Jessica Dunnicliff is the CKG Judge for YLG West Midlands
As the West Midlands judge and one based in Stratford upon Avon it seems only fitting to start this blog with some Shakespeare.
The Carnegie experience is all about words, from the power of them on the page to the joy of hearing them read out loud, and even the sheer number of them that we have all read. One of my fellow judges has taken great delight in calculating the number of words we have devoured whilst reading the nominated titles for Carnegie – over seven and a half million of them!
All of the shortlisted Carnegie titles demonstrate the importance of words, particularly the importance of having a voice, using a voice and being heard. From Xiomara discovering the freedom of expression of poetry in Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X to Ruth and Emily’s discussions about grief and loss in The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders.
There are equally powerful experiences for the reader on the Greenaway medal shortlist. For example, the effect of listening to the comforting refrain of You’re Safe with with me said out loud at bedtime, to the silence and sadness that The Lost Words explores when such words disappear for our dictionaries, our everyday vocabulary and our landscapes.
Since embarking on my career in libraries in 1997 I have always wanted to be a Carnegie and Greenaway judge. To be part of something that has winners from my own childhood, favourites such as Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden and KM Peyton’s The Edge of the Cloud, to books I have championed and shared as a librarian such as Frank Cottrell Boyce Millions and Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls. It has been an exhilarating and challenging experience that I would recommend to anyone.
One of the great pleasures of being a judge is hearing others discuss the books, from discussions with my fellow judges, hearing readers champion and argue for their favourites to reading the reviews on the website. I cannot wait to find out the result of the Shadowers Choice Award.
To borrow from Geraldine McCaughrean’s 2018 Carnegie Medal speech, throughout the nomination, longlisting, shortlisting and shadowing process I have been bombarded with words like gamma rays, steeped in words like pot plants stood in water, pelted with them and I have loved every minute of it. I cannot wait to repeat it next year.