"The advice I give to judges is to start reading as soon as they're chosen." Helen explains that the best tactic for reading the often 70+ strong nominations list is to plan from the outset - focus on reading eligible books that judges think fit the awards criteria and take notes from the beginning. "It does become a bit of a competition about who's read most when the nominations come in. Some judges, the real smarty-pants, have even read some twice."
This year introduced the new longlisting stage which narrowed down this year's 75 nominated titles to a longlist of 20: "It's great to give more titles formal recognition." It did of course add in an extra stage of judging although Helen said: "While every title is discussed, some of those discussions are very brief. There are always some titles that fall off pretty quickly." The books are chosen by a majority vote which has come down to a single vote before: "It's about bringing everyone round to a consensus, in the past there have been tears." Helen also commented on the difference between the Carnegie medal (for a novel) and the Kate Greenaway (for illustration): "It's harder to get over personal taste for the Kate Greenaway. The Carnegie titles are easier to deconstruct but it's difficult to ignore the visceral response you get to artwork."
Historically the shortlisting judging has been open to the press (last year a clerical glitch meant the press wasn't invited and the new longlisting process meant that it wasn't promoted this year) and Helen makes it clear the reason the judging is open is because: "We are proud of the robust judging process. The criteria are regularly revisted and revised." Helen commented that one of her nominations didn't make it on to the longlist this year but of course wouldn't give me any clues as to which title that was! Carnegie and Kate Greenaway are justifiably proud of the legacy they are creating and how they stand out as a book award: "It's pointless having a basket of children's awards all doing the same thing. There are many different awards doing other things and really well and it's a good thing they all exist but this is about literary quality."
We discussed the annual debates that are raised about the content of the Carnegie titles, as frequently the shortlisted title include dark themes and strong language. The official website does offer an age guide, but Helen stresses that this is for content only. She advises shadowing group leaders to: "Err on the side of caution and don't give those titles to younger readers. We can't allow the award to be influenced by the age of readers, content doesn't influence the list at all." The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks is a particularly intense novel which is on the shortlist this year, Helen mentioning that she's been "cornered by school librarians" about its inclusion.
The Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards are a wonderful way to introduce young readers to new titles and to really engage them in the process of the judging. You can find out more about the titles and shadowing scheme here.
The Carnegie award shortlist:
- All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry
- The Child's Elephant by Rachel Campbell-Johnston
- The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks
- Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper
- Blood Family by Anne Fine
- Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
- Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
- The Wall by William Sutcliffe
The Kate Greenaway award shortlist:
- The Paper Dolls illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
- Where My Wellies Take Me illustrated by Olivia Gill
- The Day the Crayons Quit illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
- This is Not My Hat illustrated by Jon Klassen
- The Dark illustrated by Jon Klassen
- Mouse Bird Snake Wolf illustrated by Dave McKean
- Oliver illustrated by Birgitta Sif
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