Please note this post is a flight of fancy possibly brought on by the rather strong medication my GP gave me yesterday, or just a stray thought that hung around in my brain…
Scientific history note: The atom was first split in 1919 by Ernest Rutherford at the University of Manchester
The Carnegie Medal has been awarded to the most outstanding Children’s Book almost every year since 1936 (except in 1943, 1945 & 1966 as no titles were considered suitable).
In recent years the Medal has been awarded to books aimed at an older readership, this has prompted a number of comments over the years from observers that perhaps it is time for the Medal to be split into an older and younger award.
Should the Carnegie Medal be split into two, with a separate prize for YA? http://t.co/DPgBtQxlXK
— Telegraph Books (@TelegraphBooks) July 30, 2014
7) Perhaps this debate could lead to a wider look at the Carnegie judging criteria, and also whether the award should be split YA/younger
— Keren David (@Kerensd) February 19, 2017
In 2015, then Chair of the CKG Judges panel Agnes Guyon penned a wonderful post on why splitting the Medal is not an option, you can read this here: https://www.cilip.org.uk/blog/cilip-carnegie-kate-greenaway-award-message-2015-chair-judges
Currently all books published under the umbrella of “Children’s Books” are eligible to be nominated for the Carnegie Medal, but until the publishing world starts differentiating between Children’s Books, Middle Grade, Teen Fiction and Young Adult Fiction it will not be possible for CILIP to even consider dividing up titles into Children’s & MG for a Carnegie Junior and Teen & YA fiction for a Carnegie Senior.
Let us say for the purpose of this post that publishers and authors did agree to start adding these sub-headings into Children’s Fiction, then it is conceivable that the Carnegie could be split.
Once all eligible titles had been nominated for a particular year, the first year judges could read towards a long-list for the Carnegie Junior Medal and second year Judges could read for long-listing the Senior Medal.
Once both long-lists had been announced the short-listing process could involve the entire Judging panel or perhaps it would be best to wait until the short-lists have been announced for the combined panel to choose the most outstanding books.
With the ever-expanding list of nominated titles this is a way that the lists could be kept manageable.
Anyway as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it is just a stray thought that I considered as an intellectual exercise, I am a supporter of a single medal for all Children’s Books! At least until a workable alternative can be developed
Full disclosure: I am a member of CILIP and a former judge for the 2015 & 16 CILIP CKG Medals so this may open me up to accusations of bias but I also have an inside understanding of how the Medals process works from nominations to the awarding of the medals. I will lay out the whole process as briefly as possible while not excluding any information.
The long-lists were announced last week Thursday and while initially well-received there was a growing groundswell of discontent at the lack of Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) on the lists.
It has been called “a deliberate snub”
This is a deliberate snub by Carnegie/Greenaway. Can be read as nothing else given the current climate plus extraordinary output this year
— Citizen of Nowhere (@sunnysingh_n6) February 16, 2017
@whatSFSaid No BAME writer on Carnegie longlist in a year where writers of colour have produced outstanding work. Appalling!
— Alex Wheatle (@brixtonbard) February 16, 2017
and other less complimentary terms.
Over the years the judging panel have been accused of many things including: being overwhelmingly female – and thus unable to fairly judge books that may have been written for a male readership, being too middle class – and therefore not being able to fairly judge a book written from a working class perspective and now being unable to fairly judge BAME books due to white privilege.
It is worth remembering that all titles are nominated by Librarians, this shows that the profession as a whole does seek out to reward diversity no matter the ethnic make-up of the majority of the members.
As a panel the judges disregard what is going on in other awards as the CKG medals are not a popularity contest and decisions rest solely on how titles measure up to the criteria which are often radically different to those in other awards. In comparison to other literary awards the CKG Awards are also fairly rare as all the judges read all the nominated titles.
Diversity in awards is important, if all awards focused on the same titles there would be no scope for the out of the ordinary books as often with CKG winners the books are not the most popular but rather those that (in the opinion of the panel) best capture the criteria.
There is one judge per YLG region in the UK as well as the Chair of Judges, the CKG Coordinator, Chair of the YLG National Committee and the Chair-elect who do not vote but use their experience and knowledge to guide the judging panel.
Each judge brings their years of experience of reading and evaluating books for children and young people, honed by the rigorous training before we sit on the panel to the group which is made up of a mix of first and second year judges – a combination of fresh eyes and experience.
Being a CKG Judge is an enormous privilege. It is also an enormously time-consuming process that takes control of an individual’s life for two years as reading 100 + books is not easy when one is juggling a career, home-life and in many cases children (my wife and I having our daughter at the outset of my second year as a judge almost did me in). Often Judges have to take unpaid leave from work to attend the selection meetings in London. Not everyone is able to take on this amazing challenge.
The accusations levelled at the sitting judges is difficult to bear as they are unable to respond due to the possibility of breaching the confidentiality of the judging process. It is not easy for a former judge to hear either as the accusations blanket all of us.
I am aware that the word racism was not used and a number of individuals have written incredibly persuasively that no one is accusing CKG judges of being closet racists but it is hard not to feel stung by the accusation that we have been purposefully side-lining BAME authors.
Having said that, I can begin to imagine that for BAME authors the feeling that you are not loved or wanted by Librarians can be even more distressing and painful. This is not just because I know and am on cordial speaking terms with a number of BAME authors but also I am a fan of theirs and many others work.
Out of interest I looked back at the 2016 Carnegie nominations and at a cursory glance I saw six BAME authors that I know had been nominated, three of these made the long-list.
In 2015 there were six nominations and no listings.
In 2014 there were three BAME nominations but no listings.
Prior to 2014 all nominations were automatically long-listed.
The paucity of BAME authors in the CKG listings is evidence of problems greater than the perceived short-comings of the award process.
The Carnegie Medal celebrates its 80th anniversary this year and people online have used this as a stick to beat the awards with saying that in 80 years it is disgraceful that a BAME author has never won. Over the weekend I started looking in to when the first BAME children’s authors were published in the UK, I am pretty sure that it was not in the 1930’s and I will not stop digging until I have found an answer, this is not to say that we should not be concerned about the lack of BAME authors but blaming a symptom rather than addressing the cause may be counter-productive.
Within publishing there is a distinct lack of diversity, this is in the process of changing but it will take years until the number of BAME authored titles published in the UK accurately reflects the population.
Library staff are not immune from a lack of diversity across the board either, ethnic monitoring with CILIP membership is optional utilising a tick box so it is hard to know exact numbers but the profession is overwhelmingly Caucasian.
I know from my experience on the London Youth Libraries Group Committee that the special interest groups regularly require fresh blood due to members stepping down and posts becoming available so if you are a Librarian of BAME heritage and have an interest in becoming involved with the CKG Awards please do consider joining CILIP if you are not already a member and sign up to a YLG regional committee or express interest in joining if there are no committee vacancies currently available.
If you are unsure about the cost of membership you can ask your employer to subsidise the membership fee as many employers do pay for employee membership of professional organisations.
Having also read CILIP C.E.O. Nick Poole’s response to criticism of the awards regarding a level playing field (and please note I am not speaking on his behalf) I think we can all agree that BAME authors and BAME citizens in general have never faced a level playing field with regard to publishing or life in the UK in general but in regard to the context in which books are read and considered against the set criteria – all the books are assessed equally.
I am aware that a number of authors and groups have been in contact with CILIP to open a discussion on the awards, their future and to make sure that no-one feels excluded, victimised or marginalised.
I support this endeavour and hope that we can all move forward together to ensure a future where all citizens of the UK feel included and see themselves represented in the Awards.
How authors, publishers & publicists can help
Be more vocal about books that are being published, this is really important if books are published close to or on the cut-off date (31st October) – Librarians are only human, we do not have the 100 eyes of Argus and sometimes miss things. It is usually not the books that massive publicity events accompanying the launch; it is the books that slip out with little to no fanfare, if you have a book that you feel hits most if not all the criteria then let us know, I know with librarians often the biggest problem we have is talking about ourselves – I am guessing it may be similar with many authors (that is why there are publicists), make sure that some proofs go to librarians (I am happy to help if publicists are not sure where to send books I can put you in contact with library friends and colleagues that read and review books as well as are active with nominating titles.
How librarians can help
Get involved with nominating, even if you are not directly involved with children’s and young people’s librarianship, all members of CILIP are eligible to nominate titles. If you are not sure what books to look at or read – ask a CYP or School Librarian for a suggestion, we love recommending books. Stop the breast-beating about guilt by association – if you feel strongly about it get stuck in, if you see the management level of the profession moving slowly or not at all then affect professional change from the grassroots.
Nothing happens in a vacuum, everything we do effects a change elsewhere – a greater demand for BAME titles will cause an uptick in publication, the more books that are published means more nominations, the more nominations there are means a greater chance of being listed and the increased chance for more books to be published.
What happens if nothing is done?
I have seen calls for a Carnegie boycott, authors calling on their publishers not to involve their books. All nominated titles will still be read, and if it is decided that a book by an author that later recuses themself from the award is chosen then it is possible that a no award will occur, years where no titles have been selected are incredibly rare but they have happened in the history of the award.
Although the CKG Awards are often regarded as monolithic and unchanging, the rules and regulations governing them are looked at, considered and updated on a regular basis.
The most recent update that springs to mind is the addition of the illustrator’s name to illustrated novels nominated for the Carnegie Medal in 2016 http://www.thebookseller.com/news/illustrators-included-carnegie-nominations-314750
I have also heard through the grapevine that CILIP is working on making the profession more diverse, but as with every initiative this will take time.
Open to all young people aged 14 to 18, who live in the UK, entrants are asked to create stories of up to 1000 words on any topic with the judges eager to see stories that show real imagination and creativity; high quality writing that can capture and hold the reader. The shortlist of the top five stories will be announced Saturday 30 September 2017 (subject to change) with the finalists invited to attend the exclusive BBC National Short Story Award 2017 ceremony in London on Tuesday 3 October 2017, where the winner will be announced.
The talented winning writer of the BBC Young Writers’ Award 2017 will have their story broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and receive a personalised mentoring session with an author to help develop their writing skills. All five shortlisted writers will be given a guided visit to BBC Broadcasting House and have the chance to meet high-profile authors, publishers, agents and broadcasters. The shortlist will also have their stories published on the BBC Radio 1 website and receive a copy of the BBC National Short Story Award 2017 anthology.
The deadline for receipt of entries is 5pm (BST) Friday 21 April 2017. The Terms & Conditions and Entry Form, along with a host of resources to help writers get started with their stories, are available at www.bbc.co.uk/ywa
Holly Bourne, the bestselling author of Am I Normal Yet? and Nikesh Shukla, editor of youth magazine Rife and celebrated anthology The Good Immigrant have been announced as the judges for the 2017 BBC Young Writers’ Award. They will join BBC Radio 1 DJ Alice Levine who returns as chair of the judges for a third year in a quest for ‘extraordinary’ stories that reveal how teenagers are inspired by the world around them.
Speaking about the Award, which was launched in 2015 to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the BBC National Short Story Award and to create a launchpad for the next generation of writing talent, Alice Levine says:
I’m delighted to be judging the BBC Young Writers Award for the third year running. It’s such a privilege to know I’m part of something that helps young people take their first steps on the journey to becoming the authors of tomorrow. The Award always produces incredible stories examining everything from the everyday to the extraordinary. How our writers express so much in so few words never ceases to amaze me, and the quality of the entries is so high that finding a winner isn’t so much like panning for gold as diving into a treasure chest. I hope 2016 has provided all our young entrants with the inspiration to write the kind of unforgettable stories we’ve come to expect from the BBC Young Writers’ Award.
Fellow judge, Holly Bourne says:
I was so thrilled to be asked to judge the BBC Young Writers’ Award 2017! When the world seems chaotic and crazy – writing can be such an incredible outlet. I’m passionate about young people feeling empowered to use their voices and tell the stories that are important to them. Whether that’s an escapist delve into a fantastical world of their imagination, or writing to make sense of the issues of today – I can’t wait to see what they come up with. It’s this kind of energy, honesty and originality that makes the BBC Young Writers stand out year after year!
And judge Nikesh Shukla says:
My work as the editor of a youth magazine, Rife, means that I work with some of the best young minds around, and I feel constantly challenged and inspired by what they write. I can’t wait to read these incredible stories whilst judging the BBC Young Writers’ Award, and am particularly interested to see the impact recent political events have had on teenagers.
The BBC Young Writers’ Award was won last year by 14 year old Lizzie Freestone for her ‘haunting, intriguing and lyrical’ story Ode to a Boy Musician. The story, focussing on a boy set free from his fearful and narrow life by his talent as a musician, was praised as a ‘brilliant
piece of storytelling’. The inaugural 2015 Award was won by Brennig Davies for his tale Skinning, the graphic account of a boy having to skin a rabbit on the orders of his overbearing father. Both winners had the honour of hearing their stories read on BBC Radio 1 by high profile actors Daisy Ridley and Sir Ian McKellen respectively.
Liz Allard, Executive Producer of BBC Young Writers’ Award, says:
Now in its third year, the BBC Young Writers’ Award provides the next generation with the opportunity to showcase their formidable talent as short story writers. Last year’s shortlistees delighted us with their diversity in style, theme and imagination with the winner 14-year-old Lizzie Freestone standing out for her haunting and poetic story. We are eagerly looking forward to uncovering new and equally captivating stories; stories that not only showcase the writers of the future but may well signpost a future winner of the prestigious BBC National Short Story Award.
The 2017 SRC theme is Animal Agents so I have put together a special Animal Rap & Rhyme session which I am hoping you’ll be keen to book me for in summer.
Linking to the theme I am offering:
Please let me know if you’d be interested even though it may be early days
020 8529 6608
I have had a copy of Hilo written and drawn by Judd Winick since December – it is a comic book that I loved and have been meaning to write a review of since I read it. However I have been dragging my feet with this and I have no idea why.
Last night I had a dream, and in that dream I wrote a Hilo review and compared it to The Iron Man by Ted Hughes – this is better known internationally as The Iron Giant thanks to the fantastic Warner Bros. animated movie. When I woke up I was confused as on the surface they two beings appeared to be completely different; on deeper reflection I realised that the stories had a number of similarities, my brain also threw about Osamu Tezuka’s Astroboy and Frank Miller and Geof Darrow’s The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot into the mix as well as the parallels to Judd’s early work The Adventures of Barry Ween Boy Genius (the book that made me a Winick fan-boy)
Judd – if you do read this can you *please* let me know if Barry Ween will ever come back – thank you!
ANYWAY! Hilo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth is funny, sweet and contains some surprisingly hidden depths to the surface story of a mysterious boy who falls to Earth and the children that become his best friends.
There is a lot of screaming and running away from alien monsters and pathos in the form of familial relationships and the feeling of not fitting in with both Hilo and D.J. filling the role of outsider Hilo on earth and D.J. within his family.
JW has always been championed diversity in his works and HiLo is no exception, a Caucasian from another dimension with a Hispanic and African American as best friends who get equal development within the story.
HiLo is a fast-paced, enjoyable romp for all ages and there are two other books in the series that are also available so there will be no long waiting for more once you have finished it!
If I could sum up HiLo The boy Who Crashed to Earth in one word then it is:
HiLo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth is published in the UK by Puffin
Then the traffic lights fail. Manzano is thrown from his Alfa as cars pile up. And not just on this street – every light in the city is dead.
Across Europe, controllers watch in disbelief as electricity grids collapse.
Plunged into darkness, people are freezing. Food and water supplies dry up. The death toll soars.
Former hacker and activist Manzano becomes a prime suspect. But he is also the only man capable of finding the real attackers.
Can he bring down a major terrorist network before it’s too late?
It has been said (by a number of people) that civilization is twenty-four hours and two meals away from barbarism.
Marc Elsberg has taken that premise, wrapped it up in a taut, fast-flowing thriller and has shown how Europe and the western world can be brought to it’s knees by a small group dedicated fanatics with the technical skills and the knowledge needed to implement a coordianted, catastrophic power grid failure.
Up against them is a ex-hacker and a number of people across Europe wrapped up in bureaucratic red tape, suspicion, conflicting end goals and divided loyalties. In all honesty there were times when my sympathies lay with the terrorists but as the body count grew and the cost of their actions became clearer I felt a chill grow within me as I read.
Blackout brings home how reliant we are on a unified power network and the inability of safety services to cope with a massive collapse in infrastructure. I would like to believe that such an event is not possible, but in a world where elections can be manipulated remotely and code that can hack cars, pacemakers and the growing Internet of Things can be cobbled together by people in their bedrooms we all need to know how vulnerable we are.
Blackout had opened my eyes!
I have not read too many European thrillers, but if many of them are like Blackout then that will change!
Following on from the awesome My Library by Right badge in 2016, the brilliant people at CILIP have released a Facts matter badge for this year.
— Matt Imrie (@mattlibrarian) February 1, 2017
2017 appears to be the year that the Truth has finally gotten its boots on and tightly laced!
Wearing a nifty badge is all well and good, but we as professionals need to be active and start pushing back against the lies, omissions, misinformation and alternative facts that appear to have become de riguer in the modern world.
It is a massive task and if at first it seems daunting it is good to remember that we are not alone in facing this challenge.
If you want to join up and organise, the Radical Librarians Collective is a brilliant group to get involved with:
the Radical Librarians Collective aims to offer a space to challenge, to provoke, to improve and develop the communications between like-minded radicals, to galvanise our collective solidarity against the marketisation of libraries and the removal of our agency to our working worlds and beyond.
If you are not sure where to begin, the Que(e)ry Librarians have started a resource list for libraries and library workers that wish to actively resist the spread of falsehood:
It is a work in progress but is already fairly extensive, of particular interest is the Fake News, Propaganda, Fact Checking, Media Literacy subsection, but everything is worth reading and sharing. I would recommend checking back regularly for updates.
Also worth reading is Information Literacy Won’t Save Us; or, Fight Fascism, Don’t Create A LibGuide by Ian Clarke
If you are a member of CILIP it is a good idea to get involved with the Special Interest Groups as a committee member, even if you arejust a regular member you can start start lobbying your regional committee to take up active involvement where appropriate to educate group members about so-called ‘alternative facts’.
For those library folk reading this that are not members of CILIP it may be time to revisit your reasons that prevented you form joining or inspired you to let your membership lapse as it may be that these have changed as the organisation has changed and is more energised in working for all library & information professionals across the UK.
You can collect a Facts matter badge from CILIP HQ from next week.