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!


The Ankh Morpork City Watch Shadowing Group

Caroline Fielding is the CKG Judge for YLG London and is the librarian at Charlton Park Academy.

Caroline Fielding

Terry Pratchett, who would have turned 70 this year on 28th April, was extremely proud of having won the Carnegie medal in 2001 for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents and often spoke of his love for libraries and the books and people therein. My dad is his doppelgänger, prompting me to buy him a book with his photo in the back cover sometime in the 90s, sparking a family-wide passion for the Discworld that never waned. My sister and I own more than 150 Pratchett novels between us (he didn’t write that many, we have 3 editions of some titles) and his death hit us all like one of a member of the family. So, I thought it would be appropriate for my blog post this year to be in his memory, and I’ve decided to recommend the shortlisted Carnegie and Kate Greenaway titles to some of his characters*.

*Those of you who don’t know the Discworld may want to look away now**.

**You must rectify this immediately (after reading the CKG shortlists obv).


  • Downspout, the first Gargoyle member of the City Watch, would really savour ‘King of the Sky’…it would definitely make him hungry as he enjoys eating the occasional carrier pigeon.
  • Sergeant Detritus and his paramour Ruby are childless, but I imagine if they did they would feel for their child as Nick’s troll mother does for him in ‘A Song From Somewhere Else’.
  • Lady Sybil Ramkin, the wife of Sam Vimes, would adore the illustrations in ‘Night Shift’ because she understands how difficult it can be to control dragons, and that it is impossible to tame them.
  • ‘Town is by the Sea’ could be the childhood of any of the dwarfs that have moved into the city of Ankh Morpork, or indeed of those that still live in the mines, I’m sure Sergeant Cheery Littlebottom will enjoy it.
  • Sergeant Angua would find ‘Under the Same Sky’ very calming, bringing together her wolf and human sides.
  • Rincewind the Wizzard would probably find ‘A First Book of Animals’ useful in his travels.
  • Reading ‘Thornhill’ would make Susan Sto-Helit (granddaughter of Death and governess) rage over the treatment of those girls.


  • Constable Visit (full name Visit-The-Infidel-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets) from the City Watch hopefully wouldn’t go as far as Father John in ‘After the Fire’, but would probably approve of some of the rules.
  • Commander Sam Vimes, on the other hand, would be raising his fist in support of Starr, the strong protagonist of ‘The Hate You Give’, as she draws attention to the inequalities in society.
  • ‘Wed Wabbit’ would probably secretly amuse Drumknott, the Patrician’s secretary, who would probably relate strongly to the Greys.
  • ‘Rook’ would definitely hook Quoth the Raven, as would ‘Where the World Ends’. It is important to see yourself in stories, even if the Death of Rats is hovering over your shoulder waiting to see if the birds die…
  • Captain Carrot has things in common with Crow from ‘Beyond the Bright Sea’, with no memory of where he came from, but rumours that he may be descended from royalty are never confirmed while Crow’s heritage becomes clearer.
  • Not an Ankh Morpork resident, but ‘Saint Death’ would definitely interest The Lady, “The One who will desert you when you need Her the most – and sometimes She might not…“, the most powerful goddess on the Disc. But would she help Arturo?
  • Finally, another non-resident is the Queen of the Elves, ruler of Fairyland, who would be very scathing of the Queen that gets herself caught up in human affairs in ‘Release’.

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:

A gargantuan 44,377 pages

Amy Powell

Amy Powell is Librarian for Children and Young in Telford

and is the West Midlands CKG Judge.

As a second year judge I desperately tried to continue the pace of my reading as soon as the winners for 2017 were announced, with the aim of familiarising myself with as many eligible titles as possible before nominations even opened.  I was so glad that I had taken this approach when a mammoth 121 books were nominated for the 2018 Carnegie Medal and 116 for the 2018 Kate Greenaway medal.

Meaning in total 237 books were been nominated for 2018, that’s a gargantuan 44,377 pages!  To read all of these books in such a short amount of time, with Christmas in the middle, is a huge challenge- needless to say I found myself reading every spare waking moment!

Now we have our amazing shortlist it’s time to reread each title that has reached this stage and add to the huge amount of notes on each, to make that all important decision of which books are going to be the 2018 winners!!


Amy P

Me with my reading piles of nominations for both the Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway Medals 2018!