Review: The White Fox – Jackie Morris

The White Fox by Jackie MorrisThis week I’ve been reading Jackie Morris’s Greenaway 2018 nominated The White Fox – given the weather we’ve had this week, I couldn’t have hoped for a better book!

The day the fox comes, things begin to change for Sol. He’s adrift too, lost in the big city with his father, longing for the wild and frozen north. The fox offers a way back, a chance to reconnect, to find his way home.

Blue grey wintry tones set against the thick cream paper stock that is Barrington Stoke’s trademark make this the perfect book to curl up with on a wintry evening. Jackie Morris once again weaves words and pictures into a pocket sized work of beauty.The White Fox - Jackie Morris

At only 84 pages long the story is deceptively deep. Sol, bullied at school and adrift in a big city, feels a natural affinity with the white fox which mysteriously turns up on Seattle’s docks. It offers him a way back home and a reconnection with both the wild landscape of Alaska and his family.

The whole book breathes: clutches of snowy birch trees offer punctuation to the text and a tiny fox rushes along the bottom corner whilst gloriously saturated double page spreads allow the reader a moment of quiet reflection to connect to the wider themes of the book.
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Both Sol and the fox begin the story profoundly out of place – beautifully conveyed in the opening illustrations which show the fox lost among the dark and overwhelming man made structures. However, as Sol’s connection to the fox, and indeed his own family, develops the colour palette lightens and we progress through the shining snow of the forest and the emerald green backdrop of his grandmother’s house to culminate in the shimmering, gold spangled, blue of the night sky. There is a satisfying sense of a journey having taken place – both literal and emotional. A truly satisfying read.

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Review: Beyond The Wall – Tanya Landman

9781406366273The Blurb: From Tanya Landman, author of the 2015 Carnegie Medal winner Buffalo Soldier, comes a heart-stopping tale of love, corruption and the power of choice.

Blood on her lips. Blood on her tongue. Blood that is not her own. Cassia does not fear to die, but for her – for a slave who has maimed her master – there are worse things than death. Yet the mighty Roman Empire has its limits. Beyond her master’s estate, beyond the river, far to the north stands Hadrian’s Wall. And beyond the wall? Freedom. With dogs on her trail and a bounty on her head the journey seems impossible. But then Cassia meets Marcus – slick, slippery, silver-tongued – a true and perfect son of Rome. And her only hope.

The Review:

I’ve thrown myself into the list of CKG nominations this week and selected Tanya Landman’s Beyond The Wall as my first read. It’s no surprise that I went for this one first – I spent many lunchtimes in my school library closeted away with Rosemary Sutcliff and Henry Treece – so this felt like comfort reading of the highest order. And yet it’s not really a comfortable read – with a less benign outlook than Sutcliff, Tanya Landman’s version of Roman Britain is definitely aimed at an older YA audience.

It’s the story of ‘a runaway slave and her journey through the murky underworld of Roman Britain’. There’s action aplenty as Cassia flees from the repugnant landowner Titus Cornelius Festus but this is not simply about a slave’s desire for freedom; the oppression Cassia is fleeing from is very specifically violent and sexual. Landman deftly interweaves a thorough examination of the position (read oppression) of women at all levels of society through her fast paced and perilous plot.

It left me thinking two things:

1) Just how good and varied Tanya Landman’s historical fiction is – Beyond The Wall is so different from Carnegie winning Buffalo Soldier and yet reading the author’s note at the end it was very clearly born of the same creative process.

2) The second thing is really more of a lament – Why are there not more YA books set in the Roman world? After the heyday of Sutcliff et al it seems that Rome has fallen out of favour (or fashion) and yet Landman shows that it’s just as pertinent a backdrop for YA fiction now as it ever was. Through Cassia and Marcus we traverse tricky ideas about freedom from oppressive rule, foreign occupation, materialism, a return to a way of life more connected with the natural world as well as investigating female sexuality and ideas of consent – all topics which wouldn’t feel out of place in one of today’s newspapers. Landman takes all these threads and throws them together to make a thrilling and emotionally intelligent adventure story – Not a bad way to kick off CKG 2018 I reckon!

Lizzie

 

CKG 2018 Nominations Announced

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It’s always an exciting day when the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway nominations are announced. It marks the first step in an extraordinary reading journey that will take us all the way to the announcement of the winners in June next year.  Moreover, it’s a wonderful insight into the books that fellow librarians have been reading and recommending and with a total of 237 books nominated across the two awards this year there’s no doubt that we’ve got a couple of months of outstanding reading ahead.

Over the last couple of years I’ve inadvertently developed my own ritual for nomination announcement day: after printing a nice crisp copy of the lists, I take an inexplicable joy in wielding a highlighter across them to see how many I have read. The necessity has also sadly developed in recent years to denote books on the lists that I have in my possession but have not yet had time to read so there’s also the added excitement of colour coding going on!

Sometimes it’s been scary to see how many I’ve not got around to reading – I like to think that I stay up to date with recent publications and this can be a bit of a wake up call – but for the most part it’s a welcome challenge. I’m fairly certain that I’m not going to manage to read them all, probably not even close, but past experience has taught me that these lists hold treasures and there’s genuine delight in the anticipation of what I’m going to find.

I’m already looking forward to the announcement of the longlists in February – highlighter at the ready!

You can see the full lists and award timetable on the CKG Website

Happy reading everyone!

Lizzie

Read Along With Us: Greenaway regional nominations

As promised, here is the lowdown on our suggested titles to be considered for nomination for the Kate Greenaway medal this year.

If you’re attending next Tuesday’s event with Cressida Cowell in Preston, we need your help to decide which of these titles we officially put forward as our North West regional nominations for the award.

All nominations for the 2018 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards will be officially announced on 6th November 2017. The longlist will be announced in February 2018, the shortlist will be unveiled in March, and the winners will be revealed on 18th June 2018.

We’ll have copies of the books available for you to peruse on the night. In the meantime, here are our thoughts on the titles we’re asking you to consider for the Greenaway nomination, and why we think they are worthy contenders for the awards.

The Pond – Cathy Fisher (illustrator); Nicola Davies (author) (Graffeg Publishing)

The PondPublisher comment: “This colourful, emotional book is filled with natural imagery, and will teach children not only about death and loss, but the importance of the natural world.”

Our thoughts: “The illustrations in this book have real impact, portraying perfectly the grieving of a family mourning the loss of their father. The colours used reflect the mood – from the dark tones of the muddy hole in the ground to the vibrant water lily and the misty, glowing light of the last page. Beautiful images of pond life fill every part of the book, including the cover, end papers and title page, contributing to a rich and satisfying visual experience” (Karen)

 

Night Shift – Debi Gliori (Hot Key Books)

Night shiftPublisher comment: “With stunning black and white illustration and deceptively simple text, author and illustrator Debi Gliori examines how depression affects one’s whole outlook upon life, and shows that there can be an escape – it may not be easy to find, but it is there.”

Our thoughts: “The limited colour palette, with occasional use of colour, creates visual drama and immediacy. The theme of mental health and depression is depicted through images and imagination with vast vistas of creeping fog and surreal seascapes making it immediately accessible and easy to understand by readers of all ages. The book is never mawkish and despite presenting an immersive experience of brooding depression, nonetheless ends on a note that there might be some hope. It achieves this without sentimentality.” (Jake)

 

A First Book of Animals – Petr Horacek (illustrator); Nicola Davies (author) (Walker Books)

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Publisher comment: “This book is a glorious celebration of life in the wild in all its variety and splendour, and belongs on every child’s bookshelf.”

Our thoughts: “It’s impossible to tell which came first here – the text or the illustrations – as both work so perfectly together to create an outstanding work of vivacity and exuberance. Nature bursts from the page in abundance. Petr Horacek’s double page spreads allow Nicola Davies’ poetic text to dance across the page whilst his jewel-like colours and textured collages express the remarkable diversity of the natural world on a grand scale. Clever layout and design, with the occasional nod to works of natural history from yesteryear, make this a book which works on several levels with appeal across a wide age and ability range, A true treasury!” (Lizzie)

 

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World – Kate Pankhurst (Bloomsbury)

Fantastically great women who changed the worlsPublisher comment: “Bursting full of beautiful illustrations and astounding facts, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is the perfect introduction to just a few of the most incredible women who helped shape the world we live in.”

Our thoughts: “Kate’s book, with it’s sweet, charming illustrations, celebrates the lives of women who have made a contribution or positive change to the world that may not typically be recognised within the school curriculum. This book takes the reader on  a whistle-stop tour of women’s history, with images that capture the visual essence of the women being represented.” (Pamela)

 

The Secret of Black Rock – Joe Todd-Stanton (Flying Eye Books)

TheSecretOfBlackRock_RGB Publisher comment: “This surreal modern folk-tale tells the story of an adventurous young girl who must protect a peaceful living creature. Erin is fascinated by the stories of Black Rock: a huge, dark and spiky mass that is said to destroy any boats that come near it! But are the tales really true? One day Erin sneaks on board her mother’s fishing boat to find out…”

 

A Story Like the Wind – Jo Weaver (illustrator); Gill Lewis (author) (Oxford University Press)

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Publisher comment: “In a small boat spinning out on the sea sits a group of refugees, fleeing their war-stricken homes. they have nothing – except their memories, their stories and their music. In this very special, lyrical fable, beautifully illustrated by Jo Weaver, Gill Lewis weaves an unforgettable tale of displacement, hope and the search for freedom.”

Our thoughts: “A deeply moving story of hope and freedom. A small boat full of refugees drifts on the sea. The swirling turquoise illustrations mirror the swirling winds and sea. This is a beautiful interweaving of a folk tale and the refugees own stories , demonstrating the power of stories to bring people together and give them a common identity.” (Ann)

So those are our thoughts on our Greenaway suggestions, please do let us know your thoughts on these books. You can find out more about the CKG awards process and the judging criteria here: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/awards-process.php

Don’t forget, YLG members can also make up to two individual nominations for each award

 

Read Along With Us: Carnegie regional nominations

There’s just under a week to go until we’ll be deciding what our regional nominations for this year’s Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards will be. We’ll be asking attendees at next Tuesday’s event with Cressida Cowell to vote on a selection of titles, to decide which ones we put forward.

All nominations for the 2018 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards will be officially announced on 6th November 2017. The longlist will be announced in February 2018, the shortlist will be unveiled in March, and the winners will be revealed on 18th June 2018.

We’ll have copies of the books available for you to look at on the night. In the meantime, here are our thoughts on the titles we’re asking you to consider for the Carnegie nomination, and why we think they are worthy contenders for the awards. We’ll be posting about our Greenaway suggestions soon.

 

Carnegie:

Overheard in a Tower Block – Joseph Coelho (Otter Barry Books)

Overheard in a tower block

Publisher comment: “Award-winning poet Joseph Coelho’s astonishing new collection is a powerful and moving poetic narrative about growing up in the city.”

Our thoughts: “Ambitious in theme, the collected poems are held together by an overarching narrative of a boy living in an urban tower block and growing from late childhood to early adulthood. The everyday experiences of childhood are made extraordinary here through astute observation and dexterity of word play – parental discord, peer pressure and the ever-expanding sense of horizons and world-views extending outwards. Each poem offers a childlike vantage point, but collated together there are profound comments about the nature of late childhood, its shift towards adulthood and responsibility and the continuing role it is able to play in determining and defining our lives.” (Jake)

 

Wed Wabbit – Lissa Evans (David Fickling Books)

Wed Wabbit

Publisher comment: “Wed Wabbit is an adventure story about friendship, danger and the terror of never being able to get back home again. And it’s funny. It’s really, really funny.”

Our thoughts: “Lissa Evans’ truly unique writing style combines fantasy and humour to convey complex and difficult ideas with heart and emotional insight. The majority of the story takes place against the surreal and often absurd backdrop of ‘The Land of Wimbley Woos’ yet excellent plotting and characterisation ensure that the sense of jeopardy and eventual resolution feel real. This is a surprising read that takes the reader on an unexpected but rewarding journey.” (Lizzie)

 

Welcome to Nowhere – Elizabeth Laird (Macmillan Children’s Books)

Welcome to nowherePublisher comment: “Elizabeth Laird has succeeded again in writing an incredibly powerful novel, this time about one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our age.” (Belinda Rasmussen, Publisher, Macmillan Children’s Books)

Our thoughts: “Everyone should read this book ! It gives an accessible account of Syrias descent into civil war. It begins in Bosra and follows 12 year old Omar and his family ,as their lives fall apart and they lose everything. Their hopes for the future had been so normal ! Omar wants to be a business man , his sister Eman a teacher . His older brother Musa has cerebral palsy and is greatly underestimated by his family. As the bombs fall they have to leave everything and end up in a refugee camp .

Beautifully written , well researched ,powerful and atmospheric . It contains a message of hope” (Ann)

 

Saint Death – Marcus Sedgwick (Orion Children’s Books)

Saint DeathPublisher comment: “A powerful and timely thriller set on the Mexican-US border.”

Our thoughts: Saint Death is absolutely gripping from start to finish. It’s a pulsating narrative and the pace and urgency of the plot, along with the increasing desperation of the main character, are perfectly reflected in the structure of the story, in which short chapters are interspersed with newspaper cuttings, quotations and thoughts. This is a really immersive novel that highlights some big issues around immigration, inequality and hopelessness. (Emma)

 

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas (Walker Books)

The Hate U GivePublisher comment: “A powerful and brave YA novel about what prejudice looks like in the 21st century.”

Our thoughts: “The Hate U Give gave me bags under my eyes! I just couldn’t stop reading until I finished it (at 3am!). The book addresses some really big issues, such as police shootings of unarmed black people and white privilege, through simply telling the story of one ordinary girl, Starr Carter, who finds herself in an extraordinary and horrific situation, having witnessed the fatal shooting of her unarmed friend by an officer. The balance of the awful things Starr is having to deal with and the everyday teenage-ness of her character is perfect and the strong family dynamic of the Carters is a joy to experience. (Emma)

 

Encounters – Jason Wallace (Andersen Press)

EncountersPublisher comment: “Inspired by true accounts, this is the long-awaited new novel from Costa-award-winner Jason Wallace.”

Our thoughts: Wallace builds an intense and uneasy atmosphere in which he unravels the brutal complexities of his characters’ lives. This is a work of technical mastery with no less than six engaging and convincing narratives pivoting around the mysterious event at the heart of the novel.  These six apparently disparate voices interconnect in surprising and revealing ways bringing new meaning to the idea of the titular ‘encounter’. The end result is a unique and outstanding slow burner of a book which leaves the reader with much to think about. (Lizzie)

So those are our thoughts on our Carnegie suggestions, please do let us know your thoughts on these books. You can find out more about the CKG awards process and the judging criteria here: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/awards-process.php

Don’t forget, YLG members can also make up to two individual nominations for each award.