CILIP Carnegie Medal criteria
At the end of the criteria is a glossary of terms. If a word has an asterisk* by it a definition will appear in the glossary.
The book that wins the Carnegie Medal should be a book that creates an outstanding reading experience through writing. The whole work should provide pleasure, not merely from the surface enjoyment of a good read, but also the deeper subconscious satisfaction of having gone through a vicarious*, but at the time of reading, a real experience that is retained afterwards.
All criteria will not necessarily be relevant to every title nominated. Where appropriate, consider and assess the following:
Does the opening of the book make the reader want to read on? Why, why not? How does the text achieve this?
Does the narrative progress in a manner that is reasonable and convincing?
Is the created world compelling and conceivable? Can the reader immerse themselves in it?
Is the pace* varied? Is there a sense of build up to events?
Does the plot take the reader on a journey (this might be a physical journey or a metaphorical journey, or both)?
Is there anything the reader is not being told? Why might that be?
Is the story told in an original way? Does it use a different format/category*, present characters in an interesting or unusual way, or take a new perspective on an existing theme?
If the plot is a retelling of a well-known story, a myth / fairy tale / urban legend etc. are new elements added or changed enough so that the story feels new or reimagined?
Is the plot well-constructed? Does it make sense by the end, however the events were ordered?
Is the ending satisfying? Does it have a plausible (if not happy) conclusion? If the ending is ambiguous* does it challenge the reader to think?
How does the ending contribute to the overall reading experience? Does it make a lasting impression on the reader?
What themes are presented and explored? How do these contribute to the overall theme of the book?
Is the reader given the opportunity to work out how they feel about the theme or themes or are they led?
If there is more than one theme, do they work together? Is there consistency to the themes that have been chosen? Is due care and consideration given to each theme explored?
How might the themes impact on the reader? This might mean challenging the reader’s persective or introducing the reader to a different point or view or helping the reader empathise with a character or situation.
If the book covers difficult or challenging situations can the reader understand why they have been handled in a certain way, even if this sometimes feels uncomfortable?
Where themes of identity* are explored, is this done in a way that promotes empathy and tolerance? Consider that not every character needs to be senstively drawn; some characters may be deliberately intolerant.
Are protected characteristics* (Equality Act, 2010) represented in the text? If so, is this carefully done? While there is no single correct way to represent these, there are ways that are outmoded, problematic or tokenistic.
Where cultural material is referenced or used, is it used with consideration for the respective cultures? Is it an appropriate, well-researched, respectful representation?
Where factual information is used (historical dates, real events, cultural material etc.) is this accurate and clear?
Does the book offer the reader new or unfamiliar ideas, experiences or perspectives
Who is telling the story? Can the reader understand why this type of narrator* has been chosen?
How are the characters portrayed? Can the reader understand why the characters act, think and speak the way they do (even if this changes throughout the book)?
Are the characters interesting and engaging (even if the reader might not like them)
Are the characters and their motivations believable and convincing? Are they a true evocation of human experience (do they feel real)?
Do the characters remain true to their origins (even if they grow and develop throughout the book)? If stereotypes* are used, why and how is this done?
Are the characters developed with care and consideration that ensures the avoidance of prejudicial or problematic portrayals?
Are the characters representative of varied backgrounds and experiences? If not, why not?
Which characters voices does the reader hear from? Whose story or stories are being told? Whose stories are not being told? Why might this be?
Is it a problem if some characters do not get heard? Could this be construed as an act of silencing? What might be inferred by the silence? Does this contribute to or reinforce existing societal inequality or discrimination?
Is the dialogue (including inner dialogue) believable for each character? Is it consistent with the character and the experiences they go through?
Do the characters interact convincingly?
What impact do the characters have on the overall reading experience?
How successful are the uses of generic* techniques and conventions? Does the text make use of or challenge these techniques and conventions?
Is there a relationship between the style and the subject matter or theme? Does the style work to enhance the theme and vice versa?
How does the chosen category impact the storytelling and reading experience?
How compelling is the language in conveying the setting, atmosphere, characters, action etc.?
Is language used to persuade the reader of something? If so, what, and why?
Where rhyme or rhythm are used, is their use accomplished and imaginative? If read aloud, does it ‘read’ well? Consider the use of the page layout and blank space.
If figurative language* is used (metaphors and similes, etc.) does it work to enhance or enrich the reading experience?
If simple or plain language is used, is it executed with skill? Consider why simpler sentence structures or language is being used. Is simple language used while maintaining an immersive and rich reading experience?
Does the book contain elements of innovation or experimentation in the way that it is written, for example the category or genre / blending of genres, the use of language etc.? Does this add to the reading experience?
Does the book stand up to re-reading? Do you notice new aspects?
Ambiguous - this is used in literature to refer to occasions in the text where there is more than one interpretation or when things are not what they seem. For example, a detail, action or event could have several meanings simultaneously. The reader is left to reflect on and question the meaning.
Category (format) - this refers to the type or form of the book e.g. novel, graphic novel, verse novel, short story collection, poetry collection etc.
Figurative language - language which uses figures of speech; for example, metaphor, simile, alliteration.
Genre (or adj - generic) - is a recognisable and established literary group that uses common techniques and conventions which allow a reader to recognise it e.g. science fiction, romance, horror, satire/humour.
Identity – this is the set of personal and behavioural characteristics that define who or what an individual or thing is. For example, a person might define themselves according to ethnicity or race, sexuality, disability, gender, class and religion. Identity can also be defined by a close similarity or affinity with/for something. Defining one’s identity is extremely complex and can change over a person’s life.
Narrator – the persona who tells, or narrates, the story, who recounts the events to the reader. The narrator could be a) the speaker or poet (or any kind of writer) who uses their own voice to tell the story; (b) one who assumes the voice of another person or persons, and speaks in a voice not their own; (c) one who uses a mixture of their voice and that of others.
Pace - in literature, pace, or pacing is the speed at which a story is told (not necessarily the speed at which the story takes place). The pace can be determined by the length of the scenes, or even the length of sentences; how fast the action moves and how quickly the reader is provided with information.
Protected characteristics - the Equality Act 2010 protects against discrimination based on: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. CILIP recognises that not all marginalised groups are protected under the Equality Act 2010. For example, social class and body size are not listed. We encourage judges to take care to reflect on the representation of any marginalised groups/identities within the books.
Stereotype – this is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular category or type of person or thing. Stereotypes often encourage prejudice because people assume that the stereotype is true for each person in a category, “they’re all alike”.
Vicarious – something experienced in the imagination through the feelings or actions of another person (or character). Empathy and familiarity with a character can give rise to a vicarious capacity to experience or relate to their responses.