Thank you from the Chair of Judges

There’s a combination of sadness and excitement as this year’s Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals draws to a close. Sadness that all of the fervour around Reading and reviewing the books is drawing to a close, but excitement that the winners are now announced and that, finally, everyone knows and is able to discuss and debate these. Do you agree with what the judges selected this year? Can you recognise why these books were chosen as the winners?

Reading so many of the thousands upon thousands of reviews submitted has been massively inspiring and uplifting and the feelings and views you have taken the time to place into words is impressive. So many responses, so many reactions to the characters and stories crafted and structured through words and pictures. In many cases reading your views and verdicts has led my opinions to change and alter.

This is one of the remarkable things about reading, we all approach it with different ideas, imaginations and invest into it parts of ourselves. People sometimes think reading can only be a quiet, solitary and even outdated activity. The truth is it can challenge and comfort as well as changing who we are and how we think. Sometimes this is in small ways, sometimes in significant ways and sometimes in ways that are quite unexpected.

After you have shared your opinions on the books, it only feels right to let you know why the judges selected their choices of winners. Perhaps you will agree, perhaps you will feel fiercely that another book should have won, this is one of the great things about reading we all bring to it our unique understanding and experience.

The 2018 CILIP Carnegie medal was awarded to Geraldine McCaughrean for ‘Where the World Ends’. ‘Where the World Ends’ felt to the judges to be perfectly pitched, it conjured a time and a place that readers inhabit; living, breathing and almost tasting the smack of salty sea spray upon lips as they feverishly turn the pages, eager to learn more about the predicament that sees Quilliam and the boys left fighting to survive on Warriors Stac. It is a book that has a huge amount to say about belief, about the gradual shift between childhood and adulthood and which brings to bear an indomitable sense of the human spirit for survival. In equal measures tense, thought provoking and told with style and panache it offers a rich reading experience that unreels and unravels more upon every reading.

The 2018 CILIP Kate Greenaway novel went to Sydney Smith for ‘Town is by the Sea’. ‘Town is by the Sea’ sees a powerful and poignant union between words and pictures. It’s an astonishing book that balances the intimacy of a boy’s childhood world of play, imagination and the safety of family and home in a small seaside town, with a larger and more perilous story of an adult world of work and the dangers of coal mining. The story brilliantly pairs and pits these two aspects together creating an unforgettable experience that makes profound comments about the nature of childhood, change and the journeys we chart into our future as we grow…

Encountering change can be challenging, but the stories that we carry with us in both our hearts and our minds can help us weather the changes we might face. We hope that you have enjoyed the experience of shadowing and have encountered and read some stories that will stay with you throughout your life…

As well as leaving a lasting mark on the minds of the judges, many of the 237 books that were nominated have been gifted by the judges to schools, public libraries, nurseries, prisons and children’s homes across the whole of the UK where they will continue to change minds. It brings to mind a passage from the author Fay Weldon’s book, ‘Letters to Alice’…

books are wonderful things; to sit alone in a room and laugh and cry, because you are reading, and still be safe when you close the book; and having finished it, discover you are changed, yet unchanged! To be able to visit the City of Invention at will, depart at will – that is all, really, education is about, should be about.

Thank you for joining us and shadowing this year’s awards and for helping to make the process so enjoyable and enlivening and thank you for sharing with us your ideas and thoughts. Happy Reading!

Jake Hope
Chair of CKG Judges

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Excelsior!

Alison Cassels is the CKG Judge for Yorkshire & The Humber YLG and is a Reading Officer in Wakefield.

Inspired by the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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The pile of books was rising fast

As through the office trolley passed,

A Porter pushing, loaded high.

The Reader saw them with a sigh

I must read more!

 

Temptation strews the rocky path

The box set and the long, deep bath

But tea in hand with fixéd eye

Still soared that clarion battle cry

‘I must read more!’

 

At break of day, as heavenward

On glorious tide of words she soared,

She’d lived a hundred different lives,

Seeing the world through others’ eyes.

‘I must read more!’

 

 

In that gigantic paper mound

Half buried in the text was found

The Reader, with an eye serene,

Inspired by all she’d read and seen

‘I must read more!’

 

The mountain climbed, the battle won,

The textual notes are used and done

And now the frantic reading’s past

Will books be laid aside at last?

‘I must read more!’

 

A Golden Year

Maura Farrelly is the CKG Judge for YLG Northern Ireland

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2017 was the year I turned 50. It could not have had a better start, with a new job as a School Librarian at Victoria College. I loved my previous job as part of the Special Collections & Archives team at QUB, but at heart I will always be a school librarian and this was too big an opportunity to miss: a school which caters not only for 11-18 year olds, but also has a Prep department and a nursery. Life, I thought, couldn’t get any better.

And then it did!

Having regarded CKG Judges as an elite breed of SuperLibrarian, a kind of hero; I admit that joining them was more than a little daunting, but excitement will always win over nerves and I’m so glad it did.

Just as I hit half a century, the CKG year took off with judges’ training and this was quickly followed by the arrival of parcels and piles of gorgeous books. Always a reader, all those years of practice were put to good use, as was an ability to ignore any commotion (and chores) to focus on the written and illustrated pages.

As with the best stories, things were definitely going too smoothly! Faced with reading 237 books, I do not recommend a broken wrist. While the extra time off work was definitely appreciated, it wasn’t so easy to hold a book, especially when trying to make notes at the same time. And as for typing them up…There may have been a few tears!

The judging meetings were intense and exhilarating and exhausting and adrenaline-fuelled, and that’s all I’ll say about those.

The most rewarding part of the year has undoubtedly been sharing the books with the pupils in school. Shadowing with the Book Club has been a lot of fun as the pupils have reacted so openly to the shortlisted books and they have been really keen to recommend them to friends, classmates and family. It has been fascinating to compare the reactions of the older girls to those in P2 or P3.

I especially enjoyed watching two year 8s reading one of the picture books together, every reaction and emotion showing on their faces as they turned the pages. Pure gold.

 

The most rewarding experience

Lisa Penman is the CKG Judge for YLG Scotland.

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I was thrilled when I found out I was chosen as the judge to represent Scotland and have found it to be one of the hardest, but most rewarding experiences of my career.  It’s also been a great learning experience, as it’s so different reading as a judge instead of reading for pleasure, to assess the work against the set criteria and not just get lost in the story.

It felt like Christmas had come early every time I got a delivery of books.  Each bookcase was spilling over and my dining room table was taken over by the piles of books I was working on for months, but I absolutely loved it.  I’ve happily been able to donate the books I received to the libraries throughout Fife.

I must admit it was daunting to have the pressure of reading all the nominated titles in time and do them justice.  It was a mammoth task, but also a fantastic excuse to curl up and read some amazing books I wouldn’t normally have come across or chosen to read otherwise.

There were a few days over the Christmas holidays where it felt like I was moving from one heart-breakingly sad book to another and I often wondered what my two boys were thinking when they would walk in the room and I was crying over a book again.  Although, they did enjoy many of the books themselves – a perk of having a judge in the family!

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Even the cat was getting in on the reading action.

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The quality of the books has been very high and I feel very proud of the long and short lists we’ve created.  I’m so excited for the winner’s ceremony!

Even though I’m still in my first year as a judge I realise this is an experience I’ll cherish forever and that I’ll continue to follow the medals closely, long after my judging period is over.

12 Angry Men (and women)

Ruth Parsons is the CKG Judge for Eastern YLG

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Hello! I’m Ruth and I live in deepest rural Suffolk, where it’s green, lush and quiet: perfect for prolonged reading! I’ve been fortunate enough to be the Eastern Region judge for the past two years. I had always wondered what goes on behind the closed doors of jury rooms, and now I have an insight.

When I’m not reading to relax, I love watching old films, and one of the most memorable for me must be ’12 Angry Men’ with Henry Fonda in the starring role as the one member of a jury who must convince all the others of a defendant’s innocence. It’s nail-bitingly tense. I thought of him on more than one occasion as I tried to find the words to ‘save’ a worthy book from the gallows of oblivion!

Of course, it isn’t as dramatic as that, and during the first year of judging I remember a moment of profound relief. This was the discovery that, for the most part, the CKG judging criteria mean that there is a broad basis for agreement. Reading alone for months, sworn to secrecy, I had started to question my judgement, and that first year, it was a relief to find consensus. It’s when it gets down to the final few that it becomes more fraught. But we were never ‘angry’, thankfully – just a little firm, a touch assertive…

Of course, not everyone agrees, and there are certainly intense moments when a favourite book doesn’t make it. It’s a good job that librarians are such civilised and articulate people!

An aspect shortlisted titles share is that they all inspire empathy in the reader: one of the criteria for the Carnegie Medal, for example, is that we feel the ‘sub-conscious satisfaction of having gone through a vicarious…real experience that is retained afterwards.’ The Kate Greenaway Medal criteria demand that we feel pleasure ‘from a satisfying and stimulating visual experience’. These wonderful books took us on an adventure, showed us different lives, times and experiences. While I was thinking about empathy, I noticed that on 12th June, the very week before the winners are announced, Empathy Lab are holding their second Empathy Day. Here’s a link: http://www.empathylab.uk/empathy-day.  Science has proved that books build more understanding between people and help to break down prejudice. I know that the short-listed books do just that.

Reading & Snuggling

Chris Bertenshaw is a librarian in Derbyshire and the CKG Judge for East Midlands YLG.

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It’s a tremendous honour to be selected by my regional committee as our Carnegie & Kate Greenaway judge for this year and next. I knew when I joined the committee that there was a chance I would get to fulfil the role at some point in my career, and I was over the moon when I found out that it really would be my turn this time round.

It was shortly after I accepted the role that I learnt my wife was pregnant with our third child, and therefore I would be embracing the role at exactly the time when one’s usual sleep total for a week can fall dangerously close to single figures, but being someone who has never needed much sleep (or at least has got used to not having much sleep with two children under the age of 6) I was confident that I could simply combine not-sleeping-because-of-baby with not-sleeping-because-of-reading and find a nice equilibrium that meant both my child and my books felt equally loved.

Enter the wonderful joy of baby-wearing! Armed with a variety of slings, carriers, and wraps, I spent nearly every evening and weekend for three to four months with my youngest snuggled closely to my chest, working feverishly away at a slowly diminishing pile of wonderful stories. Everyone has their own special place that they feel most comfortable reading, whether it’s lying in bed, stretched out on the sofa, or up a steep hill with a glorious 360 degree panoramic view (the Peak District is wonderful for this!), but for me it was the times spent bonding with my little one snuggled on my chest that allowed me to get lost in the plot of one of the books that were the most special of all.

He’ll be an awful lot bigger when the time comes around for my second year, but I’ll still love the times when he’s wrapped up close to me as I pace the house late at night trying to finish another story before the dawn chorus begins. Hopefully he’ll make his way through all the nominated titles for the Kate Greenaway Medal too, like his older brothers  before him!

Theon

Rediscovering Gems

Anne Thomas is the CKG Judge for YLG Wales and is a librarian in Llandudno.

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I am Anne Thomas and I’m getting to the end of my first year as a judge, representing Wales – from Holyhead to Cardiff and everywhere in between. Reading the nominations list was interesting and great fun and I’m enjoying having the chance to re-read the shortlisted titles, but hadn’t realised how much had been missed the first time round- so many gems to rediscover is really exciting.

The best part though has been hearing pupils talk about what they thought of the books. It makes it all worthwhile, so thanks to the shadowing group at Ysgol John Bright, Llandudno for all your contributions – you are an inspiration!

I’m sure we are all looking forward to the announcement of this year’s winners in June and it will be great to see what next year’s nominations will bring.

To keep you going till then, I have a question:

If you read all the shortlisted titles for both medals, how many pages would you have read?