How do you choose the most outstanding children's books published in any year? Shut a dozen librarians in a room for two days, ply them with coffee, sandwiches and sweets, and not let them go until they've chosen a half-dozen or so books to be considered for the Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway Medals.
The two awards have been presented annually since 1955. Like the Newbery and Caldecott Medals in the United States, they are awarded by librarians, who assess the books against stringent criteria. To be shortlisted for the Carnegie a book has to be of "outstanding literary quality".
And it should give the reader the feeling of "having gone through a vicarious, but at the time of reading, a real experience that is retained afterwards". Greenaway contenders must be books "of outstanding artistic quality" that provide "a stimulating and satisfying visual experience".
Although all categories of children's books are eligible for the award, including non-fiction and poetry, the tendency over the years has been for the Carnegie to be presented to a novel and the Greenaway to a picture book. This year, the two longlists, each of some three dozen titles nominated by regional groups of librarians, did not include a single poetry or non-fiction title.
Full article plus shortlists for both awards in this week's TES Friday magazine