Tear-stained pages and some good deaths! The Abingdon Carnegie Forum 2013

Today we were involved in one of the most enjoyable events of the year - the annual Abingdon joint-schools Carnegie Shadowing event. This year groups of children from six Abingdon schools took over the Guildhall to discuss, debate, argue, cajole, perform and vote for the eight books on the shortlist ahead of the public announcement tomorrow. 

As has become customary, there were special cakes baked in honour of the occasion. This year all the schools involved were represented on the cake:

The judges had the enjoyable - if intense - task of reading through scores of reviews from the different shadowing groups, picking winners and highly commended entries - and marvelling at the range of responses caused by each of the books. The reviews ranged from the funny and lighthearted, to more passionate and serious responses in which young reviewers pleaded with the reader to 'go read this book' sometimes with 'tear-stained pages' and 'crushingly heart-breaking' storylines.

Here are the judges hard at work in surroundings that had suitable gravitas : 
Children from the six schools were mixed up into different groups and given a book to 'champion' culminating in a three-minute performance in front of everyone to convince them that they should read the book:
Student facilitators from the Oxford Brookes PGCE course were on hand to guide the students and give advice...
 ...and the judges circulated to listen in on the sometimes intense and heartfelt discussions about the type of book it was, and how best to perform it on stage...
 Two groups stages an initial debate to discuss the pros and cons of the book. There were hugely imaginative approaches and it was a privilege to be involved.

Finally, ten groups staged 3-minute performances. They took the form of debates, 'reduced' plays of the books, philosophical skits and 'teasings out' of key elements of the books. Given that this year's books feature quite a bit of characters dying, there were some good stage 'deaths' during the afternoon (and at least one school uniform which got trashed by the looks of things).

The winners - "The Haitians" - staged an imaginative and highly effective 'book event' in which author Nick Lake defended his use of often violent subject matter in 'In Darkness' before Haitian gangsters stormed the stage to explain their position. Totally brilliant and worthy winners: 
Back at the Carnegie Tea earlier this year, the children voted on the book they expected to win before reading commenced. 'In Darkness' was the clear winner then. However, at the end of the event today, all the children voted on the book they would most like to win.

'Wonder' by R.J.Palacio was the clear winner. The reviews from the children for this book had hinted at this. We in the bookshop tend to agree, despite some exceptionally fine books on the Carnegie list this year. 

Whoever wins tomorrow, we all think it's been a golden year for this most august of children's awards - and if you want to learn more about the individual books (and read a plea from Nicki about who should win) go and check out the 'space on the bookshelf' blog here...

Thanks as ever to the incredible hard work and skills of the Abingdon schools librarians, teachers and assistants for making the day so successful. And good luck to all the authors for tomorrow...


  1. Just to be clear - Mark attended the Carnegie Forum - but posted as Nicki.

    We're probably the same person anyway :-)

  2. Vanessa Clark8:13 am

    Daughter in Yr 7 at John Mason had a great day. Thanks to everyone involved in this excellent Carnegie Shadowing project. It opens the youngsters (and their parents) up to new authors and great to have the contact with students from other schools (state and private). Top idea to mix the six different schools within each judging group, so it's collaborative rather than competitive. And thanks, Mark, for the report!