Carol Hales is the CKG Judge for YLG South East
I approached my first year as a CKG judge with a heady mix of excitement and trepidation. I have always read avidly, but slowly. How on earth was I going to read all of the nominated titles (137 Carnegie and 117 Greenaway)? In the words of Frank Zappa: So many books, so little time!
As all judges must, I became adept at squeezing reading time into each day, however busy. Train delays and missed connections on my journey to work became cause for celebration, as they gave me valuable extra minutes. I pretty much gave up on my social life (friends and family were very understanding) and stopped watching TV, other than allowing myself my weekly fix of Strictly. I learnt to carry a book ( and usually two) with me at all times – there is nothing worse than having the gift of unexpected reading time, but no book. I tried setting my alarm for 5.30 to fit in some early morning reading, but sadly, more often than not, I pressed the snooze button instead.
There were certainly times when I thought I wasn’t going to be able to read all of the books in time, but somehow, miraculously, I did.
And was it worth it? Absolutely it was!
Jeanette Winterson has said, “Books and doors are the same thing. You open them and go through into another world”. Over my months of CKG reading, I have opened and gone through doors into so many extraordinary and unexpected worlds, many of which I would never have entered were I not a CKG judge.
I have travelled back in time and found myself caught up in the intrigues and dangers of Civil War England and both World Wars. I have been alongside the Montgolfiers as they pioneered hot air balloon flight, and have experienced life in the jungles of the Philippines. I have spent time on remote British islands and in the heart of cities.
I have marvelled at brilliantly imagined fantasy worlds, and have been immersed in realms of ancient magic, witchcraft and faerie. I have entered terrifying dystopian futures, and have journeyed into space.
Illustrated books have taken me up mountains, below the oceans, into deserts, and even to Mars.
My reading has also taken me to places and landscapes already familiar to me, but seen from new and different perspectives. And on these journeys, I have had a glimpse into so many lives: women fighting for the vote, indigenous people whose way of life is under threat, young carers, refugees, young people caught up in cycles of violence, children working in sweatshops, young addicts and many, many more.
It has been a joy and a privilege to enter all these worlds and to spend time with their inhabitants. I have laughed and cried, cheered and raged, and been enriched by the experience. I can’t wait to see what new worlds next year’s books will have in store for me, although I’m pretty sure that I will still be panicking about how to read so many books!