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Library favourites

magazine article | Published in TES Newspaper on 2 May, 1997 | By: Geraldine Brennan

Carnegie Medal shortlist authors

Junk by Melvin Burgess (Andersen). Weirdo's War by Michael Coleman (Orchard). The Tulip Touch by Anne Fine (Hamish Hamilton). Secret Friends by Elizabeth Laird (Hodder). Johnny and the Bomb by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday). Clockwork by Philip Pullman (Doubleday). Love in Cyberia by Chlo Rayban (Bodley Head). Bad Girls by Jacqueline Wilson (Doubleday). Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist illustrators

Ishtar and Tammuz by Christina Balit (Frances Lincoln). Down by the River by Caroline Binch (Heinemann). The Tale of the Monstrous Toad by Ruth Brown (Andersen). The Baby Who Wouldn't Go to Bed by Helen Cooper (Doubleday). The Smallest Whale by Susan Field (Orchard). Mr Bear to the Rescue by Debi Gliori (Orchard). Oops! by Colin McNaughton (Andersen). The Duck that had no Luck by Korky Paul (Bodley Head).

Both medals, sponsored by Peters Library Service, will be awarded in July

This is the year of the troubled child in fiction. From Rafaella, who is ostracised for her sticky-out ears in Elizabeth Laird's Secret Friends, to Melvin Burgess's heartbreaking cast of heroin addicts in Junk, the Carnegie Medal shortlist tells multiple tales of woe.

The list of eight titles - chosen by a panel of children's librarians and announced today with the Kate Greenaway Medal illustrators' shortlist - also leans towards variations by well-established writers on themes of bullying and power struggles. Two novels - Jacqueline Wilson's Bad Girls and Anne Fine's more sophisticated The Tulip Touch - examine friendships between "good" and "bad" girls and the emotional manipulation involved, while in Michael Coleman's Weirdo's War bully and victim (both boys) confront each other.

The clear emphasis on "real-life issues" was a surprise to Lesley Sim, chair of the National Youth Libraries Group and the awards panel. The shortlists for both awards were hotly contested. "It was only when the decisions had been made that the pattern of peer pressure and bullying emerged," she says. "But these books are all nominated by librarians who are very well placed to see what young people are reading and why. As a children's librarian, I am asked for books on bullying all the time."

The position of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals among the most prestigious children's book awards of the calendar reflects the increasingly dynamic role of librarians in promoting new fiction. But many feel their public image has some catching up to do.

"Children who use libraries know they are exciting places to be, but the general public is still thinking in terms of the Two Ronnies in twinsets and pearls," says Catherine Blanshard, head of children's libraries for Hertfordshire.

The Library Association is now asking four- to-15-year-olds to come up with an advertising campaign to promote National Libraries Week (November 3 to 9) and, it is intended, live on beyond.

The winners of the Big Idea competition will see their poster, Web site or radio or television advertisement ideas put into practice, measuring up against a campaign by Saatchi and Saatchi.

Entry forms for the poster, Web site and radio categories are available from libraries now, closing date August 28. The TV category, which has a separate closing date, will be launched on Blue Peter on May 21

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