Children's Column: Carnegie Greenaway - what you missed

Nicolette Jones
Opinion - Children Friday, 26th June 2009

There are parts of the Carnegie Greenaway Medal awards () that don t normally get reported.

Quite rightly, we hear who won both Medals: this year, Catherine Rayner for Harris Finds His Feet (Little Tiger Press) and Siobhan Dowd, posthumously, for Bog Child (David Fickling). But the ceremony itself is usually invisible to those who weren t there. So I would like to pick out a few highlights.
Youngsters from three of the shadowing schools, who had made particular contributions to the (ad-free) website, were present. An impressive 3,800 schools are now registered as shadowers, and the site contains some 14,000 reviews of shortlisted books.
Kirsty Wark, who presented the proceedings entertainingly and expertly, reminisced about how important her local library, the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock, was to her as a child, and how it was a small person's place with displays at child level, where librarians would come down to your level to talk to you. She cited her favourite childhood reading, which included the poem Wynken, Blynken and Nod (who sailed on a river of crystal light/into a sea of dew ), which was read to her every night, and later The Secret Garden and Little Women - which, with its cast of strong women, was, she said, consciousness-raising . She went on to read Wuthering Heights though on re-reading it to her children she realised what a terrible person Heathcliff is and Edna O Brien's Country Girls books, and, at 15, tried to understand Joyce and read, rather ill-advisedly, Gore Vidal's still incomprehensible Myra Breckinridge.
CILIP Chief Executive Bob McKee, not renowned for his wit on these occasions, nevertheless amused the audience by saying that, since the event was held this year at BAFTA in Piccadilly, it was nice that the world of books could add some glamour to the normally unexciting world of film and television.
Joy Court, Chair of CILIP's Youth Libraries Group, was also eloquent about the role of libraries in her own childhood, when she would play libraries, and invent her own numerical classification system . She pointed out that reading for pleasure in childhood was the single greatest indicator of future success, and made a plea that school and community libraries should never be allowed to be the soft targets for local authority cuts a position strengthened by such allies as Alan Gibbons's Campaign for the Book and Michael Rosen's Just Read Campaign.
Catherine Rayner, accepting her Greenaway Medal, admitted to having big feet herself, and thanked, among others, her mother, for always allowing her to smuggle animals into the house. Sometimes Dad didn t know how many pets we had.
And, movingly, Siobhan Dowd's three sisters Oona, Enda and Denise, to whom Bog Child is dedicated, accepted the prize on Siobhan's behalf. Denise recalled the joy of reading they shared in childhood. And, in an impassioned declamation, David Fickling, Dowd's publisher, expressed the belief, which Dowd had shared, that books and stories were the right of all children, and his astonishment and dismay that there were whole library authorities without a school library service. Dowd, he thought, would have made a similar case for the importance of libraries and access to books, but with gentleness and wit: her arguments would have laughed their way into your hearts . He sang the praises of his author, whose win should be on every front page and every news bulletin , because her skill compared to that of writers for any audience. He celebrated the giving of a great prize to a great writer .
There was a gracious turn-out of shortlisted candidates - including Angela Barrett, Kevin Brooks, Keith Gray, Patrick Ness, and Kate Thompson - and of previous winners, including Tim Bowler, Meg Rosoff and Mal Peet.
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