On Judges & Judging

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

The short-lists are out; weeks of biting one’s tongue during discussions about the Medals have paid off. No-one spilled the beans early and ruined it for everyone, the CKG Judges code of silence makes the Mafia look like a leaky boat by comparison.

That has been one of the hardest things about the awards – choosing titles and then having to keep quiet about it all. For weeks I have seen friends and colleagues post their thoughts and wish-lists about the short-lists and be shut out from the joy of discussing the books. Then there are the people that try and wheedle the lists out and when that fails say things like “You had better not have chosen book X because then it will be YOUR fault if it wins!”

The judges are chosen from the 12 Youth Library Group regions across the UK plus the Chair to act as tie-breaker if necessary. The position is filled by representatives from the regional committees, yes they are mostly female as male librarians for children and young people are still a relative minority. In recent years this has led to accusations of gender bias from observers but the lists of winning titles do not support this. The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards are two of the most rigorous literary awards in the UK, among adults as well as other awards for young people’s literature. Judges get a full days training each year in the criteria and how to apply them to nominated titles, as previous winners and regular outcries among observers can attest these are not popularity contests.

Judging can be a lonely task, the 13 judges are spread across the UK, and we almost never see each other outside of official judging meetings. We do not really have time for many meetings as there is so much reading to be done, personal hygiene becomes optional, a full night’s sleep becomes a thing of the past and forget about sympathy from significant others “You chose to read all those books so don’t come crying to me!”

Not every librarian can be a judge, speaking personally and from what I have learned from my colleagues on the panel is that everyone involved wanted to be there! There was a desire to become involved and a willingness to sacrifice time, social life and more to learn so much about the books on the lists that one starts reciting chapters in their sleep.

Yes judging is a sacrifice – but one willingly made as the pay-off is beyond measure:

Choosing the most outstanding novel and illustrated book for children and young people and this year those choices have yet to be made!

Matt Imrie

Canada Day happily spent in Kirklees: strawberry picking and fun with Chris Mould

Alison Brumwell is a librarian for Booksplus, Leeds and Director of the Morley Literature Festival. She blogs here about her role as a judge for the 2014 Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards.

July 1st 2014

Well, it’s Canada Day and the Carnegie and Kate Greenway medal ceremony seems quite distant. It was such a thrill for me to meet (and mind) the very talented Jon Klassen. Jon is one of those very rare talents who has actually won both the Caldecott and Kate Greenaway Medals and is highly regarded on both sides of the Atlantic.

I followed up a trip to London with festivities at Whitcliffe Mount, a Kirklees secondary school which has been supporting a Greenaway shadowing group of Year Three pupils at Howard Park Community School, led by Carol Lavender. We talked about the short listed books, presented book prizes to the Greenaway quiz winners, enjoyed games and puzzles and had a picnic; including, two kinds of cake and strawberry picking in the quad. As Tegan very brightly informed me, the Howard Park lot were missing an afternoon of numeracy and topic work on the Titanic, not to mention school dinner (“roast of the day”); it was very clear how much they enjoyed the event, organised by Amanda Rabey and Vicki Cawley, and how much the shadowing experience has enriched their summer term.

The Kirklees-wide Greenaway shadowing event was held on Canada Day at Huddersfield Town Hall, with our guest author/illustrator, Chris Mould. Chris was short listed last year for ‘Pirates ‘n Pistols’ and delighted shadowing groups this year with his presentation. We all know how much positive impact shadowing has on reading for pleasure and academic success, but being able to meet an author and illustrator like Chris shows children that self-belief and commitment are just as crucial. Not everyone can be an academic high-flyer and artistic ability is something that parents and teachers need to nurture.

Chris Mould in action

Chris Mould in action

The Greenaway shadowing project team, led by Olivia Barnden, and ably supported by Amy Hearn, Chris Stearn, Amanda Ambler, Fiona Sullivan, Tina Blaker and Linda Williams, has done an amazing job for the past two years and they have really flown the CKG flag across Kirklees, and beyond. What a great way to end three years as a regional judge! I have seen non-readers become readers, Greenaway Medal shadowers become Carnegie Medal shadowers and children become young adults with so much to offer their schools and communities. They have read, written, drawn, discussed, presented; all, with so much energy and interest. They have inspired me, and have given me so much to listen to and think about.

I think I must have read and carefully considered around 200 novels and an additional 170 illustrated texts between October 2011 and May 2014; most several times, as judging requires. Every page turned has been a delight. I am sure, though, that Patrick Ness, Sally Gardner, Kevin Brooks, Jim Kay, Levi Pinfold and Jon Klassen would all agree that it is their young readers who matter most. Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal shadowing is a unique experience for children and young people and one that I have been proud to support.

 

Shadower Megan (Year 3, Howard Park Community School)

Shadower Megan (Year 3, Howard Park Community School)

Strawberry picking

Strawberry picking

Find out more about:

the other judges
the 2014 Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards
the shadowing scheme
our latest news on Twitter

 

The best things about being a Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal judge

Alison Brumwell is a librarian for Booksplus, Leeds and Director of the Morley Literature Festival. She blogs here about her role as a judge for the 2014 Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards.

Alison Brumwell

Last week was my final week of being a CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal judge; nearly three years of reading, followed by discussion and deliberation has culminated, for me at least, in the awards ceremony on Monday 23 June.

I had another chance on Thursday to Skype chat with a Carnegie shadowing group, this time from Croydon Girls’ High School; ten in total and all Year 9 pupils. They had obviously given a great deal of thought to framing their questions and were lovely to speak to. It was another opportunity for me to highlight what makes the medals, and the shadowing process, truly unique in the work of children’s book awards. I had to give some very vague answers to the more specific questions and we discussed the importance of judges maintaining strictest confidentiality throughout the whole seven+ month process,along with the importance of the judging ctiteria.

One of the questions I could answer quite frankly was what was the best, and the worst, thing about being a Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medal judge. The best in my view has been the reading; I normally read a lot, and quite widely, but there are books I would never encountered outside my reading as a judge. This has been a real treat. A close second would be the chance I have had to speak to young people about books and reading, and to share my passion with them; also, to meet the adults who support them, like Karen Abrams at Croydon Girls’ High School

I have also had the opportunity to champion books and authors I feel very strongly about, not just during judges’ deliberations but further afield. Authors like Sonya Hartnett, who was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in 2012 and whose latest novel, ‘Children of the King’ is subtle and so beautifully crafted. And books like ‘The Double Shadow’, ‘The Scorpia Races’ and ‘Far Far Away’, which didn’t make the shortlists in three very competitive years, but which are well-worth reading (and re-reading). Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to talk openly about what I was reading with anyone apart from other judges, and it will be a relief when everyone knows who are the winners this year (this is definitely the worst thing about being a judge!).

Finally, I have had the chance to meet authors I admire and to work with and to get to know an amazing team of people; Joy Court, Amy McKay and the CKG working party and my fellow judges. Not to mention Rachel Levy, Karen Robinson and Helen Thompson who have been three superb Chairs. 2015 will be another outstanding year for children’s and young adult fiction: expect to see Sally Gardner, Meg Rosoff, Marcus Sedgwick and Patrick Ness leading the way along with some wonderful debut novels. I was recently asked by one shadowing group member what my ‘long shot’ would be for next year, which really made me think. So, you’re reading it here first: Tanya Landman’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’, which is every bit as compelling as ‘Apache’.

 

Find out more about:

the other judges
the 2014 Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards
the shadowing scheme
our latest news on Twitter

My Year 11’s book club: reading, chocolate and revision!

Hannah Thomson is a Learning Resource Centre Manager at Foxford School and Community Arts College. She blogs here about her role as a judge for the 2014 Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards.

This month I have been in overdrive and although my reading for this year’s Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards is coming to an end, I am now catching up with all of the other delicious books that I have missed out on whilst Hannah Thomsondistracted by this year’s shortlist!

I have really enjoyed meeting with secondary school students. The Yr. 11 girls within my own reading group have been moving into exam season and our book clubs have been full of reading but also chocolate fuelled and revision led!

I was also invited to speak with two reading groups from Staffordshire University Academy earlier this month, to talk to them about the judging process and the shortlisted CKG titles. We had a great time (and I LOVED it!) it is always a huge treat for me to speak to young people and I love hearing their own views and opinions about books.

They were incredibly enthusiastic and it really was quite refreshing to hear their viewpoints after all of the discussions and tweets that I had been reading. They had very definite perspectives on some of the titles, and views that were always fresh and thoughtful. I hope that I inspired them as much as they inspired me!

Meeting and listening to students helps me to believe that whatever the subject matter, a book is always a safe place. I believe that this year’s shortlist has very much allowed them the opportunity to ask questions and form opinions and viewpoints about experiences outside of their own. Isn’t that why we all, as readers, keep going back for more?

 

Find out more about:

the other judges
the 2014 Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards
the shadowing scheme
our latest news on Twitter

 

Large piles of books stacked upside down in my living room

Kathryn Flagner co-ordinates and runs children’s activities across Cumbria Library’s West Group as Deputy Area Library Manager. She blogs here about her role as a CKG 2014 judge.Kathryn's Carnegie list

I have wanted to be a Carnegie/Greenaway judge for a number of years and this year I got to do just that.  It all started in October when I got to meet the other judges, which was great, and we were given the list of nominations, 70+ for Carnegie and 50+ for Greenaway, all to be read within 3 months!

The lists didn’t faze me and I started calmly by re-reading some of those I already had at home.  However, within a week or so copies of titles from both lists started arriving, and very quickly formed large piles in my living room.  It was the books’ physical presence that made me realise the immensity of the task I had undertaken.

I am normally a distracted reader; as soon as a book I want to read comes along I start it, even if I am already reading something else.  I knew this wouldn’t work for the judging, as I was going to have to concentrate on each book and apply the criteria as I read.  To discipline myself I stacked the books upside down, so I couldn’t see the title, and just picked from the top, finishing one book before starting the next.  I even worked out how many books I needed to read a week to meet the deadline. Then settled down to read, and did nothing else for months.

Now all the reading and judging is done and I can hardly wait for the presentation.  What do I do now?  Read books that will eligible to be nominated for next year of course!

Find out more about:

the other judges
the 2014 Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards
the shadowing scheme
our latest news on Twitter.

 

 

Find out more about last year’s winners…

There isn’t long to go until we announce the longlist for the 2014 CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards.  While you wait for the excitement to begin, why not find out more about the brilliant books that won the 2013 medals.

Here, Sally Gardner talks about her 2013 CILIP Carnegie Medal Winner, Maggot Moon.

And here, Levi Pinfold talks about his 2013 CILIP Kate Greenaway Winner, Black Dog.