The Carnegie Medal – Can children have their prize back please?

July 9, 201345 Comments

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

How weird, I haven’t read any fiction for over a year! I was put off by Patrick Ness’s second novel in the Chaos Walking Trilogy, The Ask and the Answer. I’d read The Knife of Never Letting Go first.

It starts out as the most wonderful, thrilling, intriguing children’s book you could hope to read. Then “IT” happens. The most unforgivable event in a children’s book. It’s down hill all the way from there. I read The Ask and the Answer, hoping it would recover itself, but no. It is just relentless in it’s depressing brutality from page one to the bitter end. I determined I was not going to read book three and was somehow put off reading fiction altogether!

Until I saw a tweet from my publishers, Orchard Books, famous for Daisy the Duck, Rainbow Magic and beautiful collections of traditional stories.

The tweet was thrilled that a video had achieved a hundred views before publication day. I clicked to see what it was about and was, well… shocked.

see for yourself: click here

Boy Nobody is a teenage assassin. I could cope with that, I can see how you hang a plot together around that, but he does his work by befriending the children of his targets! “How morally corrupt!” I tweeted back.

I got a copy of the book to read, in the hope that there would be a moral angle to it. After all, it’s published by a very well respected children’s publisher. Thankfully, for the second book in the series, our hero manages to brush off any moral twinges by the end of the book. Committing murder and treachery, he vanquishes any niggling doubts, any concerns for right and wrong, ending strong, fit and healthy for the next book in the series. I gather, from the acknowledgements, that the film rights have been sold.

Something is wrong here. I keep finding myself saying, “When I was a kid…” and then the alarm bells go off in my head. “Oh no! I’m turning into a grumpy old git!”

But… when I look back. I read something similar when I was about 13. It was James Bond. The Boy Nobody plot is so similar to a James Bond plot in every way, except that he is a boy. But when I read James Bond, I knew it was a grown up book. I knew there would be things I might not understand. I was peeking under the covers of adulthood. It was a fantasy world somewhere up ahead, not a tangible career option for an early school leaver.

Boy Nobody, has a sixteen year old hero who has been trained to kill since he was twelve, but this is not a children’s book. It’s a standard, adult action thriller, with a boy as the hero, wrapped up for kids and sold to kids in the marketing genre we now call “Young Adult”.

The trouble with “Young Adult” as a marketing angle is that chidren want to read them as a peek under the covers of a teenage world. They find them in the Children’s section of the bookshop or library after all. But that’s not what they get. Young Adult books are really the books that adults crave so much but can’t find.

Unlike books for the adult market, particularly the literary fiction market that gets all the attention, Young Adult books have a beginning, a middle and an end. They tell satisfying stories based on truly wonderful ideas and are generally written by great writers and and are still properly edited.

After James Bond, I discovered Lord of the Rings, science fiction, Agatha Christie and more. Adult books that told great stories about fantasy worlds and ideas. Nowadays they would be given a teenage protagonist and be wrapped up as Young Adult books.

In writing this article I also read Sally Gardener’s Carnegie winning Maggot Moon. Wonderfully written, brilliant idea. I’d only just returned from visiting the Stazi Museum in Berlin, so it rang lots of bells. Adults should read it. They will love it. The hero is on the side of good and the side of evil is awful and banal and good fights to the bitter end for what it believes in. However, I’m not sure I would give it to a child.

I also decided to read Patrick Ness’s Monsters and Men, the final instalment of The Walking Chaos Trilogy. I’m a third of the way through and have decided to give up. I cannot relate what I am reading to the joyous and truly breath-taking opening of the first book that literally made me gasp!

I feel cheated, it’s not what I signed up for. Maybe I’m meant to feel cheated. That’s the point – life is hard and war is more so, and I should be told so and never allowed to forget it. No one ever gets what they signed up for in war. But let’s call this an adult book, so we can have a heads up?

The Chaos Walking books are adult books disguised as children’s books. I don’t understand how they were ever entered for the Carnegie Medal let alone won!

Why are we no longer surprised when kids join gangs and shoot each other on the streets? They’re conditioned to it by playing killing games on their consoles and watching endless serial killer stuff on TV. So why not put it in children’s books too? How else are publishers going to compete and make a buck other than by joining in the slow moral decline? We are conditioning ourselves to accept that it’s okay for kids to kill each other.

What has happened? Is it a loss of innocence or a loss of morality? I say morality. Morality is the guardian of innocence.

Look back at the Carnegie Medal list and remember – The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. …children – did you notice that word?

Arthur Ransome was the first winner – there is no question that he wrote books for children. The Borrowers, Narnia, Tom’s Midnight Garden these are what we all agree are books for children, so what has happened? Over the years, The Carnegie medal has strayed further and further away from what it was set up for.

The Carnegie Medal is not given to writers of books for children anymore. The prize has lost its way, caught up in the glamour of hollywood – for that is what Young Adult publishing is really about and also the main attraction for writers of Young Adult fiction.

We seem unable to see children as children anymore and want them to grow up as soon as possible, to witness and learn stuff way beyond their years. The grown ups do their best to stay teenagers, so they are indistinguishable from the young adults.

Children are children – always have been and always will be. When they stop being children, they want to be adults and will want to read books for adults to find out how to be one. Reading Young Adult books only teaches them to stay young adults for the rest of their lives, just like their parents!

Young adults need to grow up to be adults.

Children need to be allowed to be children.

Can children have their prize back please?

Comments (45)

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  1. Renita says:

    Brilliant post Shoo! I wholeheartedly agree!

  2. Jake Hope says:

    There are some interesting points raised here. ‘The Chaos Walking’ trilogy, for me, is among the most inventive and insightful writing for young people published in recent years. Yes, absolutely it is relentless, but the final volume does make sense of the rationale behind that. The whole ‘world’ constructed in the trilogy is ideas based and becomes symphonic in its layering of what it means for communication and information to be available and discernible to all with such immediacy. That feels highly relevant to the world that we exist in, young people included. As with ‘Maggot Moon’, violence is there and parts of the book are graphic, but the writing is such that there is a probing as to why and how that conflict arises arguably then, both are reflective works and discussions with young people’s reading groups does show that they are equal to this type of challenge and thrive on the types of discussion and debate that arise.

    It’s worth noting that children’s literature as a pastoral idyll, is a relatively recent construct. Pre-Disney fairy tales are often violent, sexualised and very graphic. Likewise, look at a lot of Victorian children’s literature Ewing, Sherwood etc. and you will find violence, drunkenness and all manner of excess! Admittedly this is used in an instructional way, but it is still there and some is particularly gruesome.

    I vehemently disagree that the Carnegie has become caught up in the ‘glamour of Hollywood’ were that the case I think we would be seeing wholly different shortlists and winners. I do, however, agree about the implications of continued and sole use of the word ‘children’. It’s worth noting that when the award was established, 1936, the various strata of child development were much less defined – the concept of teenagers did not even exist. Our understanding of developmental stages has grown far more sophisticated and publishing reflects some of that.

    For ten years I co-ordinated the Lancashire Book of the Year. It’s the longest running regional book award, established in 1987, and its remit is for young people themselves to choose the shortlist and winner that they feel is best suited to their age group, 12-14 year olds. When it began, it was ‘The Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year Award’ and early winners were Philip Pullman with his ‘Ruby in the Smoke’, Anthony Horowitz with ‘Groosham Grange’, Brian Jacques with ‘Redwall’ by the early 2000s we were seeing titles like ‘Bloodtide’ by Melvin Burgess, ‘Noughts and Crosses’ by Malorie Blackman and ‘Exodus’ by Julie Bertagna. There was a great shift in writing, publishing and reading and it no longer felt appropriate to call the award ‘The Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year’, we consciously made the decision to drop the ‘children’s’ in order that this did not mislead audiences.

    The Carnegie perhaps needs to operate similarly, but rather than to drop the children’s add in ‘young people’ as well. I’d argue that it is a strength of the award that it is able to look at that whole demographic and it’s certainly true that children’s novels do get considered – Roddy Doyle’s ‘A Greyhound of a Girl’ and Dave Shelton’s ‘A Boy and A Bear in a Boat’ were both shortlisted this year and so were in contention. Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Graveyard Book’ and Frank Cottrell Boyce’s ‘Millions’ have both won in recent years (2010, 2004 respectively) so it isn’t exclusive.

    Perhaps the awards simply need a little reframing to ensure continued relevance and the most resonant ‘cultural application’?

  3. Shoo says:

    I’m glad someone does :)

  4. Shoo says:

    I quite agree with all of this. Chaos Wlkking is a masterpiece – it’s just not for children. I think we all instinctively know what is a book for children and what is a book for young adults. Let the Carnegie start a new prize for young people or something. But while it promotes YA books (all written and bought with the cross-over martket and Hollywood treatment in mind – trust me on this) as being written by writers for children, there is something horribly wrong.

    Snow White, however cruel, is still a story for children. We instinctively know this. Chaos Walking is a very adult experience.

  5. Tony Caruso says:

    So we should lie to teenagers, and sugarcoat stories? Do all YA books have to have happy endings? The Chaos Walking series is many things, and honest is definitely one of those. Just because it covers dark stuff, doesn’t mean that teens shouldn’t read it.

    It isn’t marketed for children, so if they read it, why should the author be held accountable? Should teen books never discuss anything serious like death, war, drugs, and violence, just because there’s a chance a child wonders into the YA section and reads it?

    I think Patrick Ness is brave for treating teens like adults, and not including ridiculous romance and cliche teen problems like so many YA authors do. If you are worried that children and teens are becoming too desensitized these days, I don’t think you should be blaming a book series that is antiwar. It takes a sort of satirical approach in sharing this message, but it’s there.

    The characters are multidimensional, the story is well-paced and intriguing, and the message is strong, authentic, and honest. If you’re looking for a book with an obvious hero, a dastardly villain, and a happy ending where the protagonist wins and the villain is defeated and all is good in the world and the sun is shining, good for you, but the rest of us would like something more, even if it is dark and bluntly honest. This is coming from a teen who reads a lot of books like the Chaos Walking series, along with other light books, and I can tell you truthfully that I enjoy a Chaos Walking book much more than a Percy Jackson book, even though it’s still a great series.

  6. Indiagirl says:

    The trouble with books that are all sugar and no spice is that they are not true to life. I loved the Chaos Walking Trilogy because it made you look at Homo Sapiens warts and all. They escape a dying planet with high ideals and immediately set about destroying another planet. Children and young people have to grow up and enter a not always nice adult world. If you read the trilogy through to the finish you see that love and good does triumph in the end . He writes about people who make mistakes and then learn from them. Far from encouraging violence I think this book shows just how ugly it can become and how you have to keep picking yourself up, learn from past mistakes and that love really can conquer anything.

  7. Udagawa Sensei says:

    To put it bluntly, this post, whilst passionately argued, commits two fairly fundamental errors.

    Firstly, this claim: “Why are we no longer surprised when kids join gangs and shoot each other on the streets? They’re conditioned to it by playing killing games on their consoles and watching endless serial killer stuff on TV. So why not in children’s books too?”.

    This is flawed on various levels. If you wanted to make this argument, you’d have to demonstrate that playing video games is a CAUSAL factor in increased levels of violence. A correlation isn’t enough, because it could that violent people are attracted to violent games (some have argued that such video games are a good way of getting rid of aggression). Anyway, the link between video games and actual violence is thorny and most evidence does not suggest a link (I’ll not get in depth here). But here’s an example from days ago: http://www.news.com.au/technology/gaming/violent-video-games-don8217t-produce-antisocial-behaviour-in-player-study-finds/story-e6frfrt9-1226674097260

    So, even if it was true that playing video games causally increased levels of violence, the claim made here is that reading young adult fiction itself could be a causal factor in increased levels of violence. In that case, you’d have to demonstrate that those committing violent acts are statistically more likely to have read such books and that these two are causally related. The cynic in me wants to ask whether those most likely to be violent gang members are likely to be devout readers of young adult fiction, but I’ll leave that aside for now. Again, the question we have to ask is: are these people MADE more violent by these books? Even if they HAD all read Chaos Walking (or similar books), this would not mean those books CAUSED violence – as with the games, it could be that people pre-disposed to violence enjoy reading violent books. There are a huge number of possible causes for violence (e.g. poverty, drugs, peer pressure). If a substantial proportion of people have read these books and not been violent afterwards, this would indicate that the books themselves are not problematic. Dare I suggest that this is the case?

    The second claim: “We seem unable to see children as children anymore and want them to grow up as soon as possible, to witness and learn stuff way beyond their years. The grown ups do their best to stay teenagers, so they are indistinguishable from the young adults. Children are children – always have been and always will be.”

    The first problem here is that it presents absolutely no evidence for its claims. The second problem is that historical study (for example, the book ‘The Invention of Childhood’), will tell you that the notion of childhood has changed over time. So the 21st century is not the first time that children have been dressed up in adults’ clothing (this was also a Victorian phenomenon). The notion that literature is causing problems for youth social order is not new (the introduction of literature at schools was regarded by some as dislodging the only true form of literary study in schools – the Bible, and the introduction of the telephone was fretted over by many adults as potentially causing social divisions). Yet both of these things have become an almost universally accepted part of Western society. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that recent changes are a good thing, but it does present a much stronger nuance. We cannot simply state that ‘childhood’ is a phenomenon universally constant up to this point, suddenly being transformed. It is simply not the case.

    I will agree that Chaos Walking is a brutal series of books. But we still live in a brutal world, and literature reflects this. Lord of the Flies grew out of the two World Wars. It’s pretty brutal, but if anything was a causal product of mass violence, not itself a causation of it. I would encourage young adults to read the trilogy as a brilliantly written series of books.

    Ultimately, Shoo Rayner is welcome to dislike Chaos Walking, but I do not think it is appropriate to make grossly overstated claims about the potential connections between the books and actual violence, or the way in which the notion of childhood is being uniquely changed.

  8. Aidan Bracher says:

    I read ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ when I was twelve years old and when it came to parts like murder and swearing, there was nothing I hadn’t heard already. I must agree with you when you say you’re becoming a grumpy old git because kids don’t live in a bubble protecting them from the harmful aspects of life. Spilling blood and having sex in books isn’t immoral, it’s a facet of life. I’ve grown up with the ‘War on Terror’ being on the news most nights and I saw what happened on the eleventh of September 2001 at the age of seven, nothing in The Chaos Walking trilogy phased me in the slightest. Children are far more in touch with the world and what goes on than you give them credit for. Whether it is a family member dying, or seeing a murder on the news, they know it’s there and they will question it.
    If I remember correctly, there are battle scenes, treachery and deceit in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
    When I took part in voting for the Carnegie Medal winner I’m pretty sure there was a separate category for books aimed at younger readers.
    In my opinion I think your argument is invalid and logically unsound. If kids didn’t get what they’re looking for in YA fiction, they’ll just read adult books (like you did and as myself have done – I was bored of the Harry Potter/Vampire scene so I branched out to John Grisham, Jeffery Archer and Lee Child) where the content is much more mature. Kids are happy with what is in their books, it’s only adults who complain. Why don’t the adults back of the children’s award, and let them decide what they want to read. Obviously there are limits to this, no child of mine would be reading ’50 Shades of Gray’ before they were 18 but within reason they should have literary freedom.

  9. Shoo says:

    Thanks for this. There is the Kate Greenaway Award for distinguished illustration in a book for children. That is not an alternative. Reading the Knife of never letting go at 12, I doubt you were what I would call a child. I think a children’s book should be for children.

    Also, when you took part in the Carnegie, you were given a shortlist, chosen by adults. And how old were you when you took part?

    As I said in the article. I would rather children read adult books, then they would know that they were entering an adult world. Young adult books, marketed and warded prizes as children’s books are neither. They are adult books pretending to be children’s books. I find that sinister.

    BTW Kids frequently go into libraries asking for 50 Shades of Grey!

  10. Shoo says:

    Well of course all the research is funded by video games companies. I don’t believe an supposed research in this area, it’s always skewed towards those who want to put forward their point of view. I could easily put together a report connecting video games with violence. If I had the marketing backing of Big Games companies I might even get someone to go with it too.

    Your demanding of evidence is exactly why we are reaching the state we are in. We now are so scared to have opinions we keep demanding evidence while all around falls to pieces.

    Calling Chaos Walking a children’s book and giving it prizes lowers out threshold of tolerence. Drip drip drip.

  11. Shoo says:

    Great! I quite agree with you. But its not a book for children.

  12. Shoo says:

    Ya Books can do what they like. I don’t think they should be marketed as children’s books when they are not. Teens can read what they like, but let them know what they are reading. The Chaos Walking series is an adult series, marketed as YA with the intention of getting a crossover market with adults and a blockbuster Hollywood movie.

    They are not books for children.

  13. Jo Cotterill says:

    As others have picked up on, and as you yourself have said in your last comment, Shoo, your main gripe seems to be the identification of YA as part of the children’s publishing market. I would agree that YA has become perhaps bleaker and tougher and more sophisticated in recent years; perhaps more challenging intellectually and emotionally, as befits the transitional stage between a child and an adult.

    But complaining that YA books should not be labelled ‘children’s’ is a separate issue in itself. It’s the way publishing has always been set up (well, ‘teenage’ didn’t really used to be a category at all). When authors started to write books specifically aimed at teenagers, publishers naturally lumped them into the ‘children’s’ division, which is understandable.

    Shoo, what would you suggest as the solution? Would you like publishing to be split into ‘adult’, ‘young adult’ and ‘children’ with clear delineations between the age groups? Or are you targeting literary prizes in particular?

    I do think that these books are appropriate for teenagers and young adults. However, I also agree that these young people are not necessarily ‘children’.

    As a side note, I know of a couple of school librarians who have despaired of some of the books on the Carnegie shortlists in recent years because the books are simply too sophisticated to be enjoyed by the 12-year-olds on the shadowing scheme.

  14. Patrick Dixon says:

    Well-crafted post, though I don’t necessarily agree. One can argue the semantics of YA-vs-children’s books, or how either the medal’s qualifiers or name need to be changed. One can disagree about the content’s appropriateness for a given age group, or the meaning of the word “child.” But to make blanket statements regarding all children and what is or is not appropriate for them seems a little out of bounds. I suspect, rather than bickering on definitions or bringing out the flow charts of what does or doesn’t create violent, stupid, abusive, selfish, ill-mannered and amoral children, it would be better to bring up the ultimate gatekeeper: The parents (or other caregivers.)

    One can make the argument that a parent will see the Carnegie seal of approval on a book, shrug, and hand it over to the child (regardless of age) with nary a whimper, that said parent should be able to do so based solely on faith in that magic seal. I disagree with that notion. The caregiver should never take face value or the rumor mill (or the internet) as a shining star that says something is okay; ignorance is not innocence. Parents should be reading the books they give to their kids (or reading them WITH the kids), just as they should take a moment to check the movies, video games or websites their children are into. They should be taking some time to point out the basic concept of fiction versus reality, and that what is acceptable (or not) in whatever fictional universe the child is being exposed to is (or is not) acceptable in the real world, and the reasons why.

    I’m probably going to take a lot of hate for the next statement, but it’s this simple: If you don’t have the time to know what your children are getting into (at least what you provide for them, or are made directly aware of; I’m not supporting helicopter parenting nor suggesting you need to keep them in a little white room with access only to approved objects) then you probably don’t have a lot of business being a parent in the first place. Often the follow up is “But I can’t control what my child is exposed to outside of my controlled environment!” I counter with this: If you’ve brought them up knowing the difference between fictional and real, right and wrong, in a way that they could understand and with the appearance of being someone who they can ask questions of… they can learn to tell the difference themselves. Teach a child basic logic, reasoning and morality early and they learn to apply those concepts later, all by themselves. Amazing, isn’t it? But it seems like we spend so much time and energy shielding children from all the “evils of the world,” that they hit 16-20 with absolutely no comprehension or ability to tell fact from fantasy, right from wrong. Add in it seems as though we must coddle every child with the message that they’re wonderful, intelligent and unique, that they are irrefutably right and always precious in any situation, and you have a recipe for disaster.

    You are free to take all of that with a large grain of salt. You are also free to state that I was “not what you consider a child,” as you did to an earlier commenter. But I wasn’t yet three when I learned to read. I was six when I decided I’d had enough of Dick and Jane, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and the like, and was granted access to my father and sister’s libraries, which included ‘Salem’s Lot (still my favorite book), The Hunt for Red October, The Servants of Twilight and “worse.” I devoured that library. In the mean time, I also played many video games, from the happy and mundane (Super Mario Brothers) to the disturbing and violent (Resident Evil and DooM come to mind.) I watched all manner of movies, be it An American Tail or E.T. on up to the entirety of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. All of these were “to do” lists that had been finished by the time I was twelve.

    At twelve, I had also already graduated high school. I was a member of the youth division of Mensa. I possessed a 3.97 GPA (sadly flawed due to a disagreement with an English teacher regarding the appropriateness of Stephen King’s IT being chosen for a book report.). Since then, I have been near continually employed; I have been married; I have owned a number of pets of all flavors and served as a caregiver for several children ranging from 6 months to 8 years old. I have written several novels. I own my own home.

    The things I did NOT do, despite reading “non-children’s” books and performing all manner of activities that likely would be considered violence and depravity causing? Committed any violent crime. Tortured any living being. Joined a gang (unless one considers five young people, jazzed up on Coke and Cheetos, hanging out in the garage and attempting to get a beat-up Suzuki running a “gang,” which some folks do.) Ever thought that murder, rape or war was acceptable or encouraged behavior.

    The root of my problem with this post is that it seems to assume that all children are is monkey-see, monkey-do robots. Put Fudge in front of them, they’ll learn to accept responsibility, talk to their elders/betters when they have an issue, love themselves (and potentially eat turtles.) Put Walking Chaos in front of them, they’ll learn to go about shaking people indiscriminately, with nary a peep of conscience. I don’t think either of those ideas is true, at least if the child in question has a reasonable sense of self and has been given a halfway-functional moral compass and set of logic tools. Kids are smart. We spend so much time shouting that, but then immediately flip around and assume they’re too foolish to not ape everything they’re exposed to; the decline of morality that you mention in the post has, I feel, a lot more to do with the self-aggrandizement that we instill in children, the lack of education on consequences, and a basic inability to function stemming from parents attempting to shield their kids from the realities of the world, then kicking them out into it in their late teens and saying “Don’t worry, you’re amazing, because you’re my child! Now, carry on!” Assuming, of course, there was any sort of caregiver involvement at all, which is a large assumption these days.

    Anyway, that is merely my two cents, and you are free to interpret it as you please; everyone is entitled to an opinion. Have a pleasant evening.

  15. kerendavid says:

    I think it’s unfair to say that ALL YA books are written with Hollywood and crossover in mind. All? Isn’t that a bit sweeping? Especially when many younger children’s books make it to Hollywood and crossover.
    Some YA books are pitched to sophisticated readers, others are accessible to the many teens who struggle with reading. The majority take their responsibilities seriously. Violence is a part of everyday life for many children and teens. When a serious author examines serious subjects in a responsible way, how is that not suitable for young people?
    Having said all that I share your distaste for the assassin boy trailer.It does remind me a lot of the video games that my son enjoys. I’d rather he read a book than killed people on a screen, however violent the book.

  16. Shoo says:

    Ya books are certainly marketed that way :)

  17. Shoo says:

    Hi, well, you were not your average kid! :)

    Of course it’s down to the parents, but how do they learn to do their job these days when they are isolated from family and advice and only have the advertisers happy smiling world to influence them. This is what I said. We learn to tolerate violence through saying, oh, it’s only a video game. Tolerating children playing GTA or Resident Evil and letting them read books way beyond their years or understanding gives children the message that we don’t care and violence is okay.

  18. Shoo says:

    I think there should be another prize for Young Adult books. Its simple and obvious. Young adult books are not children’s books and so should not get children’s book prizes. While the Carnegie goes to books that are widely read by adults and some teenagers that send the message that this is where all the glory is and so feeds on itself. If the Carnegie were to go to children’s books, then auhtors would start writing great books for children again. They need that encouragement.

  19. Jo Cotterill says:

    To refer to your comment of 9.32am, what makes you think that authors have stopped writing great books for children?

  20. Shoo says:

    because they’ve all gone to write YA novels.

    Publishers can’t get “proper” children’s books any more, because they are not being written because authors are getting the signal that they are not important because the Carnegie gone to YA books – that’s the glamour!

  21. Jo Franklin says:

    Shame about the sweeping statements but to clarify, do you mean authors are not writing children’s books or publisher’s are not buying them?
    If you want to find out what people are writing why don’t you come along to a Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators conference?

  22. Shoo says:

    The whole world is writing a children’s book, but none that the publishers wish to publish. While YA gets the glory, all the attention goes there. meanwhile children’s books are the ones that actually sell.

  23. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the UK government in 1991, states that a child “means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”

    It is only in recent history as a mark of respect for these bright and brilliant individuals that we have taken to referring to those in secondary school for example as “young people” rather than children. I would say that the even more recent adoption of ” young adult” has crept across the Atlantic and is most commonly used for the older age range of “teenagers”.

    16,520 reviews have been posted on the Shadowing website. The majority of the Carnegie Shadowing takes place in secondary schools.

    When people query if a book is a children’s book we reply that this is defined purely and simply by the fact that it is published on the list of a children’s publisher. In 2012 for example we had to reject two nominations from a publisher who made the mistake of publishing a title initially on their adult list and then bringing out a “YA” edition.

    There are many children’s publishers who have developed a specific YA fiction imprint but others like the estimable Walker books or OUP do not make any distinction. We in CILIP are often asked about a particular title’s eligibility for the award and unlike many other national awards we have the full eligibility criteria published on the website:

    “The CILIP Carnegie Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding book for children and young people

    Eligibility

    The book must be written in the English language by a single author

    The book must be published originally for children and young people

    The book must have received its first publication in the United Kingdom or have had co-publication elsewhere within a three month time lapse. In the case of e-books and short stories or poetry previously published in a magazine or elsewhere, the point of publication should be considered as the date when the work is published as a whole. At least 75% of the complete work must be original material published for the first time within the specified time frame.

    All categories of books for children and young people are eligible

    Books by previous Carnegie medal winners are eligible”

    Once a book is declared eligible then it will be judged by the democratically elected ( not appointed or selected by CILIP and therefore not liable to any bias or interference) judges, representing the 12 regions of the UK , upon the criteria and only the criteria. These criteria make explicit that the only consideration is of outstanding literary quality. If anyone examines the criteria in full they will see there is absolutely no element of the criteria which talks about suitability for any particular age group or gender.

    The CILIP CKG Working Party reviews the criteria every year and has in the past considered the suggestion of an additional award to allow age grouping. But the question of nomenclature then becomes relevant. The Carnegie Medal over its 77 year history has recognised just one book per year. If there were to be two awards the impact would inevitably be diluted. It is inevitably only the book of the year that gets remembered. History will only be interested in the overall winner and the unique status of the Carnegie medal could only then be allocated to an “overall” winner and the two categories would be judged against each other which would be no different to the situation we have now.

    There are indeed valid points to be made about the suitability of some material published for children and young people but those comments should be aimed at publishers and not at CILIP and the custodians of the Carnegie medal. We are proud of the meticulous and considered judging process and the commitment and dedication of the children’s librarians who are the judges. From the initial nomination of titles through to the selection of the winner they are seeking the very best of what is available for children and young people. They have dedicated their professional lives to inspiring and encouraging the love of reading and it is their knowledge and experience of the children and young people that they work with on a daily basis that informs their judgement.

    An outstanding literary work is not defined by the age of its reader.

    Best wishes

    The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Working Party.

  24. Shoo says:

    Thanks for that: Of course the Carnegie pre-dates the The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. So you are saying that that has changed your view of what is a children’s book? That would explain everything.

    Then I refer you back to why I began the article with Boy Nobody. I think that a children’s publisher should not be publishing what I think is an adult thriller masquerading as a “Children’s Book” just because the protagonist is 16.

    The fact that your shadowing takes place mainly in secondary schools means that “children’s books” don’t get a look in. It’s a foregone conclusion then that children’s books are now classified by The Carnegie as Books for Young Adults. You can’t have it both ways.

    Most people will think of children as being under 11 or so. Because of the way you have set this up now, there is no encouragement for the writing of books for actual children. Books for children have essentially been deemed not important by you.

    I think you need to have a chat with the man on the Clapham Omnibus about who children are and what is a children’s book.

    All the best

  25. Kieran Fanning says:

    Very interesting post, and interesting comments too. Let me begin by saying that the “Chaos Walking” series is one of the best trilogies I’ve read in years for all sorts of reasons but I think we’re all in agreement here so no need to list its merits.
    So if that’s not Shoo’s issue, what is? I’m presuming it’s the piece highlighted in BOLD: “The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children.” I think we all agree that Ness’ books are NOT for children. But the poster has just been corrected by the “CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Working Party” in their comment – “The CILIP Carnegie Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding book for children and young people.”
    “AND YOUNG PEOPLE!” The prize is for books written for young people/young adults/teenagers. The Chaos Walking series IS for young people. The Chaos Walking series won the Carnegie prize.
    What’s the problem?

  26. Shoo says:

    Guess the rules have changed and the also the spirit of the prize. Primary school children are basically excluded from the process and its all skewed towards Secondary schools.

  27. Kieran Fanning says:

    Or possibly, writing for the YA market is just stronger at the moment. Can you name a “children’s” book which deserved the prize more than Patrick Ness or Sally Gardner in the last three years? In 2010 a “children’s” book got the award.

  28. Shoo says:

    That’s not the point. I say they are not Children’s Books in the first place.

  29. Kieran Fanning says:

    And nobody disagrees with you. Nobody is saying the Chaos Walking series is for children. It won the Carnegie Medal (a prize for an outstanding book for children and young people) because it is a series “for young people”.

  30. Kalia says:

    Mmm… Honestly, I can’t quite figure out what the argument is in this article.

    Is it that YA books are not children’s books and thus have no right to the award? Sure, I can agree with that, but that seems to mean we have a gigantic section of literature that no longer qualifies for any award at all, if that’s the case. We could easily make an award specifically for YA books, and I’d say that sounds like a good idea.

    Is it that YA books are too ‘adult’? If so, I wonder what kind of innocent childhood you imagine people to have. The more you deny children have interest in things long considered ‘adult’, the more you ignore their behavior and the consequences thereof. I would say that’s a bad road to go down.

    Is it that the award’s focus seems to have shifted to YA books? I don’t know honestly, it’s entirely possible you’re right. I’m afraid I don’t really keep track of these kinds of things, but I’d imagine it’s a valid argument- the longer a book is, the more chances it has to be considered ‘excellent’ or ‘well-written’. Sure, there’s comparatively a lot of YA books coming out as compared to years ago, but it’s also a relatively new category… the idea that a new category is exploding might mean that people are starting to shift to the new writing category, but it could also mean that people realize that the books they were already making fit better in the new category.

    The thing is, the idea that YA books are inappropriate for children depends on a lot of factors. For one, even if you consider ‘children’ to be a fairly homogeneous category, that’s rather… I don’t know, it feels like it’s easy to consider everyone beneath a certain age to be a child, but that doesn’t really mean anything. That’s like implying like a 9 year old is just as mentally capable of certain topics as a 5 year old, and to use that kind of blanket statement without realizing that children are a varied lot, individually and as a group. The same child can show variances in maturity between months even, and the idea that they are the same between ages seems silly.

  31. Shoo says:

    Thanks… but the Carnegie was a prize for an outstanding book written by a writer of books for children. I say that YA is not children’s books. They used to be adult books and many contain adult themes. Just because a “recognised children’s book publisher” publishes them does not make them children’s books. and why should children – generally primary school age, – be excluded from the choice process?

  32. Shoo says:

    One thing I have learned from this is to try and make one simple point at a time.

    1. Young adult books contain very adult theme. I say these are not children’s books.

    2. The Carnegie is (or was – it seems to have suddenly changed) for a writer of books for children.

    3. YA books are not for children and so should have their own prize.

    4. While the status quo continues, and primary school children are excluded from the process, its all a bit of a mess

  33. annieonymous says:

    I take it that you haven’t heard of the Printz Award, then?

  34. annieonymous says:

    Further, this reminds me of a very salient quote that I see circulate whenever this issue is stirred up again: “what is inappropriate adult material for a lucky child has already happened in the life of an unlucky child, and they need the book more than ever.”

  35. Shoo says:

    No, and that’s and American Award. The Carnegie is British.

  36. Shoo says:

    But that doesn’t say wether the lucky or the unlucky child needs it. I’d say neither need it. One needs to continue being protected from violence and depravity and the other doesn’t need reminding of it.

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