Kate Greenaway Medal

Alongside the Carnegie Medal sits its sister prize the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal.  The nominations list for it has also been published today.  The nominating and judging process is the same for the two awards and you can read about it in my previous blog.

Once again this list is varied and I’m delighted that many non-picture books are included.  Having said that, I am probably most pleased to see When Sadness Comes to Call by Eva Eland on the list.  I’ve written about it elsewhere.  It’s a book about depression and anxiety for small children.  That makes it sound heavy and forbidding but it’s not.  It’s gentle and calming and reassuring.

An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Castles illustrated by Kate Leiper and published by Edinburgh’s Floris Books is possibly my pick of the rest.  I love Kate’s style and use of colour and the way her illustrations work so well with Theresa Breslin’s text.  (And she’s a Lossiemouth quine too! (Kate, that is.)

I had the pleasure of working with Emma Shoard at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival which makes me even happier to see her nominated for Good Boy published by Edinburgh-based Barrington Stoke and written by the late and lamented Mal Peet.  Not even Emma or Mal’s wife Elspeth was quite sure how to read Good Boy (that’s one of its joys) so Emma was faced with having to interpret it in an open way.  And she has succeeded stunningly.

And there’s The Dam by Levi Pinfold.  His illustrations are so evocative that you almost don’t need David Almond’s words.  But if you didn’t have them you’d be missing utter brilliance.  They absolutely can’t be separated from each other, a case of the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

There are plenty of other great books on the list and you can see them here: https://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/press.php?release=pres_2020_nominations_greenaway.html

You have until June to decide what decision you think the judges should make.

A Secret Diary of the First World War by Gill Arbuthnott

These past five years or so have been excellent for me.  Over the years I have collected up as much fiction as I could set during and around the First World War.  It’s a period of history that has long fascinated me and I have been interested to see how novelists deal with it.  As we have marked the War’s centenary publishers have fallen over themselves issuing and re-issuing books that tie in.  Some are good, some not.  But I have added many titles to my collection.

One of the things I have particularly enjoyed is reading books that give a Scottish perspective and I was fortunate enough to receive one such last week from Floris Books.  A Secret Diary of the First World War is inspired by an actual account of a teenager who fought on the Western Front.  Gill Arbuthnott has used his story to make the Great War more accessible to younger readers.  James Marchbank really existed and, as a fourteen year old Territorial, was legitimately called up at the beginning of the War and sent to France (although regulations changed soon after meaning that men had to be 18 to serve abroad).  He kept a diary and Gill has used it as the basis for her book which also includes blocks of explanation to help modern readers.  The book is illustrated by Darren Gate in a very engaging style.

I’m very glad to have this book and I’ll certainly add it to my collection.  The only problem I have with it is knowing where to shelve it.  It seems to me that it’s more fact than fiction but it reads as a story.  I guess it’s not a huge problem.  I could just buy another copy!  But wherever libraries and bookshops decide to shelve it, I hope that they draw it to the attention of young people as this is a book that deserves to be read.

Be Creative

With the summer holidays fast approaching in Scotland, I thought I’d take the opportunity of sharing some books with you for children and young people with a creative bent. There are loads out there and the five I’ve chosen aren’t necessarily the best but they do comprise a selection of my favourites.

From Edinburgh-based Floris books, in its Kelpies imprint, is A Super Scotland Sticker Book with illustrations by Susana Gurrea.  As you’d imagine there are stickers galore to affix to the pages of typical Scottish scenes: a highland glen, the Royal Mile, the Forth Bridge, Edinburgh Zoo and so on.  The stickers and illustrations are bright and cheerful and will provide hours of amusement.  For good measure there are a few puzzles thrown in too.


I have two offerings from Sterling Books. Now these come with a caveat: they are American publications so, of course, some of the spelling is a bit weird!!  If you can cope with that these are great books.  One is a crafty one, Creative Lettering for Kids by Jenny Doh.  It gives tips on different techniques you can use to create art with letters.  It’s lavishly illustrated and clearly laid out and has loads of different ideas to try, none of which needs expensive or specialist equipment.  If you like your letters formed into words and sentences try Write It Out by Brandon T Snyder.  This is a journal full of creative-writing prompts and lots of space to let your imagination run riot.


From Ammonite Press comes another journal, this one giving prompts for creative artwork. Creative Space Journal by Lucy Irving is organised by emotion so whether you’re sad, playful or sleepy, happy or bored there are ideas for you to try.  Some are fairly obvious but there are more quirky prompts too that should have all teenage artists (I fail to qualify on two counts) rushing for a pencil.


My final offering comes from Nosy Crow and is another of their collaborations with the British Museum. The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes does exactly what it says on the tin.  Inspired by objects from the museum’s collection Rachel Cloyne has designed this selection of stationery that will need meticulous attention to detail to do it justice.

If you’re looking for something challenging and fun for a young person this summer give one of these a try. You’ll probably find yourself wanting to help with the project – or maybe buy one for yourself!