Shadowing Groups ROCK! It’s official…

Kara Orford is Community Library at Prestatyn Library and is the judge for YLG Wales.

 Ask any of the CKG judges and I am sure they would say that one of the BEST things about being a judge for the CILIP Carnegie and Greenaway Medals is the fact that we are lucky enough to get invited to some fabulous schools to visit and talk about the judging process (We sometimes get fed cake too while we’re there, but that’s a whole other story!).

I was lucky enough this week to enjoy the Carnegie Medal celebration event at Prestatyn High School in Denbighshire, North Wales. Prestatyn High is just down the road from the library that I work in and I have the pleasure of visiting the lovely Sarah Southerton and her gang of avid readers once a fortnight during shadowing season. We tend to hold the celebration event on the same day as the actual award ceremony down in London, but due to circumstances we had to be a little ahead of time this year!

It doesn’t matter what kind of day or week I am having in library-land, a visit to a shadowing group never fails to leave me completely reinvigorated and in love with my job! The toilets in the library may be blocked, I may have been shouted at by an angry man who’s furious about his fines, but all of that goes out of the window after an hour with a group of passionate, opinionated readers who have lots to say about this year’s shortlist.

Kara 1

We kicked off this year’s celebration with a multiple choice quiz covering a round on each of the short listed titles (Big shout out to Casey who managed an unbelievably respectable score, only to later confess that due to G.C.S.E coursework she had only actually finished two of the books!).

Kara 2

We had prizes for the best review posted (Well done Kate!), we had Carnegie themed cupcakes, but of course, most importantly, we had a rip roaring debate about the book that deserved to win this year’s Carnegie Medal! Wow, such strong opinions, such thoughtful and considered points raised and some extremely persuasive and impassioned speaking going on.

Kara 3

“What ACTUALLY happens in that book at the end of the day?!” Someone fumed “There was just no plot!” Another of the shortlisted titles was panned for being “Babyish”, the words having hardly left their mouth before another reader deftly swept in and defended it for being a “Moving and beautiful” story. See what I mean? So many differing opinions and so many comments to consider.   It cropped up in discussion that Carnegie shortlisted titles have at times, in the past been criticised for being ‘heavy’ or ‘depressing’ and full of ‘despair’ and ‘issues’. “Good!” piped up Freya, “I’m glad that they make me think and feel things, the best books always do. What’s the point of reading something that doesn’t affect you in some way?”

Shadowing groups and the debate that they generate are at the very heart of all things Carnegie Greenaway and I just love hearing what they have got to say. In case you were wondering, this particular shadowing group voted ‘More Than This’ as their winner, closely followed by ‘Buffalo Soldier’ and then ‘Tinder’. Will their vote mirror that of the judges? At least it won’t be long to wait until the news is out! Monday will be here before we know it and I have got that excited, bubbly feeling about the winners being announced. I just can’t wait for those envelopes to be opened!!


We Few, We Happy Few

In time for tomorrow’s ceremony Matt Imrie has given the St Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V an incredible CKG spin!

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

Matt Imrie

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those librarians in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin, Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to judge, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer readers, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one judge more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth read upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a judge from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one reader more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That they which hath no stomach to this judging,
Let them depart; their passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into their purse;
We would not read in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to read with us.
This day is call’d the day of Carnegie and Kate Greenaway
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Carnegie and Kate Greenaway.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Carnegie and Kate Greenaway’s.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Carnegie and Kate Greenaway’s day.”
Old readers forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What books he read that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
East Midlands, Eastern and London, North Eastern and North Western, Northern Ireland and Scotland, South Western, Wales, West Midlands, Yorkshire & Humberside

Be in their flowing
cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Carnegie and Kate Greenaway day shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of booklovers;
For they to-day that reads their books with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle their condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That read with us upon Carnegie and Kate Greenaway’s day.

The opportunity of a lifetime

Kathryn Flagner is the Senior Librarian at Workington Library, Cumbria.


Next Monday the 2015 Carnegie and Greenaway winners will be announced at the presentation ceremony at The British Library.  I am looking forward to the event as a celebration of the best in children’s literature and illustration with people who are passionate about the subject, creating  a great atmosphere.  For me there will also be a certain sadness, as it will mark the end of my 2 year stint as a Carnegie judge.

This drawing to an end of my judging period has made me reflect on my involvement in CKG  and ask myself  what I most enjoyed about the process, the answer could be everything!  It was inspiring to meet and work with the other judges and the CKG team, as they were all so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about books for children and young people.  A real team spirit developed and although there were times when the debate over the books became heated everyone’s views were listened to and valued.  We were after all aiming for the same thing, to find the best books in each category.

The number of books nominated each year was overwhelming.  This hit home when they started to arrive and I had them arranged in “to read” piles which were much taller than the “read” pile.  Eventually this balance shifted and as I read I discovered new authors and read books I would not otherwise have picked up.  This has had a knock on effect on my professional life as I feel I can speak confidently about more books, even though I was quite widely read before being a CKG judge.  In future I will look out for other books by some of the authors I discovered, increasing my pleasure in reading.

Across the country thousands of children and young people shadow the CKG awards each year and meeting some of these has been inspiring and surprising.  This year I visited Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Blackburn where I met and talked with this year’s Carnegie shadowing group, mainly year 7s, but with 1 year 8 pupil, who were all enthusiastic and eager to share their views on the books.  I then  spent some time with a group of Year 9 pupils, one of whom spoke about Maggot Moon being a brilliant winner of the Carnegie Prize.  It struck me that shadowing the medals must have had a big impact on this pupil to remember it a couple of years later.  I also worked with a group of pupils from Victoria Junior school in Workington, Cumbria, who were shadowing the Kate Greenaway Prize.    Here I was impressed by the ease and confidence with which the Year 5 pupils involved used quite technical language, talking about end papers and the texture of the illustrations for example.

I will miss being a CKG judge and consider it to have been the opportunity of a lifetime.  I look forward to next year’s nominations and aim to read a good number of them, but won’t kid myself that I will read them all!

Male CKG Judges are like buses…

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

Matt Imrie

Male CKG Judges are like buses, you wait for ages then two turn up at once; and if rumour is to be believed there will be a third next year…

Wait just a moment I hear you cry, what does gender have to do with the CKG Awards?

Well nothing really – or everything, it depends on who you ask.

I started taking an active interest in what was being said online about the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals when I knew I was going to be a judge. One of the most noticeable criticisms I saw was that because the judges were mostly women that books for boys generally would not make the grade of most outstanding book or illustrated book of the year.

Do you want to know what I have learnt during my first year as a CKG Judge?

Oh go on – you know you do!

When I went to the CKG Judges’ training day last year I did not know what to expect; when I went into the room it was full of people like me, passionate professionals who love reading and want to celebrate the most outstanding written and illustrated works for young readers.

The breadth of knowledge and professionalism of my fellow judges is amazing, at judging meetings I listened and contributed, several times the impassioned arguments about one or other book changed my mind; at times I found other judges on the panel agreed with my thoughts as I agreed with theirs. We argued, we cajoled, at times we even begged that our colleagues see the brilliance that was in front of them and at the end of it all my XY chromosomes had no bearing on what books I thought were outstanding and I am pretty sure that the judges with XX chromosomes are the same!

Gender is perhaps the least important part of what a judge requires to make the choices, we are professionals; some of us have decades of experience in working with books and young readers. It still shocks some people I meet that librarians go to university and have degrees; we train for years and on the job we go to courses aimed at improving our skills and knowledge. Some of us put ourselves forward for professional organisations where we can guide our colleagues and even end up judging book awards.

In some quarters our professionalism is overlooked and instead of being seen as being reading guides and enablers, librarians are seen as gatekeepers and people who cannot keep their gender separate from the book choices that we make.  As judges we have to put aside love and emotive thought and are guided by our strict training and the award criteria.

In the end we made the choices we made and stand united behind them. As with every CKG Awards decision there will be arguments, disagreements and shock from other librarians and observers, but one thing I can say is that the books were chosen by librarians – and that is the way it always has been!

Shades of Shadowing

Jan Foss is the South East CKG Judge, she is a Children’s Librarian in Guernsey.


One of the most exciting aspects of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards process is the shadowing. This year, as a judge, I have had the privilege of visiting various shadowing groups in Guernsey and I have been struck by how different they are, and the various ways the shortlists can be used.

Standing up in front of 250 junior school children is probably not how I would choose to start a Monday morning (it was a bit of a Dylan Mint head-wrecker moment!) but I really enjoyed it. The children were engaged and interested in the judging process and asked intelligent questions afterwards even though they had not been primed! Later on at the same school, Hautes Capelles Primary, I visited Year 2, where they had chosen some of the long-listed picture books to look at. This was a great opportunity for me to go back and take another look at these great illustrations. Then a quick dash across the school to meet the Year 6 shadowing group who were totally immersed in all the books on the Greenaway shortlist.

Notre Dame Primary school invited me to talk to their lunchtime group of Greenaway shadowers and I was so impressed by their enthusiasm, not to mention their willingness to give up their lunch hour! Everyone had a different favourite – a real testament to the diversity of this year’s shortlist.

Jan blog

Notre Dame Shadowing Group – note the lunchboxes.

At La Mare de Carteret High School I spoke to the Year 9 English top set, some of whom were shadowing the Carnegie shortlist. They were interested to hear about the judges’ role and the whole award process. We talked about the authors’ inspiration for their work and focussed on When Mr. Dog Bites, Tinder and The Fastest Boy in the World. We used a couple of the author interviews on the shadowing website – highly recommended, they are extremely interesting, not to mention useful! At the same school, the Year 7 art classes are studying the Greenaway shortlists.

At the Guille-Allès Public Library, the Bookworms reading group of 7 – 10 year olds also looked at the Greenaway books during our half term meeting. The older reading group, Book Brains, engaged with children of a similar age (11-14) in Canada via the blogging site Edmodo ( where they discussed the Greenaway and the Chocolate Lily shortlists ( This culminated in a Skype session after-hours at the library where the two groups met each other online and chatted about the books.

All this activity will culminate on the awards day, 22nd June, when representatives from all schools taking part will gather at the public library for the annual CKG lunch. They discuss the shortlists again in small groups, meeting children from other schools, and then we record the Guernsey vote. Then the results are announced and they discover whether they agree with the judges’ decision…sometimes it happens! They then enjoy lunch together.

Finally (and this is not shadowing as such), later in the autumn our adult reading group reads and discusses the Carnegie shortlist for one of their meetings. This provides yet another perspective and it will be interesting to hear their views. However, by then I expect to be immersed in the next round of nominated books…

Reading is a powerful way to find out who you really are.

Victoria Barton is the East Midlands CKG judge, she is a Locality Librarian for North West Leicestershire.


A Year in the Life of a Judge

When I was at school, my best friend told me that I would make a great librarian.  She knew me better than I knew myself because it took me ten years to realise that she was absolutely right.  I’ve tried a few different jobs but nothing suits me better than getting books into the hands of the people that need them.

When you become a librarian, you can join CILIP special interest groups which match up to what you like about being a librarian.  I love children’s books so I joined the Youth Libraries Group.  The judges for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards are chosen from the librarians who join the group.  I am the judge representing the East Midlands and there are people at our meetings from all over the country.

I was really nervous and excited to go along to the first meeting, it was a training day to teach us more about how to judge the books according to the criteria.  I had seen the gold Carnegie stamp on many of the books that I had loved when I was younger and I knew that judging the awards was a huge honour and the highlight of my career as a librarian.  I had always dreamed of being involved in the awards and now here I was about to meet other judges and start living my dream.

I also knew that judging would be really hard work.  Judges read every single book that is nominated for the awards.  All the books are nominated by librarians from around the country and every CILIP member can nominate books that they think meet the Carnegie or Kate Greenaway criteria.  That adds up to a lot of books!

The training was really interesting.  We had talks from experts in analysing books and art.  It was really fun to meet other people who loved books as much as I do.  I felt ready to judge!

The next three months were intense.  Beautiful, brand new books started arriving at my desk.  I was reading whilst cooking dinner, I was reading when I woke up, I was reading whilst I was cleaning my house, I was reading whilst other people were chatting.  Every moment that I was not working in the library, I was reading or making notes about the books that I had read.  I kept my notes, filed carefully so that I could get to them easily when we discussed the books at our judges’ meeting.  I tried to make notes according to the criteria under the headings, plot, character and style to make sure that I was judging the books according to them.

At the meeting we talked about the books.  For each book we would talk in depth about what happened in the book, the characters and the way that it was written, checking it against the criteria.  There are so many books to choose from and all of them have something great about them, so making our decision is not easy.

The awards ceremony was a wonderful day.  I met with some of the authors whose work we had been judging and got to hear some great speeches, praising libraries, librarians and the awards.  I reflected on the friends I had made and the experiences I had enjoyed which would never have happened without judging.

With each and every book I have read, whilst judging I have entered another world, met new characters and seen things differently.  Each book has changed me in a subtle way or taught me something new.  Reading is a powerful way to find out who you really are.

Must Keep Reading! Must Keep Reading!

Elizabeth McDonald is the South East YLG Judge, she is Reader Development Officer for Young People and Families at Wokingham Library.

Being a CKG judge this year has been a rewarding experience, the huge nominations list of ​91 ​Carnegie books and 70 Kate Greenaway Books ​was a varied and interesting read. The list included lots of books I would not normally have read and I looked forward to exploring some new genres.

My first challenge as a CKG judge was to read this great list of books for the first time.  ​It was intensely exciting when the parcels arrived at my library, and all the lovely shiny new books started to pile up. When I​ brought the books home and stacked them all up my six year old son counted how ​many there were.

Eliz 1

I began the task of reading and critiquing each book.  My son would count each day, to see how many books I ​had left to read.  ​I just kept thinking; I​ must keep reading, I must keep reading!  Keeping up the reading momentum in the short space of time available was helped by encouragement and support from colleagues, friends and family, and my son’s daily countdown.   It was essential to read everywhere, during lunchtimes, the car and the park! I​ must keep reading!

  Eliz 2Eliz 3

​My six year old son, was excited to see the Greenaway titles and it was amazing to explore some of them with him. He adored a lot of the ones we shared and I have had to buy another bookcase!  Some of them really captured his imagination, he wanted to be an explorer in space and the Antarctic, then laughed at bird thieves and a funny squashed frog!

As a Book Judge you also have to promote and raise awareness of the Carnegie and Greenaway awards and encourage participation in the shadowing groups.   As part of this I have been visiting shadowing groups across Berkshire in schools and libraries. We were also lucky to have one of the shortlisted authors Geraldine McCaughrean come and talk to several of our schools and shadowing groups.  Talking to fellow book lovers about the books and the judging process has been really enjoyable.  It was brilliant to have the opportunity to talk about books so much!

 Eliz4 Eliz5

Moving onto the judging process, we had an amazing discussion on each of the books nominated. When it came to making decisions, there were lots of heated debates, outcries of despair, near-tears and a bit of laughter thrown in too. Revisiting the shortlisted books has been quite a different experience; going away and re-reading and re-reading (must keep reading!), so you can completely justify how each of the books stand up to the criteria.  During this process it starts to become more obvious which books stand out that little bit more.  Even if you have decided which book you adore and love and think should win the prize, you have got to make sure that the criteria is fully met.  This is where heartache comes, you are passionate about which book should be the winner, but the more you consider and talk about the text and images with the other judges, the more it becomes clear who the winner has to be.  I’ve really enjoyed the debating and banter of exploring and defending the books and I’m already looking forward to starting again!

My first year as a judge has been emotional, satisfying and great fun.  I look forward to my second year, reading more new books, and I know I will find something amazing for the 2016 prize.