So Carnegie. Normally about this time of year we come up with our predictions for the Carnegie award. We do this by producing two lists.
1 the books we want on the list and
2 the books we reckon will be one the list.
Sometimes there is some overlap in the two list but more often than not there isn’t.
Now this isn’t any slight on the panel that chooses the lists and makes the selection. They most certainly have a very difficult job. The problem that makes it so hard is the criteria that helps guide the decisions and the selection. The one most important line in the criteria is ‘outstanding literary quality.’ All the rest about plot, characterisation and style are pretty much expected. If a book is lacking in any of these areas there’s a good chance it’s not going to be a good book.
But outstanding literary quality, now that’s the hard one. And really it sums up the whole point of criteria, which is that it is subjective. Subjective to the point when it’s really more about what the people on the panel decide literary quality means than anything else. If they feel literary quality means that it will be a well read and enjoyed book this is how they’ll make their decision. If they feel literary quality means to them that it is a book they feel people should read (whether it is and ever will be read) again will focus the decision.
It gives the judges a lot of power. Power to declare how they analyse and decide upon what literary quality actually means and power that I think should not be taken lightly. I’m sure it’s a debate that could go on and on and I fear no one really has the answer, just our own opinions. But for me literary quality most likely means something that will stand the test of time because of its inherent qualities that make it readable, likeable, enjoyable and encapsulating of a moment in our history, whether this be defined by its genre, subject matter or style, it is a book that in 100 years time will be part of the canon of children’s books.
This to me is how I would probably define literary quality and it’s also worth mentioning her in all my studies the canon becomes the canon and a classic becomes a classic because it carries on being read and enjoyed. Not necessarily because someone somewhere has made a choice that it should be a classic but because people still buy and read the book because they enjoy it.
So I suppose what I’m really saying is that literary quality is just dressing up a way of saying a book that is enjoyed, and if anyone views it any differently then they are thinking too much into the meaning and not enough about the book.
Anyway my two lists then are as follows:
List 1 books I’d like (I’ll keep it to 6, a respectable number)
The Bunker Diary – Kevin Brooks. Amazingly brilliant and will leave you for a long time after thinking wondering and dying to talk to someone about it!
Heroic – Phil Earle. My book of the year. Extremely well crafted and a story woven that speaks so much about our own characters and society.
Brock – Anthony McGowan. A masterclass in doing so much with so few words.
Ketchup Clouds – Annabel Pitcher. Fascinating premise executed to perfection.
Rooftoppers – Katherine Rundell. Clever and engaging and my secret desire to win!
Infinite Sky – CJ Flood. Understated debut that will leave you thinking for a long time afterwards.
List 2 book I reckon will get chosen (again a respectable 6)
The Boy that Swam with Piranhas – David Almond
Ghost Hawk – Susan Cooper
After Tomorrow – Gillian Cross
Ketchup Clouds – Annabel Pitcher
Positively the Last Performance – Geraldine McCaughrean
Binny for Short – Hilary McKay
So there’s my the list and take from them what you will, let’s just hope the right decision is made, my one! 😉