The Carnegie Furore

A rather tetchy argument has been raging on social media and in the press. Some

believe that there has been a bias towards older, darker fiction in recent years and this

year's win for Kevin Brooks' The Bunker Diaries is further evidence of this.

I can see both sides to the argument. Frank Cottrell Boyce and Shoo Rayner, for

example seem to be saying they'd like to see YA excluded from the Carnegie prize and

I can understand why. YA books are not for children, they are for Young Adults, (or

Adults, in many cases). Whilst some younger readers may be ready for the Bunker

Diaries, I'm guessing most are not. Looking through the list of previous winners on the

Carnegie website, the recent winners do seem to be aimed at teenagers and older

readers. There's not a lot in there for middle-grade readers or 5-7 year olds. Where is

the quality literature written for under 8s in the last 20 years?

On the other hand, librarians like Matt Imrie and Caroline Fielding make the equally

reasonable point that the judging guidelines for the Carnegie Awards are extremely

broad. They are looking for the best literary work aimed at children and young people.

Who are Young Adults if not Young People? If that's where the quality is, then that's

where the prizes go and it's up to authors to write better books for the under 12s.

Speaking for myself. I write YA and I also write children's books. They are not the same.

I also have young children, including a 10-year old girl. Though I haven't read the

Bunker Diaries, I get the impression it's at least as dark as my own YA titles HAV3N and

Seven Second Delay. I wouldn't let my 10-year old read my own books and would

certainly want to read The Bunker Diaries or any other YA title before passing it to my

daughter. With all due respect to the judgement of librarians, I know my own children

and know what they are ready for, and what they are not ready for. The Carnegie

Medal winners list is not where I'd go to find a good book for my children. Maybe in a

few years, but not now.

My view is that the Carnegie Medal has such a broad (and broadening) age range of

titles to draw from that it might be worth considering splitting it into two categories,

under 12 and over 12, perhaps. It might encourage publishers to commission more

literary fiction for younger readers, and it might encourage authors for younger

readers to write better books.

And maybe it'll stop the arguments...

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