Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Celebrating Freedoms - The CKG Award and the Amnesty CILIP Honour by Dawn Finch

The CKG award has always been very special in the life of school librarians and the people who work with books for young people, and it’s genuinely exciting to be this close to it all. I always read all of the shortlisted books and write about them, and this year is no different - apart from the fact that I was a little closer to the action this year. This is a most remarkable book award and the books are chosen by people who all have deep and detailed knowledge about children's books. 

This has been a very special year for the CKG Award because this is the first year we have joined up with Amnesty International to award the first Amnesty CILIP Honour. This brand new honour is given to the author and illustrator of one title from each of the Carnegie and Greenaway shortlists. The ACH will be awarded to the title that most distinctively illuminates, communicates, or celebrates our freedoms, as chosen by Amnesty’s own judging panel. The judging panel included representatives from Amnesty International and educational groups as well as storytellers and artists Manya Benenson and Dean Bowen, children’s writer SF Said, and last year’s Carnegie winner, Tanya Landman.

The Carnegie Award 2016 - One written by Sarah Crossan
Grace and Tippi are conjoined twins. And their lives are about to change. No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world - a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love? But what neither Grace nor Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined.
Written in free-verse, One is a remarkable and beautiful story and one that makes me, as a writer, suddenly realise that there are too many words in my own writing. Crossan uses verse to drive home a deeply complex storyline in swift and precise strokes. This is enviably good writing and we are lifted and swept along with the elegant precision of the storytelling. It is wonderful to see poetry win this award. These verses weave a delicate tapestry of a story that builds up to show us the beauty in belonging, and the agony of loss.

The Kate Greenaway Award 2016 – The Sleeper and the Spindle illustrated by Chris Riddell (written by Neil Gaiman)
A young queen throws aside her wedding gown, puts on her armour, and sets off to rescue a princess from a cursed enchantment. Does she really need rescuing?

Riddell is an extraordinary illustrator, and in Sleeper he has used pen and ink to take us on a fantastic Gothic journey through a wild landscape. We are guided through this quest by both Riddell and writer, Neil Gaiman, and are left with a book that is a beautiful whole. The detailed illustrations are remarkable, and with just a lick of gold, they feel both detailed and lavish – classic Riddell. An absolute treat and a book that celebrates independence, personal strength and individuality. 

The 2016 Amnesty CILIP Honour for a Carnegie book – Lies We Tell Ourselves written by Robin Talley
It's 1959. The battle for civil rights is raging. And it's Sarah's first day of school as one of the first black students at previously all-white Jefferson High. No one wants Sarah there. Not the Governor. Not the teachers. And certainly not the students - especially Linda, daughter of the town's most ardent segregationist. Sarah and Linda are supposed to despise each other. But the more time they spend together, the less their differences matter. And both girls start to feel something they've never felt before. Something they're determined to ignore. Because it's one thing to stand up to an unjust world - but another to be terrified of what's in your own heart.
The novel swings back and forth between the two main characters, Sarah and Linda, as both of their lives unfold in the first wave of integrated high schools in the southern states of America. The book is a brave and challenging read as Talley uses the often offensive language of the day. The language cuts at our modern sensibilities and drives home the futility of the segregationists’ arguments. The feelings of Sarah and Linda tear our heartstrings and the often casual brutality they both witness is chilling. An important novel that shows us a world we have often only had a tiny view into, and a reminder of the freedoms fought so hard for.

The 2016 Amnesty CILIP Honour for a Kate Greenaway book – There’s A Bear On My Chairby Ross Collins
As you might have guessed from the title, there’s a bear in Mouse’s chair. It’s a polar bear and it’s pretty comfy and does not want to move. I’ll be upfront about this – Bear On My Chair made me laugh out loud from the first page. Well, I say that Bear made me laugh but actually it was Mouse who made me laugh, and he continued to do so as he tried to get Bear out of his chair. A joyful book about patience, persistence and the right to peaceful protest - especially against a huge and apparently immovable object! The illustrations are full of life and movement and the book is entirely joyful.

Sioned Jacques, Chair of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Judges said;
“It has been my pleasure, a dream come true, to chair the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards. Despite learning to read firstly in Welsh, looking back at books I read as a child, past winners are prominent. This testifies to the fact that these awards really do promote outstanding literature and illustrations.”

It was a great honour for me to make a speech at the event, and here is an extract.
“One of the most important things about working with children is that it constantly reminds you how important freedom is. I have worked with thousands of children now, and far too many of them have lacked the personal freedoms that we take for granted. Many have had to overcome incredible challenges before they’d even reached double figures, and yet they never lost their joy of life and their open appreciation for what freedoms they still had. They remained optimistic, open, patient, understanding and tolerant – something that it often sadly lacking in many adults.”

In her speech Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK said;
Why do we think children’s books are important?
Because, fundamentally, great authors and illustrators make us care. Your stories and picture books have the power to develop children’s empathy, broaden horizons and give them confidence. And those skills of empathy, awareness and confidence are exactly what we need to stand up for each other against discrimination. They are skills for life and we all need them if we are to shape a better world.”

The winners also all made the most wonderful speeches and talked about freedoms and libraries and how important a love of reading is. They talked with passion, eloquence and humour and if you missed it you can still see the whole award ceremony on the Carnegie Greenaway site.

I always think that children’s books are not just for children. Children’s books allow young readers to know themselves, to understand their own lives, and place themselves in the world, but as adults they give us so much more. Through their pages we gain the ability to see the world through the eyes of another, and through the eyes of a child. Through the pages of wonderful children’s books, such as the winners of these awards, we can all gain a better understanding of the world and the kaleidoscope of life experiences that go to make it so remarkable.

Amnesty International has an active campaign to support prisoner of conscience, librarian Natalya Sharina. Find out more and support this campaign on the Amnesty International site.

CILIP has a high profile campaign to support your legal right to have library services in your community. Sign up and show your support for #mylibrarybyright

Dawn Finch
President, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)
Children’s writer and librarian.


Sue Bursztynski said...

Looks like a terrific bunch of books! I've only read The Sleeper And The Spindle, which I loved, but the others look great too. I might check out that one about segregation, perhaps it's in iBooks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your news about CKG and Amnesty Honour Award, Dawn.
ps. Blogger/Google is playing up.)