Category Archives: Picture Books

CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards 2019

It is finally here! The biggest ever (again) nominations list for the best ever children’s books awards.

For those of you who don’t know, the Carnegie medal is awarded to the author of an outstanding piece of literature for children and young people while the Kate Greenaway medal recognises the illustrator of an outstandingly illustrated book for children and young people (the 2019 awards are for titles published in the UK between September 2017 and August 2018). Most nominations come from members of CILIP and so for a book to be nominated it must have been read and loved by at least one individual…hopefully, before nominating, that individual will have also considered whether the book meets the criteria that the judges then use to whittle the huge nominations list down to a long list of (up to) 20 each to a shortlist of (up to) 8 each to the eventual winners. Some of us (lucky us) get sent books by publishers, sometimes with a “we’d like this to be considered for CKG” note, but the nominations are all made by people with an interest in libraries for children and young people.

This summer a report was published into the diversity review (Matt blogged about it here) bringing a few changes to the process to ensure that it is as diverse and inclusive as possible:

This year, 254 books have been nominated for the 2019 Medals; 137 books are in the running for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and 117 for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Books have been put forward by a record number of nominators which, alongside CILIP members, includes several external bodies − BookTrust, CLPE, Commonword, IBBY, Inclusive Minds, National Literacy Trust and RNIB − invited to nominate as part of CILIP’s diversity and inclusion action plan for the Awards.

As part of this action plan, this year also sees:

o   an expanded judging panel of librarians, bringing a broad range of lived experiences and perspectives

o   enhanced diversity training for the judges

o   an equality, diversity and inclusion advisory panel to support and advise on the Awards process

o   a new prize voted for by children and young people

o   and a quarterly publication of Top 10 New Voices eligible for the upcoming Medals.

Scanning the lists, some favourites are there along with a few that I keep meaning to read. In the years before my judging tenure I read the full nominations list every year, and then obviously while judging I read everything (some things many times over), but as the list grows ever longer and more and more books continue to be published that will be eligible for 2020 (…2020! Wishing my life away in CKGs…) this year I’m going to alternate one book from the list with one new book and see how far I get. So far, I’ve only read 1/3 of the Carnegies (clearly spent too much time re-reading Pratchett) and nearly half the Kate Greenaways (will have to raid the public library for the rest).

What do I love that I’ve read so far? Oooh, it is fab to be able to think about favourites and not just about criteria. Every year I guarantee you every one of the judges will have to lose at least one of their favourites to those that the panel agree best meet the criteria. Judges can’t say “I loved this book because…”, they have to say “it meets this criteria because…”.

  • So my top 10 Carnegie favourites so far are: David Almond Colour of the Sun, Jo Cotterill Jelly, S.E. Durrant Running on Empty, Candy Gourlay Bone Talk, Frances Hardinge A Skinful of Shadows, Catherine Johnson Freedom, Zanib Mian The Muslims, Philip Reeve Station Zero, Jason Reynolds Long Way Down, Dave Shelton The Book Case.
  • Top 10 Kate Greenaway that I love, so far, are: Mehrdokht Amini Nimesh the Adventurer, Francesca Chessa Is it a Mermaid?, Rebecca Cobb The Day War Came, Ruth Hearson Zeki Gets a Checkup, Jean Jullien I Want to be in a Scary Story, Fiona Lumbers Luna Loves Library Day, Poonam Mistry You’re Safe With Me, Jackie Morris The Lost Words, Chris Priestly Long Way Down, Catell Ronca The Drum.

It was hard to whittle it down to 10 each and I’ve got so many left to read! I’m certain they won’t all be longlisted, but that’s the joy of picking favourites. It seems to me that the Kate Greenaway list has far fewer titles for older children than in the last few years, but of course that may well just be because half the ones I’ve not read yet are for teenagers and (having a 3 year old) I’ve gravitated more towards classic picture books! The Carnegie list seems to have something for everyone in there, I don’t envy the judges having to make those decisions*!

(*who am I kidding, of course I do, those judging meetings are intense but absolutely brilliant)

You’re Snug With Me – picture book review

 


At the start of winter, two bear cubs are born, deep in their den in the frozen north. “Mama, what lies beyond here?” they ask. “‘Above us is a land of ice and snow.” “What lies beyond the ice and snow?” they ask. “The ocean, full of ice from long ago.” And as they learn the secrets of the earth and their place in it, Mama Bear whispers, “You’re snug with me.”

You’re Snug With Me is the second time Lantana have paired Chitra Soundar with Poonam Mistry, after You’re Safe With Me, and they are a fabulous team. It is not quite a sequel, but they are both environmentally minded and each have some factual science behind the lyrical stories. My favourite example of that from this book, is:

“As the snow fell harder, the cubs grew curious. “Will it always be dark?” they asked.

“It is dark because we are far from the sun during the winter months.”

The cubs trembled.

“Don’t be afraid,” said Mama Bear. “The Earth dances on her toes and when she tilts, our nights will get shorter and spring will return.”

While the style of drawing remains consistent between the two books, the minimal colour palette in this chilly tale is completely different to that of You’re Safe With Me:  blue, white, and yellow. It is perfect for the snow filled setting, just as green, red, and yellow was perfect for the rainforest setting of Safe. The illustrations are anything but minimal though, taking up all the space with beautiful patterns making up stylised animals in breathtaking scenes. The view changes depending on how close you are to the book, with so much detail to take in.

Although Lantana are small, their growing list of picture books is extremely impressive, some of my absolute favourite titles of recent years have come from them, so do take a look at their catalogue. They make a point of working with authors and illustrators from a wide range of cultures and nationalities to ensure that every child has a chance to see themselves in stories; ‘a publishing house with inclusivity at its heart’

How to be a Lion by Ed Vere

Meet Leonard – a lion like no other. Leonard doesn’t like to raw and chomp. Leonard likes to read and daydream on his thinking hill.

Leonard’s best friend is Marianne, a duck. But lions chomp ducks, don’t they? But Leonard doesn’t want to chomp Marianne!
 
Leonard and Marianne work together to write a special poem to show the other fierce lions that just because lions are supposed to be fierce, it doesn’t mean they have to be.

How to be a Lion is beautiful – this should come as no surprise as Ed Vere is always a phenomenal artist, but his words can stand on their own and they form a beautiful meditation on the power of being different, ignoring the herd (in this case the pride) and being true to your beliefs, yourself and your friends; and in knowing that tough decisions do not have to be faced alone.

As the cool, young kids of today say this book gave me all the feels!

It is usually extremely hard to find a picture book of the year but for me, I think, it may be How to be a Lion!

How to be a Lion is written and illustrated by Ed Vere, published by Puffin Books and will be available in all good bookshops on the 28th June.

Boo! by Ben Newman

Ok this book is aimed at younger readers but it gets a review as I am a bit of a Ben Newman fan! Mostly down to his illustrations of the Professor Astrocat books!

boo

No one is as brave as me and nothing, I mean nothing, scares me… YOU’LL SEE!

How anyone can pick up a book that he has illustrated and fail to be impressed by his artwork I will never know (mainly because everyone I have met that has also read his works are also fans)!

Boo! is a circular tale of terror and how even those that think they are the bravest ever have something that will make them jump!

Perfect for reading out loud to groups of small children or just on a one to one basis Boo! is a story that can inspire fright or audience interaction during reads and rereads.

A Thing of Beauty: Arthur and the Golden Rope

arthur rope
Imagine a vault so cavernous that it could contain the world’s greatest treasures, from mummified remains of ancient monarchs to glistening swords brandished by legendary warriors. How did Professor Brownstone come into possession of such a collection?

Hear the tale of the very first Brownstone and his quest for the golden rope as we travel back to the land of the Vikings. A place filled with magical objects, powerful gods and legendary beasts to be conquered!

I am a bit of a fan-boy when it comes to Flying Eye Books and Nobrow and not just for the amazing stories they are publishing but for the frankly amazing care and attention to detail they put into creating books that are beautiful to look at as well as read.

Arthur and the Golden Rope continues in that vein, the cover is one that I spent several minutes admiring before opening it, the golden highlights of the title and on the strands of the rope glinted in the sun distracting me from the beast fading into the shadows of the background, it’s slavering jaws lit up by a burning brand held by the small figure, looking back at the reader as if unsure of what they were doing there.

Opening the book revealed still more treasures – maps on the endpapers, the first of Iceland showing Arthur’s town and the second showing Yggdrasil – the World Tree connecting Valhalla with Midgard and Helheim. The Æsir: Thor, Baldr, Freyja and Odin appear in the map corners of the front and the giant monsters Nidhoggr, Fenrir, Jotnar and Jormungandr appearing on the back.

The true treasure is the story itself, tied in with the wonderfully intricate illustrations with each page rewarding the reader that closely examines each wonderful work of art.

As you may have guessed this story is steeped in Norse lore and focuses on Arthur Brownstone the first adventurer of the famed and legendary Brownstone family and his quest to save his village.

Arthur is not your typical adventurer, looking like he would be more at home with his nose stuck in the pages of a book he is nevertheless an ardent explorer and brave beyond his years and size, living in a world replete with gods and monsters.

Professor Brownstone’s Mythical Collection would give Hogwarts a run for its money, brimming as it is with gods, monsters and all manner of marvellous artifacts.

Written and illustrated by the sickeningly talented Joe Todd-Stanton, Arthur and the Golden Rope straddles the line between picture book and graphic novel comfortably and will appeal to readers of all ages.

Arthur and the Golden Rope, the first book in Brownstone’s Mythical Collection is available from good book shops everywhere from September.

Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption by José Domingo

pablojanex

Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption is one of my favourite books, published by Flying Eye Books (the people that brought you the Kate Greenaway Medal winning Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill).

It is a brightly-coloured insane romp that appeals to the cartoon, adventure and monster loving young reader inside of me! The artwork sears itself onto the back of my eyelids so that each time I blink I catch flashes of the story, It is a bit like after-images of the sun when you walk inside on a really bright day.

But – for all the brightness, Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption is a dark, twisty adventure story filled with insane cat scientists, monsters, a heroic mouse and two children on an urgent journey through the monster dimension. The artwork is beautiful and incredibly intricate, it is what you get if you mash up Where’s Wally, Billy & Mandy and fever dreams that Roman Dirge & Jhonen Vasquez would shelve as being too far out there!

It is not just the story and art that is fantastic! Flying Eye has gone all out to make sure that Pablo & Jane feels as wonderful as it looks, from the gleaming soft-to-touch cover to sumptuous end-papers and high quality paper the book is a work of book-making art as well as being a bright and beautiful book to read!

This is an adventure comic book to read again and again, to revel in the art, and work your way over the pages marvelling at all the little things that you missed the first 50 times you paged through the book. If it was purely a written work it may be as long as War and Peace as so much is going on in the pages!

Seriously take a look at the image below:
pjpagepiece

and that is just a part of one page.

If there was ever a book to buy to keep your kids quiet or partner out of the way or even just to full hours of time with looking in amazement at and enjoying the story; then Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption is it!

I don’t often say this, but, buy this book! Support Flying Eye Books and Nobrow Press as they challenge the boundaries of what picture books are and can be!

Find out more about the book and where to get it here:

Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption

PABLOJANEbbb

Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption written & illustrated by José Domingo and published by Flying Eye Books is available now!

Wild by Emily Hughes

It is the BIG, shiny eyes on the cover that grab me first, then the glorious tangle of hair around the wild girl’s face. The only other shiny things on the cover is the text but next to the eyes they are not immediately noticeable, only when one’s eyes start looking at the book as a whole do they become apparent.

“You cannot tame something so happily wild…”

In this beautiful picture book by Hawaiian artist Emily Hughes we meet a little girl who has known nothing but nature from birth – she was taught to talk by birds, to eat by bears and to play by foxes – she is unashamedly, irrefutably, irrepressibly wild. That is, until she is snared by some very strange animals that look oddly like her, but they don’t talk right, eat right, or play correctly. She’s puzzled by their behaviour and their insistence to live in these strange concrete structures known as ‘apartments’. There’s no green here, no animals, no trees, no rivers.

Now she lives in the comfort of civilisation. But will civilisation get comfortable with her?

The text is sparse and the artwork gorgeous, Wild is a book that can be read and shared time and time again. There is so much to look at and find on all the pages from crabs in the river to skulls underground and more!

I love the story, it is so simply told with the most beautiful illustrations! The faces and body language of both humans and animals are so expressive in their joy, anger, confusion and sadness that they render text almost unnecessary.

I will finish with one last observation on the eyes (I am not ocularly obsessed) I noticed that the girl’s eyes mirror those of the animals in the story with large black pupils and no irises unlike the other humans in the story – it was this small bit of attention to detail that made me love the story even more!

Disclaimer: I won the copy of Wild that I have from Flying Eye Books along with a print of one of the pages.