We are delighted to be part of a mini-blog tour to promote the Carnegie and Greenaway Medals through the work of its judges, which gave us an opportunity to ask them a few questions about the process of judging the most prestigious children’s book award in the UK. Here is what they had to say!
Can you tell us a bit more about the process of being a judge?
Jan Foss: The judging begins with training in October and is a chance to meet all the other judges for the first time. There are 12 judges but half are always new, so that there is a mix of experience on the panel. When the nominations list is published the reading beings in earnest, however in reality it is vital for the judges to have begun reading likely titles prior to this. The lists are so long now that it would be almost impossible to read everything in the time-frame! We then meet up to discuss the books and decide the longlists. We meet again to decide the shortlists and finally the winners.
What have you been enjoying the most so far?
Jan Foss: I enjoyed judging the Greenaway books more this year than in my first year. With more experience I found it a little easier to apply the criteria. I also love the process of deciding on the winners and knowing I’ve been a part of history… that is a very special feeling!
What has been the toughest?
Jan Foss: The toughest was getting to the start of January and realising I had somehow mis-timed my reading and now needed to read a book a day to catch up. That was stressful!
The Carnegie Medal always divides opinions, whether it is in its choice of winner, or its alleged bias towards YA. How difficult (or maybe easy!) to not let media (and particularly social media) coverage affect your judgement and opinions of the shortlisted books?
Jan Foss: To be honest, I found it relatively easy to just concentrate on the books. It is important to judge each book individually by the judging criteria and not be swayed by what might be popular or controversial. I am not an avid user of social media so perhaps that made a difference!
Obviously you cannot tell us your favourites on the shortlists this year, but have you got particular favourites amongst the previous winners?
Jan Foss: I loved Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech; it is such a life-affirming, positive book. Buffalo Soldier is also special, because it was my first year of judging. When Tanya’s book Hell and High Water came out it had ‘Carnegie Medal-winning author’ on the front and I felt so proud at having been part of that decision!
For the Greenaway Medal, Jon Klassen’s This is not my Hat does it for me!
Tanja Jennings: Particular favourites include Richard Adams, Jennifer Donnelly, Siobhan Dowd, Mal Peet, Sally Gardner and Philip Pullman who won a poll for the Carnegie of Carnegies (top title in 70 years) in 2007 with Northern Lights.
What advice would you give groups which are shadowing the judging this year?
Jan Foss: I would tell shadowing groups to read as much of the shortlists as they can, and make use of the brilliant shadowing website to post reviews, blogs, and watch author videos. Most of all, enjoy the experience!
Jennifer Horan: Have fun! I firmly believe the most important and beneficial thing about reading is that you enjoy it. It’s great to have opinions on books and to feel really strongly and passionately about them, but everyone has different tastes – that’s what makes us interesting!
Tanja Jennings: My advice would be to enjoy it and to read as many titles as they can from the long lists. Shadowers could also plan fun activities such as a book bake off or balloon debate to showcase their favourite titles.
Thank you so much Jan, Tanja and Jennifer.
The winner of the 2016 Carnegie Medal will be announced on Monday! For more information, go to the official website
To find out more about the shortlisted titles, why not check out the videos of shortlisted authors talking about their books?