Zoey Dixon, CKG Judge
I have always thought it sad that so many people stop reading children’s books when they stop being children. I never stopped reading children’s or teen novels, but I did forget about picture books. When I became a children’s librarian I re-discovered my joy of picture books. I found that I could sit for hours marveling at the clever stories that were told using fantastic illustrations. I came across old favourites and made new ones. I hunted for the perfect books for my under 5s sessions or class visits because I know that a good book will stay with you forever.
Geraldine McCaughrean’s A Pack of Lies was the first Carnegie Prize winning novel that I remember reading. It quickly became a favourite and I re-read it countless times, hypnotised just like those characters listening to MCC Berkshire tales were. Many more winners went on to become some of my favourite books, from the epic fantasy of Philip’s Pullman’s Northern Lights to Melvin Burgess’ Junk. These were the novels I remember recommending to friends as I adored them so much. I wanted to share my joy of reading especially as I love talking about books. Sometimes I couldn’t always find the words to articulate just how much I’ve enjoyed it or how a book made me feel. But I don’t have that problem now!
To be a judge for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway has been one of the most challenging, intense and exciting experiences of my career so far. It is hard to describe the feeling when all the judges came together to discuss the nominations and create the longlist for both awards. The passion and the energy in the room is palatable. It has allowed me to develop my knowledge of children’s literature and illustrators and given me an insight into the breadth of stories that are being told. And having read so many books (the most in a very long time) I can engage in my favourite past time: sharing and talking about them!
I’ve really enjoyed visiting groups that are shadowing the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Award. The shadowers are far more articulate than I was at their age. They are knowledgeable, insightful and passionate. Their understanding of the books takes into account their life experience and is shaped by what they see happening in the world, and their place in it. They have constantly surprised and challenged me as well as teaching me new things. To see them as enthusiastic about the shortlist as I am has been a joy and I leave those sessions feeling energised.
But I haven’t only shared the books with kids. I also persuaded my adult reading group to give a title from the shortlist a try. They were reluctant at first, and some admitted some snobbery. But they loved it, and that title got the highest scores out of all the adult books we had read that year. They were surprised at the calibre of children’s literature and are now regularly reading more children’s literature. To me this proves that the books shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal are not just examples of outstanding children’s literature, but of the written word.