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Kate Greenaway Medal nominees

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The Kate Greenaway Medal has been awarded to children’s illustrators since 1955. According to the rules, the artist must have a “distinctive and creative” style that complements the typography (size, colour, font and spacing of the text) The covers, size and shape of the book can all affect the judge’s decision. Take a look at some of the work by this year’s six nominees:

Alexis Deacon

Nominated for: Jim’s Lion

Read: While You Are Sleeping (649.58 DEA)

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Jim hides in the corners of the panel while his “finder” fights a blood red monster

Jim’s Lion was first published in 2001 as a picture book. Alexis Deacon has used the graphic novel format to retell the story of Jim, who is scared that he might never wake up if he falls asleep in his hospital bed. African Nurse Bumi teaches Jim about her “finder”, who has saved her from certain death “three or four times already”. Jim must find a “finder” of his own before his surgery, and one arrives in the form of a fearsome lion. When Jim goes under anaesthetic, the lion goes into battle against shape-shifting monsters. The Doctor says Jim won’t survive unless he’s got friends in high places- can he count on the untamed lion to stay at his side?

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Alexis Deacon’s designs for the sock monkey in While You Are Sleeping

While You Are Sleeping deals with commonplace childhood fears instead of life or death. A team comprised of an elephant, a teddy and a sock monkey protect their young owner from nightmares and make sure she sleeps in on Christmas morning! Reviews online suggest some kids are actually scared by the pictures- some of the toys are a bit world-weary and just as frightened by the nightmare creatures. If you’re brave enough to watch Toy Story, you’ll probably be alright!

Catherine Rayner

Nominated for: Smelly Louie

Read: Harris Finds His Feet (649.58 RAY)

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Catherine Rayner’s first sketch of Smelly Louie

Louie has lost his ‘special smell’- possibly because he’s just had a bath! His individual perfume has hints of old boot, fox and rubbish dump- and just as he’s found the perfect formula, his owners start filling the bathtub again…

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Harris on the run

Harris the hare and his perplexing feet won Catherine the Greenaway Medal in 2009. All of Catherine’s books feature animals and she is inspired by Edinburgh Zoo (admittedly the dragons are her imagination!) View her sketchbook here

John Higgins and Marc Olivent with Julian and Marcus Sedgwick

Nominated for: Dark Satanic Mills

Read: Blood Red Snow White (823.92 SED)

greenway 3Hero Christy makes her home in the ruins of London 

And did those feet/In ancient times/Walk upon England’s mountains green…do you remember singing Jerusalem or learning the poem by William Blake? Dark Satanic Mills takes its name from the second verse, which describes Jesus despairing at the state England finds itself in! John Higgins developed his art style working for 2000AD, the publishers behind British comics like Tank Girl and The Ballad of Halo Jones. Motorbike courier Christy is similarly badass- when she’s framed for murder by the fanatical “True Church” she leaves the floodplains of London and heads up North to the scorching hot wastelands. Read the first ten pages here, then read the comments from the Guardian’s teen writers.

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Author Marcus Sedgwick looks at home amongst Gothic architecture

Writer Marcus Sedgwick’s novel Blood Red Snow White was one of our summer reads in 2013. English author Arthur Ransome worked as a journalist in Russia before returning to England to write Swallows and Amazons, a series of books set partly in the Norfolk Broads. The true story of Ransome’s relationship with Leon Trotsky and his secretary Evgenia is startling enough- Ransome was accused of being a Russian spy who helped Evgenia smuggle diamonds into England. He was also sued by Oscar Wilde’s lover ‘Bosie’ Douglas- surprising for a children’s author! The first part of Sedgwick’s novel takes the form of a Russian folk tale; the middle is a love story and the final part, called “Fairytale Ending”, is mostly spy thriller. If you usually read graphic novels and want to try something different, we recommend Sedgwick.

Chris Riddell

Nominated for: Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse

Read:The Graveyard Book (823.91 GAI)

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Emily Cabbage, an artist, and William Cabbage, a chameleon

Good news: as well as being a Greenaway Medal nominee, Chris Riddell’s Goth Girl, Ada Goth, is one of the stars of World Book Day. This means that for just £1 you can read Goth Girl and the Pirate Queen, which has illustrations on every single page. Ada is loosely based on Ada Lovelace, a Victorian mathematician who wrote the world’s first algorithm (a list of instructions, like a recipe, that a computer can use) Lovelace was the daughter of poet Lord Byron, and her mother was determined to keep her away from poetry at all costs! Ada was educated solely in maths and science, and was struck by the idea of humans and machines working together. Her technique (which she named “poetical science”) earned her the name “the enchantress of science”. But Goth Girl isn’t at all math-based: in The Ghost of a Mouse, Ada must work out why her friend Ishmael hasn’t ascended to heaven after his accident with a mousetrap. The story is full of references to gothic novels and Victorian celebrities, but if you don’t like puns, it might be wise to skip this one (I love the pond of Extremely Coy Carp) The outfits the characters wear are beautiful drawn and frankly ridiculous (so many ruffles!) and book jacket is embossed with shining silver skulls. The book certainly fits the criteria set by the Greenaway judges

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The many secret gardens at Ghastly-Gorm Hall

It’s not surprising that author Neil Gaiman wanted Chris Riddell to illustrate his gothic tale The Graveyard Book, which won the Carnegie Medal in 2010. Read our review here

David Roberts

Nominated for: Tinder

Read: Cinderella: an Art Deco Love Story (398.2 ROB)

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Otto and Saffire in black, red and grey

Tinder has been nominated in both the author and illustrator categories at this year’s awards. The story by Sally Gardner is a retelling of The Tinderbox by fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen. Child soldier Otto possesses a box which gives him the power to summon three giant wolfmen- one with eyes as big as saucers, one with eyes as big as dinner plates, and one with eyes as big as windmills. Artist David Roberts depicts the wolves in white against an industrial grey and black background; the villainous Lady of the Nail has tiny white and red eyes behind a black mask. This stark, shadowy style is far from Roberts’ take on Cinderella, which is set amongst the opulent Art Deco skyline of ’20’s America. Cinderella wears spidery mascara like a silent movie star, and goes to the ball in the back of a silver stretch limousine. Her stepmother’s house could be next door to Downton Abbey, and the ugly sisters swan around a gramophone in gaudy fringed kimonos. Roberts seems to be the most versatile of all the nominees, adapting his style to suit the mood and form of the story.

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Cinderella’s fairy godmother appears amid Art Deco tableware

Shaun Tan

Nominated for: Rules of Summer

Read: The Arrival (741.5973 TAN)

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Artist Shaun Tan at work on Rules of Summer

Shaun Tan grew up in Western Australia but is heavily influenced by American masters of sci-fi like Ray Bradbury, Stanley Kubrick and Rod Sterling. In Rules of Summer, an older child tries to teach his brother some common sense, with simple rules like Don’t leave the door open, Don’t eat the last treat at a party, and Don’t leave the washing out. In our world, failing to follow the rules might annoy a few adults- in Tan’s world, one wrong move might summon a giant red rabbit or a flock of vultures! Summer vacation is often the subject of children’s books- with their parents at work, many kids band together and roam around sun-drenched neighbourhoods, having all kinds of adventures. Tan has been criticised by parents for advising kids to “Always carry bolt cutters!”, but in a world where stepping on a snail can cause a tornado, it might be rather sensible advice.

183079259_1bac39ce6cA mural by Shaun Tan decorates the walls of the Subiaco Public Library in Perth, Australia

The Arrival is an entirely wordless story by Shaun Tan about a refugee who needs to adapt quickly to life in a very strange country. Read our review here 

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