Meet the 2017 judges

The Amnesty CILIP Honour spans the shortlisted books for both the Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway Medals. Our panel of judges chooses one book from each shortlist that best illuminates, upholds and celebrates human rights.

 

Manya Benenson

Manya Benenson

Honour judge in the Kate Greenaway category

Manya Benenson creates stories for and with children of all ages. She is Artist in Residence at The Spark Arts for Children, a partnership with Leicester City Libraries that provides opportunities for story making, reading, creative writing and drama for children and young people. Through exploring stories Manya's project 'Peas and Pods’ encourages self-expression, communication, and confidence in young children and their parents. 



Manya is the daughter of Peter Benenson, who founded Amnesty International in 1961.

‘Books hold limitless possibilities and allow a unique exploration of what it means to be human. The power of the word to shine a light and bring hope is at the heart of Amnesty’s founding principal. That power can never be underestimated.’

 

Sita Brahmachari

Sita Brahmachari

Honour judge in the Carnegie category

Sita Brahmachari is a writer of novels, plays and short stories. Her debut novel won The Waterstone's Children's Book Award, while others have been recognised by Book Trust, the Reading Agency, School Library Services, Carnegie longlists, UKLA Book Award and endorsed by Amnesty International UK. She has scripted a stage adaptation for Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, was writer in residence for Book Trust (2015) and is writer in residence at Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. 

'Stories that speak to children's hearts and minds about the values of fairness, justice and common humanity have seldom been more important in history than today. The Amnesty CILIP Honour seeks to illuminate the diverse stories of our age that shine a light on human rights values.'

Ross Collins

Ross Collins

Honour judge in the Kate Greenaway category

Ross Collins’ book There’s A Bear on My Chair was shortlisted for the Greenaway and won the first Amnesty CILIP Honour in 2016.

On graduating from Glasgow School of Art Ross won the MacMillan Prize for his first picture book. Since then he's illustrated over 100 books for children and written about a dozen or so. Children in over twenty countries seem to enjoy them and several have won enormous glittering awards. His Greenaway shortlisted book 'The Elephantom' was adapted into a critically acclaimed play by those clever people at the National Theatre who made that 'War Horse' thing. 

‘Children are born with an innate understanding of how to protest. I should know - I live with a two-year-old.

What children have less of an understanding of is their rights. Small people spend their lives being told what to do by big people. It probably doesn't occur to them that they too have the right to be respected, the right to be heard and many other rights that most adults take for granted.

Picture books are sometimes the first place that a child can learn how the world works and what their place in it may be. A picture book can be a powerful thing for a child. Personally, I think a picture book should first be funny and magical but if it also manages to make a child think about their rights - isn't that a wonderful thing?

I was delighted to win the first Amnesty CILIP Honour for picture books last year and I can't wait to help judge this year's competition. 

I know just how proud it's going to make someone.’

Louise Johns-Shepherd

Louise Johns-Shepherd

Honour judge in the Carnegie category

Louise Johns-Shepherd is the Chief Executive of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education which aims to raise the literacy achievement of children by putting quality children’s literature at the heart of all learning.

Louise has a wealth of experience in education leadership and primary schools working as the Head teacher of two schools, a Senior Director at the Primary National Strategies, the National College of School Leadership and as the director of an Education Action Zone. In 2014 Louise was recognised by The Education Foundation as an Education Reformer of the Year. 

‘I am so proud to be involved in this award.  The Amnesty Honour Medal plays a crucial role in highlighting the power of reading to help us understand our most fundamental human rights. Recognising the role that children’s literature plays in forming opinions, developing empathy and shaping minds is more important now than ever before.’

Dan Jones

Dan Jones

Honour judge in the Kate Greenaway category

Dan Jones is an artist, teacher and human rights campaigner. His father helped launch Amnesty in 1961. Dan has been actively involved in Amnesty for over 40 years. He is now Education Adviser in the UK Office.

He has spoken in hundreds of schools, colleges and youth organisations to thousands of children and young people in the UK and further afield tackling difficult issues like enforced disappearance, torture, the death penalty and refugees. Dan helped write much of Amnesty’s human rights education material and has co-created many other Amnesty publications and exhibitions. He makes banners for festivals, conferences and demonstrations in the UK and abroad. He has also written and illustrated many children’s stories and poetry books. 

One of his colleagues describes him as: ‘rebellious, cheeky and always ready to challenge the status quo. At 75, Dan still has fire in his belly.‘

Amy Leon

Amy Leon

Honour judge in the Kate Greenaway category

Singer, poet and Harlem native, Amy Leon’s album Something Melancholy came out in December. She grew up in the foster care system, moved 13 times by the age of seven, and endured years of verbal, physical and sexual abuse. Her work – personal, political and enlightening – focuses on dealing with despair, social injustice, love, colour, and what it means to be a woman. She will take up a residency at Battersea Arts Centre in May this year.  

‘Through literature I discovered that there was more to this world than the cycle of violence I was living in … Honesty is essential. Children are far more in tune with the times than most people allow room to acknowledge. Treat them with the intellectual respect that they deserve.

Jack Mapanje

Jack Mapanje

Honour judge in the Kate Greenaway category

Jack Mapanje is a Malawian poet and academic. He was arrested in 1987 after writing a poem that was deemed critical of President Hastings Banda, leader of one of Africa’s most repressive regimes. Under Banda's rule, opposition parties were banned, civil liberties restricted, surveillance rife and academics heavily censored. Amnesty found out and supporters sent thousands of letters of protest. After three and a half years in prison, Mapanje was released in 1991 and moved to England. He taught Creative Writing and Literatures of Incarceration at Newcastle University before becoming visiting professor at York St John University.  

     ‘Amnesty did a huge job fighting for my life and without them I would not be here now.’

Nicky Parker

Nicky Parker

Judge in both the Kate Greenaway and Carnegie categories

Nicky Parker is head of Amnesty’s publishing programme. She has a particular interest in the power of fiction, poetry and illustrations to shape people’s lives. She is chair of trustees at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. 

‘Stories are central to Amnesty’s work and we have a long and proud history of promoting children’s literature to help shape a better world. Good books have a unique ability to inspire empathy, raise awareness, broaden horizons and empower young readers to stand up for themselves and others. We hope this Honour will make it easier to find books that help children find out about core values such as truth, freedom and justice’

Bali Rai

Bali Rai

Honour judge in the Carnegie category

Bali Rai is the award-winning author of many novels for teenagers and younger readers. His working-class, British Asian background influences and inspires his writing. Firmly established as a leading voice in UK teen fiction, Bali is now an ambassador for The Reading Agency’s Reading Ahead programme.

Amnesty's CILIP Honour is important recognition for the often unsung work that writers of fiction do in encouraging greater empathy and understanding. Beyond personal contact, nothing brings us closer to our fellow human beings than fiction. In an age where basic human rights are being denied and restricted, and where demonisation of the weakest among us is commonplace, it is vital that we champion those who give us access to the voices we either do not know, or never get to hear.’

Rowena Seabrook

Rowena Seabrook

Judge in both the Kate Greenaway and Carnegie categories

Rowena is the Human Rights Education Manager at Amnesty International UK. This includes creating resources and delivering professional development as part of the Using Fiction to Explore Human Rights project. Prior to joining Amnesty, she was Head of English in a South Cambridgeshire comprehensive.

‘Stories and pictures have such a powerful role in enabling us to find out about ourselves, the world around us and what matters to us. They can offer a safe place and a means of escape. They can provide comfort and a sense of shared experience. And perhaps most importantly, they can connect and empower us. There is no greater gift than sharing a love of stories!’