CILIP Carnegie and Greenaway Shortlists Announced
Lizzie Ryder, one of this year's Carnegie Greenaway judges, joins us to tell us what it's really like judging this prestigious prize - and to reveal this year's shortlisted books!
People often ask: 'what's it like being a Carnegie Greenaway judge?' The easy answer is that it's wonderful! But as with all good stories there's a little bit more to it than that...
First of all, being a Carnegie Greenaway judge is not just a job title - it very quickly becomes a way of life. You live, breathe and sometimes dream the awards for two whole years and even then I don't think you ever let go. From first introductions through to the medal ceremony and the culmination of a year's hard work, the books and your fellow judges become an integral part of your life. I've spoken to judges at the end of their two years who were half-seriously considering setting up support groups to help with withdrawal symptoms and I've listened to past judges, and indeed Chairs, reminiscing about 'their year' and the book that won with the same kind of affection reserved for firstborns. This is serious stuff!
It should give you an indication of the passion, dedication and reverence which the judges bring to their role. In many ways this is a necessity: the shortlisting process is incredibly intense. From the announcement of the nominations in October/November we have around three months to make our way through the longlist. No mean feat as this year's nominations totalled 107 books! With so many books to remember we arrive at our first judging meeting armed with reams of notes. These are vital not only as a quick memory jog (I'm terrible at remembering characters' names!) but as a way of summarising salient points ready for discussion. It's a little like revising for an exam - that is until the talking gets underway and it's clear that this isn't about individual endeavour but a real collective effort.
The strangest and, in many ways, the most marvellous thing about our discussion is that rarely do we all agree. We're a big group (one judge from each region of the UK) and, naturally, each of us has different tastes. This, however, is precisely where the CKG magic happens; we're not making decisions based on our favourite books or ones we know we've enjoyed or even books that we think will be popular. We have a very clear set of Medal criteria which form the backbone of our discussions and inform our eventual selections. Unlike other prizes, these criteria are published and everyone can see them - it's actually a very transparent process and one which allows the shortlisting to happen almost organically. It's extraordinary how the books which fulfil these criteria naturally make themselves felt throughout the process.
Of course there are some books which stay in the running right until the last moment and it is with much regret that they are set to one side. This part of the shortlisting is something akin to ripping a plaster (or several) off: a painful but necessary process which nonetheless causes several winces or gasps. More frequently, however, there is a genuine sense of satisfaction as you see books taking their rightful place on the shortlist. The day usually ends with six or seven books lined up at the front of the room and a collective pause as we each assess our shortlist. We leave with the gratifying sense of a job well done; no one goes home thinking that any one of the books falls short of being outstanding. In fact, there's a slightly giddy feeling in knowing that any one of those books could win.
It's always an overwhelming relief to finally be able to talk to other people about our selections once the shortlist is officially revealed and it is a particular joy to see how they are received by shadowing groups. It is, after all, the sharing of these outstanding books which makes the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals so special. The discussion that follows, whether across the office, on the shadowing website, in the school library or simply between friends is the lifeblood of these awards. It's what drives the judges to do their very best.
Take a look at the 2012 shortlists, and the judges comments on each shortlisted book, below:
The 2012 CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist is...
'A wonderful celebration of words, language and creativity which completely nails the voice of Mina, its central character, and demonstrates a true stream of consciousness. Mina has much to teach us all about the wonder of life in this absorbing and very clever example of a post-modern approach to literature.'
'A refreshing and plausibly magical novel which joyfully celebrates cleverness and a delight in words. Both the main characters and the cameo parts are extremely vivid and humorous, and the mystery and trail of clues throughout the plot are very well-worked out. A story that is terrific fun, so perfectly paced and exquisitely written that it reads aloud beautifully.'
Sonya Hartnett, The Midnight Zoo (Walker)
'With its stunning descriptions and small parables which illustrate the inhumanity of war, and the havoc it wreaks on both people and animals, this is a profoundly moving novel. Unbearably sad in places, but never depressing, with its message that accepting death means cherishing life; it is a beautiful fable with a moral message for us all.'
'A hugely engaging and enjoyable novel that conveys a terrific sense of place in its vivid descriptions of the brutality - and terrible beauty - of Australian outback life. The voice of the central character Danny is always convincing, and his relationship with his camel surprisingly moving. In fact so real are all the characters that they leave the reader wanting to know more.'
Andy Mulligan, Trash (David Fickling)
'A vivid and emotionally powerful story told through some great switches of authentic narrative voice, giving the perfect marriage of character and plot as the three children tell their stories. Though there are scenes that are visceral and shocking, humour is always present too, along with a strong sense of community and the sustaining nature of friendship.'
'An exquisite piece of writing of great depth which has huge impact upon the reader, guiding them through some difficult emotional lessons. Well plotted and lyrically written with not an unconsidered word, it also handles the relationships between the central characters brilliantly.'
'With a great central character, a sophisticated plot and an ending that is both credible and hopeful, this is a book that avoids the "issues trap" to stay with you long after you finish it. The observations of the 10 year old narrator are extremely well-captured, as is his growing friendship with Surya, and the way in which prejudice is broken down on both sides.'
'A compelling, page-turning story about a hidden period of history, told with real emotional depth. Flashbacks are employed to great effect, and the excellent characterisation means that you both believe and care about what happens to everyone in it. A book which makes the reader a survivor too: you read it, and have to move on with life, as they do.'
The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2012 shortlist is...
The judges said: 'A book full of beautifully visualised comic touches. Every line works, and the more you read it, the more you see. The pigs are wonderful comic creations. The text is always part of the picture and the typography perfectly fits the action. Outstanding.'
'A dramatically beautiful picture book full of movement. Layers of colour and texture capture the movement of water, and of light, and of Peter and Paul themselves. A thrilling visual adventure for children, with a tender message.'
'Breathtaking, a perfect marriage of text and picture, in which the illustrations capture meaning and emotion completely. There are echoes of Charles Keeping in Kay's atmospheric, energetic inky illustrations. The depiction of light and shade is awe-inspiring and the illustrations extend the impact of the story.'
Dave McKean, Slog's Dad (Walker Books)
'The different illustrative styles expand the text and the book's message; they amplify the emotions, producing a powerful impact on the reader. McKean uses different media so skilfully, and in such an effective and fluid way. The images illuminate and leave the reader full of hope. '
Catherine Rayner, Solomon Crocodile (Macmillan)
'The depiction of the animal characters is superb, with Solomon the archetypal naughty toddler. The use of colour is exquisite throughout, and the book has a real sense of vibrancy and energy. There's such variety in the layout but the images follow on from each other perfectly.'
Rob Ryan, The Gift (Barefoot Books)
'The beautiful illustrations are not just decorative, they interpret the text for us and strengthen the story's impact. The frames and shadows perfectly reflect the fairy tale feel and the different emblems and details emphasise the message. A perfect depiction of the circle of life.'
Viviane Schwarz There are No Cats in this Book (Walker)
'A book that perfectly expresses the power of the imagination! With an extraordinary sense of participation, this is book to play with as much as to read, and very much one to share. The illustrations are full of personality, the use of colour and blank space is brilliant. A book that works on lots of different levels.'
'The stunning portraits of the animals help the reader appreciate their beauty. Close-up observation and detail bring the animals to life. Flashes of colour are used sparingly but to great effect. The perspectives used, and the use of blank space, give this an extraordinary impact. A beautiful book.'
The 2012 winners of both the Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway Medal will be announced at a ceremony at London's Barbican Centre on Thursday 14th June.