Celebrating pictures: CILIP Kate Greenaway Award

CILIP's Kate Greenaway Award celebrates the importance of illustration in children's literature.

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The world of Children's Literature is wonderfully varied, ranging from books suitable for babies and toddlers up to teenagers.

Books aimed at young readers may contain pictures; indeed some may have more illustration than text. Illustrators, therefore, play a very important part in creating a love of books and reading. But it should not be assumed, as sadly is too often the case, that books with pictures are only for the youngest. This has never been the case, and is, thankfully, being increasingly challenged as publishers work to create "added value" for the printed word and there is recognition that for many the access to the world of the imagination is through visual images.

Librarians have always been aware of the importance of illustration. In 1955 the then Library Association (now CILIP) established the Kate Greenaway Award, naming it after the popular 19th century artist and illustrator. The first medal was not awarded until the following year, 1956, when it went to Edward Ardizzone for Tim All Alone. It became a companion to the Carnegie Medal and like that Medal has strict criteria which have to be satisfied for it to be awarded.

As with the Carnegie, it is a recognition of outstanding work.  It too is nominated by librarians, usually Children's Librarians, who must be members of CILIP. The work must have been published in the UK for children or young people, between September of the preceding year and the end of August. If there is text it must be in English. All categories of books are eligible so the list of winners includes artists who have illustrated information books, such as Pauline Baynes for A Dictionary of Chivalry (1968) or more recently Chris Riddell with A Pirate Diary (2001). Though inevitably the majority of winning titles have been picture books, increasingly nominations include novels in which the text is accompanied by illustration. Indeed,  the 2012 winner was a novel, A Monster Calls (Ness/Kay) which was also awarded the Carnegie Medal; the first time one work has won both awards. Since the award is for illustration, any accompanying text may be by a different author, or may be a "classic" from the past - as in 1999 when Helen Oxenbury won with her reimagining of Alice in Wonderland.  Judging the Kate Greenaway Award is a real challenge.

The judging takes place in tandem with the Carnegie. The jury of twelve librarians representing the regional branches of the CILIP Youth Libraries Group will have received all the nominated titles. As with the Carnegie they must look at them with strict criteria in mind and will have had training to help them in this. The illustrated title will be looked at in terms of artistic style, format and visual experience as well as the synergy between image and text.  Furthermore, "The whole work should provide pleasure from a stimulating and satisfying visual experience which leaves a lasting impression" [www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk].

It might be thought that this process would be relatively simple. Far from it. Though publishing illustrated texts is not cheap, and the demise of the picture book is as frequently predicted as the printed word and has been for quite some time, there has been no noticeable reduction in titles. Indeed, this year the judging committee will have had to look at over 60 titles - a record. This year, responding to this increase in nominations for both awards, it has been decided to create a long list for each of them. Each list has twenty titles which will then be further debated to create the short lists. As might be expected, the Greenaway long list reflects the diversity of illustrated texts now being published. The judges will not have an easy time.

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