Appreciating Pictures

Jennie Hillyard is a special collections librarian from Newcastle upon Tyne, she is the CKG judge for YLG NE.



This is my second, and therefore last year of being a Carnegie-Kate Greenaway judge and the big change I will take away from doing CKG is a new appreciation and focus on picture books, graphic novels and illustrated books.

I was already an avid reader before I agreed to do CKG, (frankly, you would be mad to agree to do it if you weren’t), but what I hadn’t looked at for years was picture books.  It’s understandable; if they don’t have a child, how many adults would think to look for their reading in the under 5s section?

Looking at 116 of them this year alone has certainly made me appreciate the range and diversity of graphics within each sub-genre of illustrated books.  I am more aware of the different techniques authors use, particularly thanks to the author videos on the shadowing sites where they describe their working methods which I have found fascinating.

I have even managed to find links from picture books to my day to day working career at the Mining Institute Library; on this year’s shortlist we have “Town by the Sea” which features a mining community in Cape Breton and highlights the dangers faced by the miners underground and “King of the Sky” is set in a mining village too against “clanking towers…soup and coal dust.”

Even illustrated books aimed at older age groups have never naturally been something I would pick up but I have to say I have been converted by Luke Pearson’s “Hilda and the Stone Forest” from this year’s nominations and I’m looking forward to catching up from the beginning of Hilda’s story when I am free to read what I like once judging is over!

The beautiful Jim Kay illustrated editions of Harry Potter have also brought a fresh new dimension to a set of stories I already loved and I will certainly be continuing to collect those as the series continues although I am intrigued to see how they will handle the increasing thickness of the volumes…

I have hugely enjoyed giving picture books away too; my friends’ children are supplied for Christmas and birthday presents for a few years to come.  As I was reading each one, I found myself unconsciously matching the books to the children I know in my mind.  The bulk of the Greenaway books I have gifted to a local primary school in a deprived area where their school library budget has been cut to zero for the last two years.  The teacher leading the library was overjoyed to get new stock of such high quality for the school and she sends a huge “thank you” to all the publishers and the CKG Awards.

I hope I will continue to pick up new picture books and enjoy them, now without having to make notes about why…  I know I will definitely be involved in Kate Greenaway medal shadowing at our fantastic CILIPNE “Picture Books in the Pub” events in Newcastle.  A wide range of Librarians come along and see it as a really unusual CPD event where they can use different skills to critically analyse the titles against the criteria with the help of our NE Chair, Paula Wride from Seven Stories.  Taking part without giving anything away as a judge has been challenging; I’m looking forward to being able to freely share my views next year with no constraints!


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