A Distant

Ruth Allen

Ruth has been collecting reflections for us from two summer events that are highlights for many in Children's Literature. She reports on the winners of the Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway awards and gives a report on the Children's Literature New England gathering at Williams College in the United States.

The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals 2003

The announcement of the winners for the CILIP Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway Medals are always the July of the year following the date of the medal, as books for the whole year are considered during the first few months of the year, so that a shortlist of around six titles for each medal is publicised in May, and then the actual winners and any commended titles in July.

This year, for the second year in succession, an American author has won the Carnegie. Sharon Creech took it last year with Ruby Holler - making her the only person to have won both Newbery and Carnegie - and this year Jennifer Donnelly was awarded the medal for A Gathering Light [published in the US as A Northern Light]. Several people have asked me how it is possible that a UK medal can be won by an American. Unlike the Newbery, where the books submitted must be by an author living in the US, the rules for the Carnegie are that a book must be published in English, first published in the UK, or published in the UK within 3 months of first publication elsewhere. Thus, for instance, Margaret Mahy from New Zealand has won or been commended on several occasions in the 1980s, and Patricia Wrightson, from Australia was commended in 1983.

A Gathering Light is set in rural New York State and combines stories from Jennifer Donnelly's own family past and the notorious murder case that also inspired Theodore Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy. It was chosen ahead of the winners of the Whitbread Book of the Year, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year, David Almond's The Fire Eaters, which had both been on the shortlist.

The Kate Greenway Medal was awarded to Shirley Hughes - for the second time, but a quarter of a century after her first win! Ella's Big Chance is a re-working of the Cinderella story - set in the 1920s, with scenes of beautiful costumes looking like full-colour versions of some of the pre-war dance extravaganza films. This is one of Shirley Hughes' picture books for older children - a genre she feels to be important. 'So often nowadays,' she says, 'children are expected to jump from full-colour picture books to dense blocks of uninterrupted text'. To counteract this, as well as the full-colour illustrations, Ella includes smaller black and white illustrations in the text panels. Whilst her Alfie and Annie Rose will stay in the minds of many a reader, even when they are no longer children, we can be glad that someone with the talent of Shirley Hughes is providing illustrated books for an age-group that might otherwise be looking only at 'manga'. [I am not damning all manga, just celebrating the wider options!]

CLNE 2004

This year's Summer Institute for Children's Literature New England was held at Williams College, Williamstown, Mass. from August 1 - 7, 2004. The theme was 'The World is all Grown Strange'. There were more than 200 participants, making it the largest such gathering to date. As always, a full and varied programme of speakers and events was spread through the week. Core Lecturers were (in order of speaking) Sarah Ellis, Tony Watkins, Joanna Rudge Long and Leonard Markus; visiting authors and illustrators included (in alphabetical order) M. T. Anderson, Kevin Crossley-Holland Daniel Handler & Maurice Sendak; authors and illustrators present for the whole week included Ibtisam Barakat, Ashley Bryan, Susan Cooper, Petra Mathers, Katherine Paterson, Susanne Fisher Staples, Jill Paton Walsh & John Rowe Townsend. A panel on non-fiction writing featured Susan Campbell Bartoletti, James Giblin & Elizabeth Partridge.

The mid-week trip was to Amherst to see the recently opened Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Eric Carle and his wife discovered on a visit to Japan that there are over 20 such museums in that country, but none (at that time) in the USA. So they have set one up, in a newly designed building, with galleries, auditorium, studio, library, café and shop. Three busloads of participants more than filled the auditorium, and the lines in the shop were beyond their previous experience! But all agreed it had been well worth the bus trip - and the wait to buy Hungry Caterpillar t-shirts, etc.!

Regular 'extras' such as the panel on international publishing & after- hours storytelling took place although the absence of Jack Langstaff meant regrettably that we did not have our after-hours informal singing session. Small group discussions were not this year divided into those for teachers or librarians as well as general discussion groups. There were separate groups for fiction writing throughout the week, but on Friday afternoon there was an opportunity for teachers and librarians to meet together to discuss the practicalities of using the books on the reading list, leaving the 3 meetings of the discussion groups themselves for pure discussion. Each lecture, discussion or talk gave a new insight into what strangeness might mean in the world today - we were reminded that to a child many things we consider 'ordinary' are strange, for s/he has not encountered them yet. We were also introduced to books that might help children deal with the strangeness that has entered their lives - a session 'Books for Strange Times' led by Robin Smith and Deborah Taylor.

The food was good, the company wonderful - the whole week as usual stunning. Next year's subject and venue - and indeed exact date - still to be announced.

Volume 8, Issue 3 The Looking Glass, September, 2004

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A Distant Mirror" © Ruth Allen 2004
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