Dear authors…

Matt Imrie is the librarian at Farringtons School, Chislehurst and the YLG London judge.

the passion of the carnegie judge

Dear authors & illustrators

It has recently come to the attention of followers of the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals that some of you* have been making regular appearances on the long and short lists over the years.

These watchers of CKG have approached me and asked me to have a word with you about this; I explained to them that it is not possible for judges to disallow your books from being listed on the basis that you made it on last year (and in some cases previous years too) without bringing the Awards into disrepute. We then went on to discuss that while there have been first-time authors & artists that have won the medals, the main purpose of the Awards is to recognize outstanding work in writing and illustration rather than to introduce new writers & artists or boost sales of the books although they are welcome side-effects.

Now I know that you (as do all writers) do your damnedest to produce the best work you are capable of and (through no fault of your own), the material you produce is of consistently high quality so your books get recognized, read and submitted for nomination, as do the works of many other excellent writers and artists for children and young people.

There is some concern that you will be the recipient of a Medal and I just want to let you know that we will scrutinise your work as carefully as we do the works of other authors and when we come to select the most outstanding books from short lists of already outstanding titles we will do so without fear or favour. They are worried that the works of established writers & artists overshadows the work of newer creators, some of whom will no doubt go on to be selected on the basis of their outstanding work now or in the future.

Anyway the reason I write this is to say hi, thank you for amazing work and please continue to do what you are already doing so well!

All the best

The CKG Judges (2016)




*You know who you are


Sweet Treats with CKG

Tanja Jennings is the Northern Ireland YLG Judge,

she is the librarian at Wellington College, Belfast..


There is nothing better than curling up with a great book and a sweet treat so that got me thinking about the delightful concoctions that could be crafted from the delectable CKG list.

As a tester a Northern Irish shadowing group at Wellington College Belfast made their own delicious tribute to Frances Hardinge’s sinister Victorian mystery thriller The Lie Tree.



This involved constructing a trunk, branches and a soil base. Students melted Dairy Milk bars, added shredded wheat cereal and dipped, mixed and coated the grains for maximum effect.  Using the cover art as inspiration, the gooey mixture was then transferred to an enlarged template of a tree from the internet and covered with grease proof paper. Porridge oats were used for the base and buns (to represent the fruit of The Lie Tree) were made from the remaining chocolate. In the story, the more lies the tree is told the more Faith’s life spirals out of control, so sweet wrappers around WCB’s tree contained bluffs and truths about the Victorian Age to tie in with the context of the book.

To celebrate other titles on the list shadowers might like to try out more recipes to showcase and enjoy at their CKG Awards’ parties.

In One by Sarah Crossan, on pages 130-134, Grace and Tippi make Apple Pie from windfalls:

“Tippi makes the flaky pastry

while I core, peel and slice the apples,

and together we bake a pie

stuffed with cinnamon and sugar and definitely

better than anything you could

buy in a store.”

This book is a poignant and beautifully observed love poem to united twin sisters coping with extraordinary circumstances so what better way to honour it then bake an Apple Pie together with friends or family.

The Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley is set in America in 1959 at the height of wars over the integration of schools. It is a searing portrayal of racism, forbidden love across the divide and injustice. In one scene Linda and Sarah meet in the back room of Bailey’s diner, where their friend Judy works, to discuss a homework assignment. While they are there an altercation occurs over two dirty milkshake glasses, with the racist owner believing Sarah has drunk from one of them. Cherry Floats, Ice Cream Sodas, Malteds and Milkshakes were all popular drinks in 1950’s America. Use scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream and mix them with milk, carbonated water, fizzy lemonade or coca cola in a tall glass to make your own float. Top with chocolate syrup and double whipped cream for extra flavour. If you fancy a fabulously frothy toast to Talley’s book mix cherry juice with cola and ice cream.

For There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake, which is a gripping mystery thriller full of devilish twists and turns set in Arizona and the environs of the Grand Canyon, you could create a deep red velvet cake the colour of the desert to reflect the landscape of Shelby’s turbulent journey. Lake’s imagery is vivid comparing this famous landmark to “a painting by a madman with only a couple of colours in his paint set.”  Coyote and elk shaped sugar cookies using pastry cutters (wolf and deer shapes) to represent the mythological dream sequence of the protagonist’s inner world could also work.

Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here also focuses on serious issues but it is cleverly crossed with a witty parody of supernatural teen reads in the chapter headings. The engaging leading character Mikey suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. His friends and siblings are grappling with messy personal problems too. The last thing they need is Immortals threatening to blow up the high school before they can go to the prom, find love and graduate. Mikey’s best mate Jared works with him at Grillers, a steak house where they often all get together for cheesy toast and blueberry lemonades. For a sweet pizza bread twist why not whip up pizza sugar cookie slices using yellow icing. You could decorate them with smarties, sugared almonds or chocolate flakes depending on your mood. For a fizzy accompaniment, serve blueberry or raspberry lemonades by mixing up pureed fruit, freshly squeezed lemon juice, sugar and water. Top with ice cubes to chill.

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick is a change of pace. It is both historic and futuristic revelling in exploring the infinite mysteries of the universe. Themes in this ambitious novel include madness, superstition, communication and space travel. The reader is challenged to read its four segments in a different order which rotate around the central concept of a gyre. Spiral imagery appears throughout whether in the form of a spiralling falcon, the frond of a fern, the spin of a top or the turns of a staircase.

If you are feeling brave you could attempt to create caramelized sugar corkscrews, used for decoration on fancy desserts. For an easier option you could fashion strands of liquorice boot laces into spiral shapes.

Kate Saunders’ emotionally stirring sequel to E. Nesbit’s classics, Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet, Five Children on the Western Front, blends fantasy with harsh reality. Featuring the grumpy sand fairy, the psammead, from the original stories, the book explores the changing social realities of Anthea, Jane, Bob, Cyril and the Lamb along with their little sister Edie (a new character who works beautifully). The older boys are now at an age where they are compelled to face the horror of the trenches while their sisters are responding to different challenges. Saunders’ powerful story stays true to the spirit of E. Nesbit but transcends her amusing wish fulfilment fantasy capturing a world she could not have foreseen. It portrays the rifts in families caused by the savagery of World War One while expertly weaving in the redemptive journey of the tyrannical sand fairy (now a fully fleshed character). In keeping with the theme of the novel and as a mark of remembrance you could make cupcakes topped with poppy shapes.  For this you could roll out red sugar paste, imprint it with flower cutters (overlaid four petal shapes), use a dab of liquorice for the centre and green pastry for the leaves. Check for more ideas.

Fire Colour One is about art, love, loss, bereavement, greed and redemption. Its language is wonderfully evocative and Valentine skilfully crafts her eccentric characters. It is a surprising novel putting the reader on a path of discovery leading up to a climactic twist. Fire is a central theme tied in with the artist Yves Klein and the troubled psyche of Iris. Red Velvet Cupcakes iced with the main protagonist’s name would reflect the spirit of the novel. Alternatively you could make a batch of fairy cakes and use red icing with wavy lines to represent tongues of fire.

The delightfully energetic, creative, witty and playful There’s a Bear On My Chair by Ross Collins should definitely be read aloud and enjoyed with mouse and bear shaped cookies dipped in melted chocolate. If it appeals you can add icing to recreate the Fair Isle jumper pattern or write endangered to reflect the polar bear’s status. You can even experiment with an Elvis style quiff on the top of your biscuit!

Anthony Browne’s Willy’s Stories celebrates the library as a portal to adventure. The pages engage the reader directly by building up tension and offering intriguing intertextual clues and endless treasure trails to follow. It is a book to be enjoyed together and works on multi-literate levels. A chocolate cake in the shape of an open book with CLASSIC STORIES iced along its spine or a Bundt cake which can be filled with different flavours (to reflect different genres whether they be fantasy, swashbuckling action, fairy tale or anthropomorphic fun ) would be a good partner for this read.

Chris Riddell’s exquisitely illustrated unconventional Gaiman fairy tale The Sleeper and the Spindle deserves a Sleeping Beauty style cake with a Gothic edge. For inspiration you can look at Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death. Why not use purple and black icing for dramatic effect? Don’t forget to reflect his signature trademarks of gold leaf and skull motifs. You could also spin sugar to represent spindles or craft thorny branches to surround your creation.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, according to Sam from Pilgrim’s School, Hampshire (thank you for your letter) enables the reader to “dig through their imagination.” It is superbly inventive, playing with its physicality and the perceptions of its readers. After their arduous tunnelling journey all Sam and Dave want to do is eat animal biscuits. Half shortcake and half chocolate, they are an ideal treat to go with this book. As the characters determinedly dig a hole, you could eat frosted doughnuts or a Bundt cake as a tasty alternative.

Oliver Jeffers’ quirky Once Upon an Alphabet which, according to Chapel School shadowers, is full of “ingenious and colourful” vignettes, is also an alliterative and comical odyssey through the alphabet, introducing unusual characters with lessons to teach.  Alphabet cookies topped with chocolate buttons would be a fun accompaniment to this book.

Captain Jack and the Pirates illustrated by Helen Oxenbury is an elegiac and imaginative portrait of a day at the beach. It fuses full bleed colour with gentle black and white vignettes. Skull & Cross Bone shaped shortcake biscuits peppered with chocolate chips and iced with red and white polka dots would be right for this story or you could just have some ice cream like Jack, Zack and Kaspar do at the end of the story.

In Footpath Flowers, illustrated by Sydney Smith, every picture tells a story. It is about how small kindnesses can brighten our lives. Playing with different perspectives and experimenting with a distinctive colour palette, it tells the tale of a little girl’s walk home and how her world changes as she discovers the beauty of nature and resolves to use it to make others happy. Her surroundings transform as she delivers small bunches of flowers. You can have fun cutting out shortbread cookie flower shapes and icing them with yellow, red and the other shades you find as you turn the pages.

Jackie Morris’ beautifully expressive There’s Something About a Bear introduces the reader to different bears in exquisitely painted portraits celebrating their uniqueness with a mixture of verse and prose.  To create a Panda Bear cake you can make a moist chocolate sponge and immerse it in buttercream coated with white fondant. Another idea is to make his head and body out of chocolate rice crispies then use fondant and food colouring for the distinctive monochrome look. You can even paint on bamboo fronds in green. For something entirely different you could try a Sloth Bear using liquorice for its curved claws, a Polar Bear, a Spectacled Bear (using circles of maltesers to create its trademark circles around its eyes) or an endangered Moon Bear(using white fondant or whipped cream for its creamy ruff). It sounds difficult but the internet has many cake craft tips. Visit Pinterest and Twitter for more solutions.

Adieu. I hope you enjoy our scrumptious shortlists and get the time to experiment with some sweet treats.

Who are we?

Matt Imrie is the librarian at Farringtons School, Chislehurst and the YLG London judge.

We are the ones that select many of the books that you see on the shelves in the library.

Matt 1

We are the ones whom you approach when looking for a book to encourage your son/daughter/grandchild/niece/nephew to read when you have no idea where to begin.

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We are the ones that encouraged you to pick up the book that may have turned you into a reader as a child.

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Individually we may not know or have read EVERY book in the library but when you put us together our knowledge spans the centuries.

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We are Librarians

This is what you get when the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Judges get together to consider the books nominated for the medals.

We nominate what we have read and we read what has been nominated. Not once, not twice but repeatedly…

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…and yet, and yet there are observers of the awards that voice the opinion that adults cannot and should not judge awards that are given to books for young readers. That somehow we lack an understanding of what young readers want or would like to read.

This position is formed from out of a fundamental misunderstanding of what the CKG Medals are for. I will come back to the medals another time as I want to discuss the judges.

Above our qualifications and beyond our professional knowledge we are passionate about recognizing and celebrating outstanding literature for young people.

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We are the small threads that bind together outstanding illustration and writing over the years and through the decades. We remain largely anonymous, for when gazing upon the tapestry of the awards over the years only the outstanding books that were awarded the medals annually are remembered.

This is how it is and how it should be for when taking up the mantle of a judge we know that our personal views and ambitions come second to the process that recognizes greatness in books for children and young people.


The joy of being a judge

Isobel Powell is the CKG Judge for West Midlands YLG and head of Coventry Schools Library Services.

I wanted to share with you my experiences with book awards and how they can help you broaden your reading habits. Being a judge has certainly taught me a lot about the way I choose books. I have a very definite taste in books (all those who know me will certainly testify to that!) and although I read a lot I will often avoid reading books that I don’t fancy the look of. When you become a judge you are faced with reading such a wide variety of books that there are bound to be ones which you would normally slide to the bottom of the pile. The joy of being a judge is discovering a book that you would otherwise never have read and actually finding yourself enjoying it, or even loving it! That is a great moment and reminds you that it is easy to get comfortable in your narrow rut of books and never venture outside.

I have recently been to talk to a couple of shadowing groups from 2 of our local secondary schools. First I went to President Kennedy School to meet with their Year 7 shadowing group who were new to the Carnegie medal. I talked to them about the judging process and the number of books we have to read, they were a bit stunned at the thought of reading so many books! They asked lots of questions and we had a great discussion about the criteria used and how you have to judge a book on its literary merit rather than your own personal taste.  They had each only read 1 or 2 of the books off the shortlist so far and yet were already forming strong opinions about the ones they liked and didn’t like! I told them that to have the most objective opinion they needed to read all of the shortlisted books even the ones they didn’t want to. As I said above about being a judge and having to read books you wouldn’t normally choose this also applies to being part of the shadowing scheme. You are given a smorgasbord of books which vary widely in style and genre and by reading all of them you might just discover a new genre or author that you otherwise would never have found.

The following week I went to Sidney Stringer Academy to meet their shadowing group. Compared to my previous visit this was only 2 girls rather than a whole table of shadowers. But the number of people in your shadowing group isn’t important, what is important is what each individual gets out of it.


They were a lot more familiar with the process for the Carnegie medal and instead wanted to talk more about the Greenaway medal. We discussed the criteria used for judging illustrated books and how it differs from the ones used for the Carnegie. I think they were surprised at how in depth judging pictures can be. I took 3 of the shortlisted Greenaway books and showed them some of the subtle little details that give a whole different view on the way the illustrator has created the book. They had looked at the books before but hadn’t noticed any of the things I showed them. I hope that they will look at the Greenaway books in a different way now, really delving down into the detail and savouring each new discovery. Visual literacy is one of the first skills you learn when you are too young to read. Do you remember being able to tell the story just from looking at the pictures and knowing what comes next? My youngest daughter was obsessed with The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr.  She would sit with the book and ‘read’ me the whole story just by looking at the pictures, ignoring the text completely. Yet as we get older that skill is often neglected as the written word takes over. Taking part in shadowing the Greenaway is a brilliant way to start honing that skill again.

I have also spent the last few weeks working on the selection of books for our local book awards. The Coventry Inspiration Book Awards have been going for over 10 years now and we have shortlists of books for ages 4-18. Young people get a chance to read, comment and vote for their favourites. We launch the awards in the autumn term and they run until World Book Day, when we announce the winners. Many of our local schools take part in these awards and the children who take part in them often then go on to the Carnegie and Greenway shadowing in the summer term. This way they can enjoy a wide range of wonderful books and be part of a reading community all year round! Many regions have their own local book awards so if taking part in shadowing has wetted your appetite, check out what else you can be a part of next term and keep reading.

Books v. Films

Tracey A

The above cartoon has been pinned on the wall in our staff kitchen for a while, and every time I see it I smile. Then I think about the meaning and wonder about the relationship of books and films.

Personally, I usually find the film based on a book disappointing because they usually leave so much out or change it until it is almost unrecognisable. Equally, if I read the book after seeing the film I find that my internal video has been pre-set to that of the film. Characters can be described completely differently to the actor who plays them, but I still see the actor in my head as I read. Is it just me?

Anyway, I have now learned from experience to either read the book, or watch the film, but not to mix the media. That way I avoid disappointments and frustrations all round. There are exceptions of course. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Harry Potter films having already read the books, but then the films were so close to what is in the books.

Reading is a pastime for just one person but I love to think of the other people who may be reading the same book at the same time as me. I think it’s probably a side-effect of my job, though it is just as likely because I am very nosy, but I also love to look at what other people are reading. When I’m travelling I have to see what books other passengers are reading. Is it something I’ve read, something I could read myself later, or something I wouldn’t be interested in at all? Have a look around you to see what your friends, your teachers and your family are reading. You might be surprised at the ideas it gives you for something to try yourself.

Being a judge for the Carnegie and Greenaway Medals has given me the opportunity to share my reading with the other judges. Getting together and talking about what we’ve all read is fascinating. It’s great to talk about so many fantastic books and compare notes and ideas.

I am thoroughly enjoying my experience as a judge, though the length of the nominations list was intimidating to say the least. Reading and re-reading the books is a pleasure as there are such great stories to be told in such a way that it takes my breath away. Choosing a winner will be a tough decision. I just wish I could write like that. I suppose I can dream….


 Tracey Acum is the CKG Judge for Yorkshire & Humber YLG and a librarian at Hull Central Library.

The Loneliness of the Long-distance Reader

Matt Imrie is the librarian at Farringtons School, Chislehurst and the YLG London judge.

Matt Imrie

October:  “Oh you have started reading for the CKG Awards?”

November: “Wow you have a lot of books to get through –

don’t you think you should read some more?”

December: “What? Still reading I thought you would have finished by now?”

January: “Our friends are asking why you don’t want to hang out any more!”

February: “Haven’t you already read that one?”         

March: “You hate me don’t you?”

April: “I swear you have already read those!”

May: “Look at me! How many times will you read the same books?”

June: “Hey you look different, I didn’t recognize you without a book stuck in your face!”


Much like marathon running, reading for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals is a solitary pursuit that can try the patience of even the most understanding of significant other.  Trust me, if you have one and are going to be a judge, sit them down and explain to them that life as it has been will be disrupted for quite a while and while there will be bigger than usual piles of books lying around it will not be forever (the last bit may be a lie).

It is very unwise for a new judge to wait until the nominations list is made public to start reading – that is similar to waiting for the day of a big race to actually do any running. While no-one can truly know which books will be nominated it is good to start reading as early as possible so by the time the nominations list is unveiled the judge will have read at least a few of them.  This makes a big difference and may prevent panic reading, which can lead to reader fatigue.

Make no mistake, as awesome as being involved in the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals is (and it is truly amazing) it can be isolating – you will need time to yourself to read the books, compare them against the criteria and read them again. The only people who will understand your feelings and what you are going through are your fellow judges.  Past judges will look at you with a mixture of relief and envy in their eyes; relief that they don’t have to go through what you are experiencing again and envy because once experienced the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals process gets into your blood and the rush never truly leaves.

We run alone, apart from those all too few times when as judges we meet for training, long-listing, short-listing and final judging, when we choose the most outstanding titles from a pool of outstanding books.

At the end we will look back and see that while we read the books alone, we chose them together. If you are a first year judge you will feel a mixture of excitement and trepidation knowing that you have another year to run, to read, to choose and to lead new judges who will be standing in the starting blocks, and you hope that you learnt enough from the second year judges who guided you in your first steps.

But at the end you know everything will be fine, because while you read on your own, as a judge you are never alone!


anatomy of carnegie judges

Hooked on reading

Ellen Krajewski is the judge for Eastern YLG and is the librarian at The Hemel Hempstead School, Hertfordshire.


Martha (YLG Wales) talked about her literary firsts and it got me thinking about the books that influenced me as a child.  What was the book that got you hooked on reading?  For me, that’s an easy question, it was Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I have vivid memories of sitting on the carpet in the afternoon in first year infants (now Year 1) and listening, enthralled, as our teacher read to us.  I was instantly transported to another time, another place; I was Laura’s shadow as she and her family travelled across the undeveloped wilds of America in a covered wagon.  How exciting it was to be sleeping under that canvas, coyotes howling in the distance, never knowing how close you were to Indians, Pa protecting his family with his shotgun, and little Jack the dog sleeping on guard underneath the wagon.  Of course, life for Laura and her settler family was, in reality, not at all glamorous, but I was hooked.  I still have my original set of Little House books but my daughter, who also grew up with those stories, has warned me not to attempt to take them down from the shelf as they are likely to disintegrate!  So I have bought a new set so that I can reread them for the millionth time!

Having caught the reading bug I worked my way through the children’s section in my local library taking in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Secret Seven, St Clare’s and Malory Towers, then moving on to Little Women, What Katy Did and Pollyanna.   My love of historical fiction was borne out of Ian Serraillier’s The Silver Sword and Eric Williams’ The Wooden Horse.  In my second year in secondary school I had a young inspirational English teacher who handed out reading lists for the summer.  This was heaven to me and I made it my mission to read every book on the list.  It meant I could venture into the absolutely silent adult section of the public library, where I was mesmerised by the sight of hundreds of books that were there for the reading, just waiting for me, competing for my attention, tempting me into their worlds.  I worked my way through Catcher in the Rye, Animal Farm and Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War.  I discovered other authors on nearby shelves and explored books that I really shouldn’t have been reading that young, by Harold Robbins and Jackie Collins, not literary greats but forbidden fruits to an early teen.  As class texts I discovered Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong and Graham Greene’s Travels With My Aunt, quite a risqué choice for a convent grammar school in the 1970s.

I was asked recently to nominate ten books that had touched me, not necessarily great literature but books that had stayed with me.  Having made my choices, I could have made another list immediately.  My son questioned why I had not included The Gruffalo, Hairy Maclary and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Included in my list was at least one Carnegie Medal winner, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.  I was privileged to be part of the judging panel who chose that winner and I consider it to be an extraordinary honour to be back on the judging panel this year, faced with the incredibly difficult task of choosing a winner from the outstanding shortlist.  Every book on the shortlist is highly deserving of its place there and every book on the shortlist has the ingredients to be this year’s winner.  Will Patrick Ness become the first author to win a third Carnegie Medal?  Will Marcus Sedgwick, shortlisted so many times, finally be crowned the winner? Will Sarah Crossan be successful on her third shortlisting? Or will the accolade go to the debut author, Robin Talley?  Will Frances Hardinge add the Carnegie Medal to her Costa success?  Or will it go to previously shortlisted Kate Saunders, Jenny Valentine or Nick Lake?  That is the unenviable task facing the judges shortly and it is an honour, a pleasure and a privilege to be part of that process.