Last year I was lucky enough to be involved in the CILIP Kate Greenaway Award in a very special way, as my role as Head of Marketing for a publisher it was my "job" to look after the 2015 WINNER of the Greenaway Medal, the ever so delightful and hugely talented Mr William Grill. It was a very special day and in fact the fun has continued as we hurtle towards the moment when William will hand over his crown to the 2016 WINNER. It is a great honour to have been granted access to some of the judges from this years panel who have kindly let us into a few secrets behind the judging process of this highly prized award for Children's Literature and Illustration. Follow the blog tour on Twitter with the hashtag #ckg16judgestour
Of course, but it’s far too hard to simply choose one! For Carnegie it has to be Northern Lights and Junk – both of these had a huge impact on my reading development and passion but also personally. I think Kate Greenaway might be even harder – there’s so many I was read to as a child that bring back fond memories - The Jolly Christmas Postman, Each Peach Pear Plum, The Whale Song, Can’t you Sleep Little Bear, but I also love Harris Finds his feet by Catherine Rayner and William Grill’s Shackleton’s Journey. Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
|William Grill - BUY HERE|
CARNEGIE-I thought Mal Peet’s 2005 winner ‘Tamar’ was exceptional as it skilfully used the plot device of the flashback sequence. The fear of secret operatives involved with the Dutch resistance during WW2 was juxtaposed with the quest of a girl on a treasure trail to uncover the truth about her grandfather’s past. Tension was built up throughout and the reader was provided with strong characters and a satisfying twist. ‘Maggot Moon’ was also another memorable winner as it had a powerful emotional impact and a stirring message about friendship in a bleak dystopian world. GREENAWAY- Raymond Briggs’ 1973 winner ‘Father Christmas’ and Jan Pienkowski’s ‘Haunted House’ (1979) are special childhood favourites of mine – the former because of its amusing comic strip style and its entertaining reinterpretation of Santa Claus, the latter because of its explorative nature. I also enjoyed Emily Gravett’s inventive ‘Little Mouse’s Book of Fears’ (2008). It is both imaginative and educational with a design that thinks out of the box. Tanja Jennings, CKG Judge for YLG Northern Ireland.
Which element of judging do you find most challenging? And which part is most enjoyable?
The most challenging is reading all the nominated books in a certain time frame – you really have to plan carefully and be very organised, otherwise it can get very stressful. The most enjoyable is the whole experience - meeting and making friends with your fellow judges, being able to sit down, read and discuss books as part of my job, meeting favourite authors, reading all the amazing books that are nominated, let alone the longlisted and shortlisted books, getting sent proof copies of books, being more involved professionally in the industry and of course attending the winners ceremony. Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
In the past have you really championed a title which hasn’t made it through to the shortlist? Is that disappointing?
Yes, that happened to me this year and it is extremely disappointing! Obviously all the books on the long and shortlist deserve to be there, they are brilliant works that we as judges have all decided and agreed should be there but you obviously have your personal favourites which you hope will go far or even win and when they don’t it’s both disappointing and quite upsetting! Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
|Ross Collins - Buy HERE|
Has being trained to judge Children’s literature made you more critical of children's books in general?
Definitely. I look at both children’s books completely differently now than I did before training and going through the judging process. When CKG is over and you either can read something that you choose to read or start ‘pre-reading’ possible titles for the following year, you’re analysing the books to the criteria constantly, I wonder if this will ever stop or if I’ll do it forever! Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
Certainly not, no critical assessment needed. Books should be read for enjoyment – if a book appeals to you, it’s the right book for you, and it would be wrong to think something isn’t good or well-written if it doesn’t match the unique criteria of CKG. Jennifer Horan, CKG Judge for YLG Scotland
|Anthony Browne - BUY HERE|
Does knowing what makes a good picture book make you want to write / illustrate something yourself?
Yes! Reading all the wonderful Carnegie & Kate Greenaway titles makes me wish with every fibre of my being that I was either clever enough to write or talented enough to paint. I think the authors and illustrators are amazing. Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
Do you think the awards showcase enough new talent?
The award can only showcase what librarians from around the country nominate, what we as judges analyse depends completely on what is nominated. If people want to see more debut authors or younger books on the list then they have to nominate them, just because they are a debut author or a book for a younger reader it doesn’t mean it won’t be long/shortlisted, it has a fair a chance of getting through as everything else that is nominated as analyse everything according only to the criteria. Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
|Jackie Morris - Buy HERE|
Are there professional Illustrators / people who are art school educated who help advise on illustrative technique and design?
Not through the judging process, but we have a training day before any judging takes place in which illustration experts and past judges advise and teach us about techniques used by the illustrators, things to look out for e.g. how the illustrator used the ‘gutter’ (when the pages meet in the middle of the book due to the binding of the spine) – does the illustrator work with it? Are the illustrations spoiled due to the placement of them in relation to the gutter? etc. Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
Do you think the award gets enough support from the book selling chains?
At the moment interest for the Medals is mainly from libraries and schools. Some independent book shops request publicity packs, but not many. However, as great as it is to get support from booksellers the Medals are library focused, the books are nominated by librarians and judged by librarians and are a great opportunity for libraries to promote themselves and the joys of reading for pleasure.
Browns Books for Students are a major sponsor of the Awards and are the official suppliers of the books, making sure that shadowing groups get the books in time for the shortlist announcements. Sioned Jacques, CKG Chair of Judges.
No, but that is quite possibly because most chains have their own awards and want to promote those above others! Independent booksellers tend to be strong supporters of the award. Tricia Adams, CKG Vice Chair of Judges.
If you could choose one past shortlisted title to win a special award of recognition which author or illustrator would you present a lifetime achievement award to?
In 2007 the public was invited to vote for the Carnegie of Carnegies to choose their favourite winner over the past 70 years of the award. This was won by Philip Pullman. Matt Imrie, CKG Judge for YLG London.
Do you think there is a common style to the books which have won the Greenaway award in the past?
Not at all, I think the style, genre and stories vary greatly. Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
Do you have a strict reading regime when you are ploughing through the immense number of nominations?
Yes, or rather I will do. This was my first year as a judge and a definite learning curve. I found out very quickly that I was nowhere near organised or strict enough with my reading and the time I gave myself. I am definitely going to create a strict timetable for myself for 2016/17 and stick to it! Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
Yes, basically just read every minute you have. I read when waiting for the kettle to boil, on the bus to work, during breaks… Most of my reading is done when I get home from work at night. I don’t switch the TV on as I don’t want distractions – I’ve even had to put my phone in another room on occasion! I might make a few pencil marks in each book whilst I’m reading, but I usually wait until I’ve finished it before writing a short report based on the criteria. Jennifer Horan, CKG Judge for YLG Scotland
As a school librarian I was eager to involve students at the college in the CKG experience so I covered the library door in thumbnails of all the nominations for both awards. Pupils were then invited to post their suggestions of what I should read next in the box provided. In this way choices were kept surprising. Regarding a regime you have an allotted amount of time before the first judging meeting so you calculate how many books a day need to be read to meet the deadline. During the process you take notes on each read adhering strictly to the criteria and deciding on its worth as a contender. Tanja Jennings, CKG Judge for YLG Northern Ireland.
What are the criteria you particularly look out for when nominating a book for the Greenaway?
As I now have the experience of being a judge I will definitely use the criteria as a basis for my nomination. However, before that I nominated something that I thought was outstanding and something that spoke to me and that I enjoyed but might not have necessarily met all the criteria! Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
Have you ever been star struck meeting one of the previous winners?
This is my first year as a judge and I have only met one previous winner so far. At the YLG Conference last year I met William Grill who was so lovely and I have to admit, I was starstuck. He signed my book and also drew a little illustration for me – unfortunately it was a gift so I couldn’t keep it! I do know that I’m definitely going to have a few fangirl moments when I meet some the shortlisted authors from this year, I just hope I don’t embarrass myself too much... Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
Do your family get involved with sharing opinions on nominated titles, seems a great opportunity to share lot’s of books as a family…
It definitely is the perfect opportunity to share lots of books as a family and I’ve encouraged both my mother and sister to read some of my favourite Carnegie nominated titles and bought my baby nephew a lot of the Kate Greenaway titles. It’s brilliant to be able to talk to someone who has read the books too in-between judging sessions. I try not to give too much away of my own opinions when discussing the books with other who have read them who aren’t judges, but it is enjoyable and fascinating to hear what others think.. Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
Both my Mum and my daughter get involved with reading nominated titles. They’re both very ready to express their opinion; however, as much as I like to share it can be quite distracting having others offer opinions whilst you’re still reading the books. I usually take the books to my Mum’s over Christmas so she can look at them – a much better way to spend the time than watching a re-run of a film! I also share with and recommend books to colleagues and friends if I think it’s a title they’ll enjoy. For the first time this year the books arrived from the publishers to my place of work where my enthusiastic colleagues were ready with opinions! Sioned Jacques, CKG Chair of Judges
Does the production quality of the finished book have an impact on your final decision?
This would depend on whether we’re judging the CILIP Carnegie or Kate Greenaway Awards. As Chair it was my responsibility to remind judges about the criteria. For the CILIP Carnegie award the emphasis is on the quality of writing not the look and feel of the physical book i.e. never judge a book by its cover.
However for the CILIP Kate Greenaway award the emphasis is on the illustration and the overall look of the book; covers, end covers, guttering, size, shape, paper are all taken into consideration and can impact on the final decision of the judges. The book has to work as a whole. This year’s shortlisted titles are all excellent examples of a book as a whole package where the production quality is central to the impact on and experience of the reader. Sioned Jacques, CKG Chair of Judges.
How long does it take to choose the winner from the shortlist? Is that final tense discussion usually quite amicable or is everyone shouting for the winner they most like?
The process can take quite a long time as each book is discussed in regards to the criteria at great length to really analyse and appreciate it. It does get tense but not in an unfriendly or rude way, we each have our favourites out of all of the worthy shortlisted titles and so want them to win. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so anxious and sick as when we were in the final judging session! Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
I can’t say about other years but this year as Chair I had the pleasure of working with a group of judges who succeeded in discussing the books in an amicable way and I would like to thank them for making my job easy!!. That’s not to say that everyone agreed whole heartedly with each other about every book. Despite the strict set of criteria, novels and illustrations and the criteria themselves are open to interpretation. However at the end of the process judges come to a result that everyone is happy with. It was not an easy task this year, there were a lot of strong contenders and the smallest detail counted and discussed. Sioned Jacques, CKG Chair of Judges
Has the judging panel ever come to a unanimous decision on who should win?
The final decisions are always unanimous, I cannot comment on past judging panels but in my experience over the past two years all judges come in to the decision-making process loaded with notes on the books on the short-list, it will be incredibly hubristic for a judge to come in with a fixed idea of which book should win. Matt Imrie, CKG Judge for YLG London.
Do you think the award has the reputation of being an industry award or do you think the medal is well publicised to the general public?
Over the past few years the award has become more visible due to the Shadowing Scheme, the CKG website and a push for recognition beyond libraries and the traditional audiences of awards. In fact the public outcry that invariably follows the announcement of the outstanding books is evidence that the awards are very visible. Matt Imrie, CKG Judge for YLG London.
One of the things that has always taken me by surprise is how people react when you tell them you are a judge, as it’s like being famous for 5 minutes. It is seen as prestigious award in the industry and by people that have a knowledge or interest in children and young people’s literature. Lucy Carlton-Walker, CKG Judge for YLG North East.
I believe awareness of the Medals has increased over the last decade or so as Shadowing becomes more popular and with increasing attention from the press. I have been lucky over the last two years as Vice Chair and Chair to be involved with the working party who work tirelessly with a PR company to ensure that the Awards are publicised to the general public. Obviously as a librarian I am aware that there are people who have heard of them, know of them, but there are others that have never heard of them. In the past when I’ve asked a similar question of readers they often say they’ve seen the sticker or statement on a book. As with any other award the greatest interest is going to be within the industry and particularly authors and illustrators, as past winners often state that it is the ultimate recognition for their work. I also see the Awards as an opportunity to raise awareness of knowledge we as Librarians have and how much pleasure can be had from reading a good book. Sioned Jacques, CKG Chair of Judges
Do you think publishers would find some of your feedback useful?
The Awards are geared to recognize the most outstanding writing and illustration in children & young people’s books from a year – it is not aimed at identifying the most popular books, and often the outcry from people watching the awards is down to the fact that their favourites did not make it. Publishers are overjoyed when their books are selected and use the medal to promote the winning authors & illustrators in their stables. Matt Imrie, CKG Judge for YLG London.
Do you think there should be more features / reviews of children’s books in the National press to help parents make educated choices about the types of books they should be helping their children’s to choose.
Yes that might help and I think it might help publicise reading to parents who might not realise the importance of it for their child, but really I think that parents need to think of libraries more. Libraries are dedicated havens for reading for pleasure and the whole range of educational, personal and wellbeing developmental benefits that brings. Librarians have detailed knowledge of children’s books, are able to recommend and champion books for all different types of readers and abilities and it’s all free! You’ll find books that will blow your mind, books that you’ll remember 20 years later in details and nooks that will encourage you to push your boundaries and try something different or even harder. Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
Absolutely. Children’s/YA books are as worthy as adult books. A lot of people view authors who write for children as not really authors, or not as good, and I don’t think the lack of national media coverage of YA helps this untrue image. Having said that, I think there should be more media coverage of books in general. Jennifer Horan, CKG Judge for YLG Scotland
How do the out reach / shadowing programmes work?
The Shadowing Scheme is a reading group in which children and young people ‘shadow’ the awards; they read, discuss and review the books on each shortlist and engage in reading related activities online. There are groups all over the country in libraries and schools. Martha Lee, CKG Judge for YLG Wales
Do you have a favourite hot-tip illustrator who has not yet been nominated for the Greenaway but who we should keep an eye on.
The new The Klaus Flugge Prize for the Most Exciting Newcomer to Picture Book Illustration is the award to watch for these hot tips! It was launched this year and has a long and shortlist full of exciting new illustrators. We expect to see (and have already seen some, because of differing eligibility dates) many of these illustrators featuring on Greenaway lists in the future. The Macmillan Prize which is awarded annually to illustrators still in art school is also a great place to spot up-and-coming talent. Amy McKay, CKG National Coordinator.
This years shortlist is set to be as hotly contested and highly prized as every year... which are your favourites?
Follow CILIP on Twitter (@cilipckg) to keep up with the latest award developments and announcements!
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With Thanks to Matt Imrie and CILIP