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.

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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!

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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?

Appreciating Pictures

Jennie Hillyard is a special collections librarian from Newcastle upon Tyne, she is the CKG judge for YLG NE.

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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.

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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).

Greenaway:

  • 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.

Carnegie:

  • 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.

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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.