books to a tight deadline.
  • But- tasty treats as a reading reward are a BAD idea..
  • You will get totally addicted to reading the reviews from the Shadowing groups. Their insights and frankness are wonderful and every time you need an extra dose of enthusiasm, go there to find it.
  • You will experience books by so many brilliant authors and illustrators, and be more convinced than ever that we are in a golden age of books for children and young people, and of the importance of helping them to discover the riches on offer.

Judging Reflections

Karen Poolton is the CKG judge for YLG North West

and is the school librarian at St Bede’s College, Manchester.


As my 2 years as a judge comes to an end, I have been reflecting on the whole experience and realised that it has been the hardest thing I have done professionally, even beating the time I had to remove a dead pigeon from the porch roof of Burtonwood Library! There were times when I just didn’t think I would be able to get through the huge piles of books in my spare bedroom and as the weight piled on (no time for exercise and I made the mistake of rewarding myself with biscuits when I finished a book!) and my eyes got more and more tired, I wasn’t sure it had been such a good idea.

Having said all that, it has also definitely been the most rewarding part of my career.  I have taken so much from the experience I thought I would sum up just some of the things I have enjoyed so much:

  • The sheer excitement of boxes of books arriving at home ready for me to unwrap and read. Incidentally, it meant I got to know neighbours I had never spoken to before when they very kindly took books in which arrived when I was out!
  • The experience of reading books from genres I normally keep well away from.

I have actually enjoyed reading fantasy and science fiction and will continue to do so.  I have been a school librarian for so long that I think I had become a bit lazy in terms of my reading, so the children I work with have hopefully benefited from my new enthusiasm about reading all kinds of books.

  • The value of re-reading.

I don’t think I had ever willingly re-read a book before my judging experience, having always thought it a bit of a waste of time. However, I discovered the value of re-reading as I read the shortlisted books for multiple times. There is so much to gain from the second reading of a book, particularly one where the plot has carried you along on the first reading and you just want to know what happens next. There are all sorts of nuances and depths waiting to be discovered. I will also be a lot more understanding of children who re-read books for the sheer comfort it brings.

  • The joy of spending time with like-minded people talking about books.

Meeting so many inspirational people in the course of the judging process has been truly amazing. I have learned such a lot from each of them and have come away from judging meetings with fresh enthusiasm for the job I love.

  • The shadowing experience

I have been working in schools for over 30 years and have led an annual shadowing group for most of that time. I will admit to varying degrees of success and had become a little bit jaded in my enthusiasm. I have had years when the budget just wouldn’t stretch to enough copies of the shortlisted books, years when the shadowers have been hard work and years when just about every meeting I arranged had to be cancelled. Having been part of the process has renewed my enthusiasm for the shadowing experience and this year I can’t wait to hear what my group think of the books I am now so familiar with.



  • Appreciating illustration

Judging the books nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal was one of the biggest challenges for me.  How could I judge artistic quality? The training days, the extra reading and listening to experts talk about the books in front of us have opened my eyes to how fantastic illustrated books can be. I have now used the Greenaway shortlisted books with group of children in Years 6, 7 and 8 and have been amazed with how rewarding that has been for the children involved.



I am really grateful for being given the opportunity to be a judge. Thank you to the North West committee members for nominating me, to everyone involved in the judging process, particularly Amy who has guided us all through the process and also to my long suffering husband who took over all household tasks and provided my meals.

I know when the nominations are announced in October I will suffer from withdrawal symptoms and will really miss the knock on the door signalling the arrival of another box of books. I will, however, read as many of the nominated books as I possibly can and talk about them with anyone who will listen with enthusiasm and confidence.

8 Fantastic Stories

Hilary Gow is the CKG Judge for YLG South East

Hilary Gow

8 fantastic stories to read, enjoy and … assess.  I wonder if, like me, you find it hard to ‘judge’.  It’s easy to have favourites, to warm to books that resonate for you personally and to feel cool about those that don’t.  Judging the Carnegie goes beyond this.  I’m sure you have all encountered the judging criteria which guide you to focus on style, plot and characterisation.  There is also the over-riding requirement that the winning story should be a work of ‘outstanding literary quality’.  I have been trying to work out just what this means.

Outstanding (in the sense used here) is fairly easy as – according to the online Oxford dictionary – it means ‘exceptionally good’

Literary is a little more slippery … the Oxford online dictionary defines it as ‘Concerning the writing, study, or content of literature, especially of the kind valued for quality of form’

Quality can have the meaning of ‘The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something’

So – judges need to measure each of the works, taking account of how they do in terms of the style of the writing, the use of the plot and the way the characters have been revealed to us, the reader.

I’ve re-read all the books again (multiple times) now but I have little idea which one will take the winner’s prize.  All of them have already shown themselves as worthy of winning by being shortlisted.

I wonder what you think?

Shadow Girl

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

Jenny Hawke

Apart from reading and judging so many amazing books the thing I love the most about the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals is Shadowing. Since I started working for Bromley Libraries in 2008 I have been actively shadowing both awards with all the reading groups I run for children and young people. One person who has accompanied me on this 10 year journey of shadowing is Hannah, who joined my Books Aloud group when she was 5 and is now in Petts Wood Bookworms which is my group for teenagers aged 14+.


Hannah has always enjoyed reading and was integral to the shadowing process throughout all the groups she has joined. This is Hannah’s story:

I really enjoyed the Kate Greenaway 2014 shortlist. I remember particularly enjoying ‘I Want My Hat Back’ by John Klassen the most. The illustrations from ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ were also memorable as they were really well drawn and some were quite funny. I liked how the crayons were personified and given facial expressions.  

Jenny 1

I read all of the books on the Carnegie 2016 shortlist and really enjoyed them. The characters I remember the most were Grace and Tippi from ‘One’ as they were unique, and the book had a very different writing style from any other book I have read. I empathised with the characters from ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’ as they were very close to my age, and they were still in school. ‘Lies We Tell Ourselves’ really resonated with me as it really opened my eyes to how ethnic minorities were treated during and before the civil rights movement. Most books I’ve read when shadowing the Carnegie shortlist have taken me elsewhere, but especially ‘The Bone Sparrow’ as the plot was really interesting and the descriptions were well written. I engage more with books that are plot driven as I find they are usually more suspenseful, fast paced and interesting.

Jenny 2

I remember meeting all the authors at the Awards Ceremony in 2014 and learning about how they get their inspirations for their books, and how open and friendly all the authors were.

Jenny 3

Shadowing has always been a fun way to express my opinions about the books I read and it has taught me how to effectively summarise and write my opinions on different books. I remember doing Carnegie Bingo, which I found really fun as there were book based questions, but it was also partially luck based. I would say that shadowing is a really great way to discover new books you haven’t read before, or may be out of your preferred genre, and it’s a good way to find new books you may love. I talk about Carnegie out of school to some of my friends as they also share a love for reading and are also open to new books and genres.

The library has been really important to me as it has always been more than a place to borrow books. It has been a place to have fun and make friends, which gave a sense of community. It had also been a place where I have learnt, and built my confidence.

Jenny 4

I would like to thank Hannah for sharing her experiences of shadowing and her involvement in the process over the past 10 years.

For more information on shadowing the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards go to: