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!

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I gave up my rights to become a CKG judge!

Karen Horsfield manages Resources for Learning at Somerset’s Schools’ Library Service. Here, she blogs about her role as a judge for the 2014 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards. 

Karen Horsfield, CKG 2014 Judge

Karen Horsfield, CKG 2014 Judge

I have a poster on the wall in my office – ‘The rights of the reader’ by Daniel Pennac, illustrated by Quentin Blake which has left me wondering how those rights apply to me with my CKG hat on.  For the three months between November and January when I was reading the nominated titles, I think I gave up most of them (alongside my family, friends, cinema, TV, swimming, meals out and life in general)!  

‘The right not to read’.  I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I have read every last word of each nominated title at least once.  This means that the second and third reader’s rights, ‘the right to skip’ and ‘the right not to finish a book’, went straight out of the window too!  No skipping pages and no unfinished endings.

The right to read anything is something else that can’t apply to a CKG judge whilst working their way through the nominated titles.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.  I will admit to some sneaky reading of a couple of magazines and Christmas letters from friends but generally was unable to choose what I wanted to read.  It didn’t stop me compiling a wish list which also includes DVDs of the films I missed out on as well!

‘The right to mistake a book for real life’ is a failing of mine.  I do this all the time, the characters become my friends and united we combine to vanquish villains and thwart antiheroes even though I have absolutely no control over the outcome of the plot.  There are times when having finished a book, I am unable to pick up another because I cannot say goodbye to the characters whom I have grown to love.  (Not when CKG reading though.)

‘The right to read anywhere’ A CKG judge has to take full advantage of this.  In order to get through all the titles in the allotted I time read anywhere and everywhere attracting annoying comments like, “Get your nose out of that book” (mainly from my family).  I am sure this phrase will be engraved on my book shaped headstone!   I read in bed, over meals, on buses, in breaks, while waiting for meetings to start, in the queue for the checkout, while waiting for my daughter, in the ‘little room’, in the bath, while cooking dinner.  You name it!

I would have liked to have exercised my right ‘to dip in’ as a way of selecting the order in which the nominated titles were to be read.  However, I knew I would read all my favourite authors first.  The books were stacked in the spare room and I was most strict about not cherry picking those I was desperate to read, making myself pick from the top of the pile.  The only concession was that I allowed myself to select half a dozen slimmer volumes to read during Christmas week.

‘The right to read out loud’?  No chance!  I can read a million times faster in my head and speed is of the essence for a CKG judge.

‘The right to be quiet’.  I prefer to snuggle up quietly in a nest on my sofa.  However, I found I developed an ability to read in the midst of chaos and confusion and the hustle and bustle of life simply to ensure I got through the titles.

I am pleased to say that since having completed the CKG list of nominated titles life has got back to normal.  I am not going to read a book for book group simply because I just don’t fancy it.  I skip articles in the paper and I may not finish the book currently in my bag because life is too short to read something I am not enjoying.  I am going to enjoy reading all the CKG shortlisted titles again and particularly relish the one where I was so scared I felt as if I was one of the characters.  I’m going to continue to read anywhere and everywhere and dip into poetry all of which was written to read aloud.

However, a word of warning from Daniel Pennac.  ‘Don’t make fun of people who don’t read – or they never will’.  But how do I deal with people who make fun of me because I do read?

Nearly finished the exhausting process of deciding on my own winner

Alison BrumwellAlison 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.

I am heading into the home stretch with my re-reading of short listed titles for 2014 judging. Everyone has their own opinion about the Greenaway contenders; my colleague Gina has already announced that Jon Klassen should win this year!

Shadowing has begun in earnest in Kirklees, well ahead of Easter for some of our schools. Amanda Raby, the LRC Manager at Whitcliffe Mount Specialist College, is focusing on Greenaway shadowing this year, with a group of Year 9 pupils mentoring 12 Year 1,2 and 3 pupils from neighbouring Howard Park Community School. Their early favourite is ‘The Paper Dolls’, though Amanda shares Gina’s view that ‘This is Not My Hat’ is a strong contender. Olivia Barnden, who leads our Greenaway shadowing project in Kirklees, says ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ is “an engaging, innovative picture book, whose quirky, intelligent illustrations  make it a winner”.

In terms of Carnegie re-reading, I have accumulated quite a folder of notes and page references and am nearly finished the exhausting process of deciding on my own winner; a tough decision when all eight short listed titles meet the criteria but are completely different in terms of theme and structure. I have to admit squeezing Marcus Sedgwick’s first adult novel, ‘A Love Like Blood’, into my reading ‘schedule’; a wonderful novel. Think Mary Shelley meets Umberto Eco meets Carlos Ruiz Zafon, if that makes sense! I am also heading off to London Book Fair next week, which is always invigorating; am hoping to see Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman and to meet other freelancers.

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