The Carnegie Medal: Prizes to get children reading
My Name is Mina by David Almond, Hodder (9+)
Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans, Doubleday (8+)
The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett, Walker (9+)
Everybody Jam by Ali Lewis, Andersen (12+)
Trash by Andy Mulligan, D. Fickling (12+)
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Walker (9+)
My Sister lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher, Orion (10+)
Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys, Puffin (12+)
The winner will be announced by CILIP (Chartered Institute for Librarians and Information Professionals) at an event at the Barbican on 14 June. So how much do children’s book prizes matter and do they do anything to promote reading?
Founded in 1936, the Carnegie Medal is actually one of the most coveted prizes among writers who specialise in work for young people because the judges are a large panel of librarians, who really know and understand children’s books. Other prizes do it differently – the Smarties Prize, for example, which was discontinued in 2008, was judged by children, who are, by definition, inexperienced readers, interested as we all are in what they think. The Costa Prize (formerly the Whitbread) has a section for a children’s book which is judged by a small panel of adults. Carnegie is unusual in that it uses librarians – and long may they last considering that some of their workplaces are under threat of closure or merger.
There’s a lot to be said for using prizes and shortlists as a way of involving children and young people in reading books to which they might not otherwise have been attracted. It’s why, at my own adult level, I try to read the books on the Man Booker shortlist each year before the announcement of the winner. It introduces me to new (to me, even if they’re not first-timers) authors and fresh subject matter. And of course, there’s nothing to stop parents and teachers using the Carnegie shortlist in the same way. A whole family, for instance, could take it in turn to read these books. Discussing the shared experience would then follow pretty naturally for many.
CILIP has formalised this process to encourage schools to get children and teenagers reading the books shortlisted for Carnegie with its imaginative Carnegie Shadowing scheme.
Over 4000 reading groups in schools and public libraries have already registered to take part in the shadowing scheme for the 2012 awards, involving 90,000 children and young people. CILIP provides resource materials and advice to registered schools. Young readers read and discuss the books, usually led by a teacher or librarian. They can then write reviews, a selection of which are published on the CILIP website. This scheme has been running for some years now and its take-up continues to grow.
A book prize is, in effect, simply a recommendation. Several people collectively choose a book and speak out for it publicly. That is only what all readers, including children, do informally all the time. They read something they like and tell someone else about it.
During the 2012 Carnegie shadowing CILIP and the Open University will be collaborating on a research project funded by the Carnegie UK Trust. The plan is for them to work closely with a small number of shadowing groups. They aim to produce in-depth information about the scheme and the reading activity it promotes. A written report and a short video documentary highlighting examples of good practice will follow.
So what about the books themselves? This year’s Carnegie list is dissimilar to recent previous years. It includes no fewer than four debut novels, for instance – by Lissa Evans, Ali Lewis, Annabel Pitcher and Ruta Sepetys. Competing against them are books by former CILIP Carnegie Medal winner, David Almond alongside Sonya Harnett, Andy Mulligan, and Patrick Ness, the 2011 CILIP Carnegie winner.
The eight books on this year’s shortlist are variously suitable for readers of 12 years, or younger, which bucks the trend of recent Carnegie shortlists which have tended towards teenage and young adult fiction.
Settings range from contemporary England, outback Australia and wartime Siberia to imaginary places with strong echoes of today’s turbulent world. And the eight books involve characters contending with everything from bereavement, poverty, corruption and tyranny, to a recalcitrant young camel, and the difficulty of finding the right words.
Commenting on this year’s shortlist Rachel Levy, Children’s Library Services Manager for Sutton Libraries and chair of the CILIP Carnegie judging panel, says:
“Choosing the CILIP Carnegie shortlist is always a tough call but the strength of this year’s field was exceptional. Readers of the final eight books will meet some outstanding characters who will make them laugh like Stuart, cry like Conor and think outside the box like Mina. Their Carnegie reading journey will take them to some dark and difficult places, but all the books are ultimately about the beauty and hopefulness of life and all are beautifully written”.Tagged in: carnegie medal, carnegie shortlist, education, literary prize, Reading
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