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

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

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.