Collecting the Carnegie

I first made an abortive attempt to collect a copy of every winner of the Carnegie Medal back in 2007 when I was involved in organising the Carnegie Children’s Book Festival in Dunfermline. I did track down some of the older titles but since then I’ve moved house twice and not all of them have survived those processes!  Now, ten years on as the eightieth anniversary of the Medal is celebrated, I’m starting again.

Some of the books have been part of my life for a long time irrespective of their Medal-winning status. It was The Edge of the Cloud by KM Peyton that first made me aware of the prize.  I borrowed it from Lossiemouth Library back in the day and the front cover had an image of the Medal on it.  I didn’t know what it was at that point but it was clear that it was significant. The Edge of the Cloud is still one of my favourite books – and I now have a signed copy, a treasured possession.  An even earlier acquisition is Pigeon Post by Arthur Ransome, the very first winner.  I read all of the Swallows and Amazons books at a very early age and they remain on my shelves.  And so, in an aside, does Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick, a fictionalised account of Arthur Ransome’s time in Russia.  It was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal but unaccountably didn’t win.

There are other winners on my shelves including the Scottish trio of The Wind on the Moon by Eric Linklater, The Stronghold by Mollie Hunter and Whispers in the Graveyard by Theresa Breslin.  Naturally, I have A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly and Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce as I was involved in awarding those two Medals.  And as I looked back through the list of winners I realised that along the way I’ve acquired many others simply because they’re books I want to have: One by Sarah Crossan, Just in Case by Meg Rosoff, Tamar by Mal Peet,The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo, Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty, Wolf by Gillian Cross, The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff, The Last Battle by CS Lewis, We Couldn’t Leave Dinah by Mary Treadgold, Visitors from London by Kitty Barne, The Circus is Coming by Noel Streatfeild and The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett.

So here we go again. Some will be easy to find as they’re still in print, others will be trickier and a few, I have no doubt, will be nigh on impossible. A Valley Grows Up anyone?  Or The Story of Your Home?  But I love a challenge!

How it all began

I’ve been reading and collecting children’s books ever since I could read.  My parents started me off before I can remember and I’ve just kept on going.  I have very faint memories of going regularly to Thin’s in Edinburgh with my Dad after my sister was born.  We went by bus and the family story goes that we always sat upstairs at the front.  Apparently, it was a big event in my life!

I was introduced to libraries at an early age too.  My vaguest memories are of Portobello Library in Edinburgh.  Lodged at the back of my memory is a book about Angus and a cat.  I think Angus was a dog but neither Mum nor I could ever remember any more than that.  I haven’t been back to Portobello Library since we moved from Edinburgh but I’m sure they no longer have the book.

I have clearer memories of my next library: the Ewart in Dumfries.  I have been back there recently and it’s completely different now but my memories are of a somewhat forbidding place.  I expect the shelves were quite high and of dark wood and I have the idea that the windows were high too.  My clearest memory, though, is of discovering a beautifully illustrated edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.  I loved that book and borrowed it incessantly.  In the end, my parents bought me my own copy.  I still have it and I can still recite many of the poems!

My last childhood library was in Lossiemouth in Moray.  It was the first library I went to on my own.  It was at the far end of the (fairly long) street on which we lived and I would often go there after school.  I have pretty clear memories of Lossiemouth Library and some of the books I found there.  It was there that I first stumbled across some book prize called the Carnegie Medal.  I saw an impression of the medal on the front cover of The Edge of the Cloud by KM Peyton and thought that it looked very impressive.  Later it dawned on me that the prize had also been won by Arthur Ransome for Pigeon Post, a book I’d read earlier in my life.

That’s how it all started.  So it seems that my parents and public libraries are to blame for my bowing bookshelves and creaking floorboards.  My parents continued to buy me books all their lives (and I inherited many of theirs) and scarcely a week has gone past without my visiting a library.  I’ve never lost my enjoyment of children’s books and I don’t expect I ever will – although I may be forced to stop collecting them unless I buy a bigger house!